Horses are the best therapy on Earth — even when you’re not riding them

Support Local Journalism


I didn’t set out to get a horse. That would just be insanity. Who gets it in her head to get on a horse after 33 years, at nearly 60 years old, and awfully well-padded? (Read: I will leave a bigger dent in the ground now.)


Me. That would be me.

It started out innocently enough. I’ve been lusting after the stories my horsey girl pal Sarah tells me, and her Facebook posts of her wonderful formerly wild mustang Tim, and she knew it. She’d tell me now and then that there was an older horse that just needed a little love, and I’d turn her down flat every time because that notion was simply preposterous. Besides the obvious physical challenges, my so-called “wage” barely covers the expenses I already have, and even then, only with occasional bailouts from my husband.

So, when Sarah said she had this horse she wanted me to see, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to meet her out at the ranch. I was telling all this to Joe as we were having morning coffee, chuckling off the whole idea of getting back into horses again, and started to say I’d just tell Sarah I couldn’t make it, and he cut me off and said emphatically, “You should do it.”


OK, I already knew he was the best husbie on Earth, but this put me over the moon. Not many men would welcome this sort of expense and time commitment and, in fact, the person formerly known as my husband avidly and very vocally discouraged me from owning horses anymore until I finally sold them. Oddly enough, it was the day I sold my saddle (the last horsey thing I owned) that I shed tears. That chapter of my life was over.

And now, here was Husband 2.0, enthusiastically encouraging me! Can you fall in love over and over? Absolutely!

“But, let’s get real,” I told him. “How can I pay for it.”

“I’ll back you up. Don’t worry about the money. Just do it.”

I squirmed a little because I’m loath to ask him to float me financially from time to time, but I was swept up in his gush of support.

Well, OK then. I’ll go see this horse.

I met Sarah at the ranch, and right off the bat, the scent of hay and leather made me swoon. Olfactory memories transport you right back in time, and this smelled like a time in my life that I loved … like “home.” We walked over to one of the paddocks, where stood a huge chestnut gelding, dusty and dirty, with an old fly mask over his face. We went inside and he shambled on over, and I was expecting to see an old nag’s face, but when Sarah pulled off the mask, underneath all that dirt was pure equine gorgeousness.

“A Hanoverian,” Sarah said, and I commented that this horse was big enough to hold a big gal like me without even flinching. She just nodded and smiled, with that little twinkle in her eye, because she knew she was making a love connection. She explained that his owner was overwhelmed with caring for her ailing husband and her bills were mounting, and she was considering just giving him away, and Sarah, being a chronic matchmaker, thought of me. She told me I didn’t need to pay his expenses just yet, but I could come out and brush him and walk him and just love on him, if I wanted.

I want, I want!

Already head-over-heels in love at first sight, the clincher was his name: “Pendragon.” Anyone who’s a fantasy novel enthusiast will recognize that name from “The Mists of Avalon” — one of my favorite novels. It was a sign! We were meant to be!

I was all in. However, I had to temper my infatuation with the reminder that he was somebody else’s horse — I just had permission to play with him. And “play,” we did. I’d walk Penn all around, brush him, give him carrots, and began realizing that horse time is better than therapy — and frankly, not that much more costly. Time with my four-legged psychotherapist left me more serene and grounded than a handful of Xanax. Anxiety? Worry? These simply dissipate into the ether with the clop-clop-clop of hooves and the heady aromatherapy of horsehide.

Penn and I went along like this for a while, bonding, then out of the blue, his owner told me she’d like to just give him to me. Although overjoyed at this amazing gift, my heart broke for her a little because I know she loved this horse and giving him up, particularly under painful circumstances, was wrenching. Could there be any greater love for an animal than to put its needs above your own desires and grant it the love and care it deserves when life prevents you from doing it yourself? No. The answer is no.

She made the right decision. I’m out there with Penn nearly every morning, walking and talking, brushing him until he glistens like a new penny. In short, I’m in horsey heaven. Sarah’s also teaching me the “new” horsemanship, where you engender willing cooperation from a horse rather than domination, and it’s a pretty amazing experience.

And no, I haven’t ridden him yet, mostly because I’m still babying a torn meniscus back to health, but also because buying a saddle is entirely more complicated than it was in the 1970s, when we just grabbed a saddle and threw it on. Now, there are about 10,000 considerations to be made first. Prince Charming had an easier time finding the girl who fit the glass slipper than I’ve had finding a saddle.

So, until I find that Cinderella saddle, we’ll walk and talk, and I’ll have a daily dose of being completely in the moment. It’s so deeply satisfying. Particularly with a horse.

No wait… my horse!

I still can’t say that without grinning!

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Article

Still swooning over the horse of my dreams — Part I

Next Article

Alpaca love has its own lessons

Related Posts