May is here and it’s time to talk about another awareness month. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and if you’ve been a follower around here for a while, this piece will resonate with you and what we’ve been sharing. Swiftsure has become a place to release, disconnect, reconnect and build strength. The power of equine therapy is an incredible tool for mental health.
What does Mental Health Awareness Month mean? According to this website, Mental Health Awareness Month began in the United States in 1949 and was started by the Mental Health America (MHA) organization (then known as the National Association for Mental Health). The purpose of Mental Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, such as the 18.1% of Americans who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder; the realities of living with these conditions; and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. Mental Health Awareness Month strives to reduce the stigma (negative attitudes and misconceptions) that surrounds mental illnesses.
With the ongoing pandemic, we’ve seen a big uptick in the demand for equine therapy-related activities for mental health. The amount of anxiety and stress our participants have been experiencing is tremendous and the transformations we see in their weekly lessons are magical. Our participants show up feeling anxious or stressed and leave feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the coming days with a bit more grace than they had upon arrival.
It’s truly amazing to watch our participants with their equine partners as they build authentic connections whether from the ground on mounted. In fact, ground work is an important first step for all of our participants to build trust and learn how to communicate with their therapy horse, and many are gaining just as much with their feet firmly planted on the ground. This is why we are so excited about our new ADA carriage and therapeutic driving program. This will open up a whole new world for them.
May is also ALS Awareness Month. ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. You can read more about the effects of ALS on the body and the progressive degeneration that takes place by clicking here. While we currently are not serving any ALS participants, we have in the past and we will continue to as they are referred to us. Similar to our M.S. awareness article, the importance of equine therapy for a participant with ALS is powerful. Not only does it give them the chance to interact with our herd, it also gives them the chance to move their bodies in ways they can no longer do independently. Equine therapy-related activities encourage stretching and strengthening of underused or underdeveloped muscles, while improving posture and coordination, developing gross and fine motor skills, increasing riders’ awareness of their bodies, and increasing range of motion.
As a result, participants experience new strength, mental clarity, and a sense of freedom from equine related therapies and activities. Really, our motto sums it up best: it’s the sense of strength, freedom, and connection.
Have questions about our programming and what Swiftsure offers? Visit swiftsureranch.org and learn how we offer all lessons at zero cost to our participants.