Posts Tagged ‘health promotion practice’
I have lost count of how many times I have read this poem. Each time I read it, the wonderful feelings of trail riding in a forest are recreated. In her poem, Pulitzer Prize poet Mary Oliver captures the images and feelings experienced while in a forest. She expresses so beautifully what Japanese researchers found in their studies about ‘forest bathing’, (see my blog post ‘Accomplish Health Promotion Practice While Trail Riding’). She also expresses what I am sure most of us experience if we are lucky enough to go trail riding in a forest. With the images and feelings these words create, she affirms that forests really do have a positive effect on our health and wellness. I wonder how Mary Oliver would express the experience of riding a horse through a forest. I know there are many trail riders out there who could create their own prize winning images of the essence of ‘forest bathing’ and its effects on our health and wellness.
Sleeping in the Forest
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the riverbed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me,
the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished
at least a dozen times into something better. Mary Oliver
Happy Healthy Trails
In my previous blog ‘Accomplish Health Promotion Practice While Trail Riding’ researchers showed different ways that being in a forest influences our health and wellness. They call ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ forest bathing and are excited by its positive effects. If trail riding is one way that we experience the positive effects of the forest, being prepared and being safe is the only way to reap the benefits for ourselves and our horses. As experienced or novice trail riders, there is always a lot to think about and do before heading out on a trail. I always learn something new on each trail ride when I go with safety as a priority.
General Tips to Consider Before Trail Riding
- Consider your general fitness and your horse’s fitness
- Choose the right equipment for you and your horse
- Learn basic riding skills
Choose the Right Horse for Your Level of Experience
- Match your skill and confidence level with the horse’s
Choose an Experienced Guide
- Research the equine and outdoor skill and knowledge level of your guide
- Choose a certified and experienced guide
- Your guide or someone in the group need, at the least, basic first aid certification
Choose an Appropriate Trail
- Consider your skill, confidence, and physical and emotional confidence level when choosing a trail. Be honest and realistic.
- Wear a helmet
- Check and double check your equipment and your horse’s
- Know your limits and your horse’s limits
- Know the limits of horses and riders you are with
- Check the weather
- Notify someone of your ride plans
- Carry basic first aid and cell phone on your body, not on your horse. If there is no cell phone service consider other ways to call for assistance.
- Follow your guide’s rules and regulations
‘Leave No Trace’
- Consider the beautiful and fragile environment
- Be a steward of the environment
With a willingness to learn safe practices and a good relationship with your horse, trail riding can truly be a health promotion practice.
Resources For Health and Wellness While Trail Riding
40 tips For the Trail Rider by Lynn Palm
- With over 40 years of experience riding and training horses, Lynn Palm offers specific tips for a safe and fun trail ride.
Tips and Resources From Back Country Horsemen of B.C.
- Experts in the practice of back country riding created and organized this website. There are numerous free downloads on many trail riding topics. Click here for resources.
Safety on the Trail for You and Your Horse
- Download this free ‘Trail Ride Safety’ guide created by experts and professionals. Within the guide is an excellent article on keeping your horse safe and healthy while trail riding.
Leave no Trace: Centre for Outdoor Ethics
- This international organization provides programs and resources to assist you in being a responsible trail rider and in becoming a steward of the environment. There are many free downloads available. Click here for resources
Happy Healthy Trails
I am so fortunate to live where I live. I have access to some of the most beautiful trail riding country in the world. I have had the privilege of going on several trail rides with my Norwegian Fjord Aura. We have covered a few miles through pine, spruce and fir forests, through a few creeks, up and over some fairly steep terrain and just strolled along narrow trails and back country roads. I can honestly say that there has never been a ride that I did not enjoy. To ride along in the forest and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells is one of the most relaxing experiences I know. It also gives my horse and I a chance to connect, and it gives us the opportunity to practice some of the things we work on at home. We are still novice trail riders, but what a wonderful classroom. Not only am I learning about riding the trails, but I’m also learning about the potential that trail riding in the forests has to influence my own health and wellness.
Discover the Benefits of Trail Riding Through Forests
Knowing how wonderful I feel when I come home from a ride, I was not surprised when I came across an article about the concept of ‘Forest Bathing’. Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku is a term the Japanese use to describe ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. They have been studying the effects that forests have on our health and wellness for several years and found surprising results. One study, in 2008, was conducted using field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. In each experiment, 12 subjects walked in and also viewed a forest or a city area. Several physiologic measurements were taken. Examples of some of the results include: lower concentrations of cortisol (a stress hormone), lower pulse rates and lower blood pressure. These results provide support for more research into the relationship between forests and human health and wellness and for the development of new strategies for preventive health and health promotion practice.
Combine the calming and beneficial effects of the bond we have with horses with the positive results of the forest bathing study, and you could say that trail riding through the forests is a very good way to accomplish health promotion practice. I often say to Aura as we are meandering along the mountain trail that there is much more going on than we can see. I hope she gets similar benefits to her own health and wellness.
The article, published in 2010 in the Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine Journal, describes the above 2008 study and several others on Forest Bathing. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan.
If you want to explore the potential of the human and horse bond, Margrit Coates blends science with compassion to explore the astonishing capacity of this bond in her book Connecting with Horses: the Life Lessons We can Learn From Horses.
The recent exhibitions, The Horse, at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and at the Natural Museum of History are great sites for you to explore the evolution of the horse and the bond we share with these wonderful beings.
Happy Healthy Trails