Remember those old Westerns…… they always had HAPPY ENDINGS, the cowboy would get on his horse and ride off into the sunset.
In the movies, the trusted steed is usually depicted as merely the side kick of the gun toting cowboy, but research from Washington State University, suggests the horse, might have been playing a bigger role than just serving as the cowboy’s official means of transport. They’ve discovered, horses give cowboys what they need to ride again – they do this, by calming the inner cowboy, cortisol.
The power of the horse
The team made the discovery when they invited a bunch of “normal” teens, to hang out with a horse crew, at a local equine centre.
A 130 teens, dealing with the stresses of puberty, saddled up for a 12 week after school programme. The programme was designed to help the teens connect with the animals and themselves, and included a few horse whispering sessions, a little horse grooming and some horse riding lessons. Each session lasted 90 minutes and participants were picked up after school, driven to the stables and then driven back.
To test whether the face to muzzle experience, quelled inner cowboys, stress levels were assessed, before and after completion of the programme. Fortunately, the team opted to measure the cortisol levels in saliva, not blood – so the only real stress faced by the participants, was making sure to spit at the “right” time. Samples were collected when the teens woke up, at bedtime and at 4 pm in the afternoon.
Quieting the inner cowboy
We all have a stress cowboy, our John Wayne coursing through our body – we need him, to keep us on our toes. In the happy and healthy, he fires off a few rounds early in the morning, ensuring that we get out of bed and get going, and then takes the rest of the day off. Afternoon and evening levels of cortisol, are meant to be low.
In the not so happy and healthy, he spends the whole day, taking pot shots at everything that moves – so levels remain high all the time. This “stressful” behaviour can have consequences, because flying bullets often cause collateral damage. And collateral damage makes us vulnerable to both physical and mental breakdowns.
So managing your cowboy is critical for your health.
The benefit of a horse nuzzle
The team found the horse programme changed cortisol levels , in two ways.
- First off, the overall cortisol levels were lower, hinting that horse time had been a de-stressing experience.
- Second, cortisol levels were significantly lower in the afternoon, suggesting that stress was being better managed.
The team concluded….
A little horsing around is beneficial for stressed out teenagers in the moment. And it improves stress chemistry as a whole, by lining up the cortisol circadian rhythm.
Quieting inner cowboys
If your life is a stressful as “the movies”……… you need to find ways to quiet your inner cowboy.
There are lots of approaches you can take, such as
- swallowing some sugar,
- singing in the shower
- sun tanning on an exotic beach
- smiling with the help of a few chopsticks
- saving somebody
or you can have a little FUN and saddle up and ride into the sun set.
PS. I practice what I preach. Here is a shot of me all saddled up, my stress is so big, I skipped the horse and opted for something bigger.
|Stress really is the reason you at the whole packet||If you need to bring peace to the board room, hire a dog||You can turn the stress genes off during pregnancy|
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