A few months ago I was walking my dog Palmer through the neighborhood, when we found an equestrian center through the woods. We inconspicuously moseyed over to a bed of grass and gazed at the horses. A gorgeous chestnut steed that I believe to be an Andalusian, also known as a pure Spanish horse, took immediate interest in the two of us as he walked up inquisitively. Poor Palmer, he didn’t know what to think! He looked like a robot malfunctioning from excitement and fear, all at once. On the other side of fear lies interest, and we were interested to say the least. I began gently petting his long plush snout as my dog just bowed to him. His tail wagging fast enough to power a small boat. Making physical contact with such a massive beautiful beast is majestic. Their nature, so docile. Their impinging demeanor, so noble and wise. Yet they look at you so simplistically like, “Are you riding me, or do you have a carrot?”
This magical encounter was around the time I had received some not so magical news. I remember feeling cleansed after our visit with the horses, like all of my worries had been washed away. The horse's healing energy helped to put life back in perspective for me, and this was prior to riding one. I began to ponder the profound benefits these divine creatures could possibly have on our mental, physical, and emotional health after experiencing my own sense of relief in their presence. “I have to find a barn that does therapeutic horseback riding to write an article about! Others have to find out for themselves how good this feels!” I thought. Not long into my search for a horse therapy program was I able to find Russell’s Reach which is home to the Coastal Therapeutic Riding Program.
Kim Niggel, the executive director of C.T.R.P. was nice enough to give me a tour of the twenty three acre property. She introduced me the horses along with many other animals, including pigs, goats, lambs, miniature donkeys, and even koi fish! They have a twelve stall barn around the koi fish pond that houses their twenty five horses. The entire property is so dreamy and well kept! The horses along with the property are perfect for a movie or show. Come to find out, Netflix is actually filming with them now for a show called “Echo”. Make sure to keep an eye out for their horses in the show, once its aired! Russell's Reach was named after Kim’s grandparents, Bob and Jane Russell, and is a breath of fresh air to all who enter.
During my visit with Kim I got the inside scoop on just what it’s like to care for this many horses on such a large property. Her and her team are all likeminded animal lovers, so these horses are under the best care possible to say the least. From weather monitoring to routine vet checkups, you can trust the Russell’s Reach family and their horses! All of the instructors are certified and trained by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. They offer a variety of experiences, but they created this program to give the special needs community of Wilmington and surrounding areas a place to develop their self esteem in addition to their muscles. However, their doors are open to anyone wishing to heal through horsemanship! They believe that the world looks different from the back of a trusted horse, and I can attest to this. The variety of services they offer include a special needs program, veterans program, at risk youth program, student mentor program and even recreational riding!
I’ve only spent a small sliver of time with the Russell’s Reach family and their animals, but I truly feel at home. I believe that everything in life is made up of energy, and the energy we as humans share connecting with such majestic animals is truly profound. These horses are adapting to each of our individual eclectic energies, and they have the power to heal. When you climb up on the saddle you feel liberated. Your body oozes with confidence no matter what you may be going through.
When you take up therapeutic horseback riding you will notice improved core strength, and a reduction in stress and anxiety. Your posture will improve, in turn improving your coordination. When riding a horse you are performing various movements simultaneously, whether or not you realize it. When the horse trots they have a gentle rhythm that bounces you. This can have a massaging effect that will improve circulation and make you feel relaxed! Horseback riding has a positive impact on your mood due to the release of the mood-enhancing hormone, serotonin. This all sounds amazing, right?
If you have been looking for a new and exciting form of self-care that benefits your mental, emotional, and physical health then horseback riding might be for you! You'll never know until you try right? If you live in the Wilmington, NC area I recommend going to Russell's Reach for your equine experience! You will feel welcome, warm, and right at home. If you're not located in the Wilmington or surrounding areas, I would research therapeutic stables near you! Remember to stay open minded, or in other words stay Bloomie Brained.
https://kiowacountypress.net/content/physical-and-mental-health-benefits-horseback-riding, Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Horseback Riding, November 05, 2019