Life Always Looks Better in the Saddle

I know the Easter Bunny has come and hopped away, but one day at my favorite shop, Rustic Ranch, I saw the little guy below and couldn’t resist him for a blog giveaway! Since I had an Easter giveaway, I decided to stick with the theme for the post. While researching old-west Easter traditions—or attempting to because my brain and Google’s are on two different wave lengths—I stumbled across an April 21, 2011 article on The story by Ryan E. Smith was about Shepherd of the Hills Church and them encouraging people to ride to Easter service on horseback!

The article according to Kathy Alonzo says, “…riding around the area—whether it’s to the store, a service, or a local event can be a wonderful experience.” Then it mentioned that Alonzo is involved in two therapeutic horse programs. Those two things got me thinking how my characters often find the world looks better on horseback. In fact, at least one of my heroes has utter almost exactly those words.

Many animals, particularly horses and dogs, have healing properties we haven’t begun to understand. Equestrian programs help people suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, and other physical, mental, social or emotional challenges. If horseback riding can help with these major life difficulties, think of what it could do for day-to-day stresses. On their website, Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, the organization that assisted with my research for Roping the Rancher, says, “To anyone who has been smitten by the calm I’ve-seen-it-all gaze of a horse, or who has stood beside a horse and believed the horse was literally seeing into her soul, the concept of horse-as-healer is not a great stretch.”

In my stories my characters often have a connection with the land around them and have a sense of the Old West heritage. Not only that, but they frequently learn how this connection, along with one to animals changes a person for the better. Technology is wonderful and has improved our lives in countless ways, but there needs to be a better balance between old and new. Maybe we should do more of what Shepherd of the Hills Church did and encourage people to ride a horse to ride to church.

Not all of us have access to a horse, but there are other options that we aren’t using in our society. Families used to live closer together and when Mom and Dad had to work, grandparents were there to help with children. Everyone benefited. No one was alone. That reminded me of an episode of The Middle where Patricia Heaton’s character Frankie wonders why we have separate animal shelters, nursing homes and daycare centers. She talks about how all three groups would benefit from spending time together. I’ve often thought so, too.

My recommendation today is for everyone today to spend time with a young person. Pet a dog or cat. Or, if you’re lucky and have access to a horse, saddle up! Ride to the store, or just around the countryside. No matter what your problems are, I’m betting life will look a lot better after you do.

Now leave me a comment for a chance to win my Easter giveaway!

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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at

35 thoughts on “Life Always Looks Better in the Saddle”

  1. There is more than meets the eye in horses and dogs. They are remarkable creatures.
    You had me at “Frankie Heck.” Love that show.

    • Good morning, Kathy! I love The Middle, too. The episode I mentioned was the one where Frankie tries to get her business done after hearing a new preacher. I still think her idea of combining animal shelters, retirement homes and daycare centers has possibilities.

  2. I grew up with horses. My dad logged with them. when he wasn’t uding them we were allowed to ride them. We rode bareback.

    I grew up with horses. My Dad logged with them. When he wasn’t using them we were allowed to ride them. Haven’t ridden in a number of years. At my age a cat is much better.

  3. Horses are remarkable animals..their big, beautiful eyes, their long manes, and for some crazy reason, I love their smell. Today I will hold my teacup chihuahua in the palm of my hand and be happy!

  4. I have never been around horses much but they are beautiful animals. I do have a cat and yes we have a little petting every day and yes I do think it helps.

    • I think what’s important is having a connection with an animal. Spending time with one lowers our blood pressure and helps us lower stress. The comment around our house when someone gets stress is, “Lower your stress! Go pet a dog!”

  5. I have a couple friends who really do believe in horses helping them on rough days. I have cats so I think petting and holding cats is a big stress reliever too. We just lost one of our cats on Monday and it really hit us hard, so I have been doing lots of hugging and cuddling with the other two.

    • Janine, I’m so sorry you lost one of your cats. It’s never easy losing a part of the family. Take time for yourself and cuddle with the other two.

  6. Oh what a lovely blog! Thank you.

    I grew up in the country and two friends had horses and I got to go along for a lot of the fun. A horseback ride through the country sounds wonderful to me. That church you mentioned is really smart. I think part of the issue of modern day life is that most of us are too separated from nature. Even folks’ yards are manicured into oblivion so that there are no wildflowers for birds to come to–and we’re in the country! I suppose working on smaller patches of yard is a way to be in touch with nature, do you think? or is just what is expected today? Both probably.

    So we’ve taken a step that is, well, out of step. We mow the front acre of our lawn near the road, but not every week (whether or not it needs it as many do), and we let buttercups and such come up for the birds. The back two acres that was a farm field has now returned to nature–trees, bushes, wildflowers and all–and we have all kinds of critters making their homes there. It’s more like the ’50s than 2018 standards but we really like it. (Also, fewer gas fumes in the air from less mowing and it’s animal friendly. Can you tell I support the NRDC?)

    Oh and I think a horseback ride through the country–bareback–sounds wonderfully healing and spirit lifting. Thanks again.

    • Eliza, I love how you’ve let the back two acres return to its natural state! I think we need to do more of this. We’ve taken so many habitats away from animals and so few people return one like you have! I have to find the post on Facebook that tells the plants that are good for bees. I keep saying I’m going to put a bunch of those in my yard. You’ve given me the inspiration to at least get that done. I don’t have two acres to let return to nature, but I can at least help the bees! Thanks for stopping by today and leaving such a wonderful comment!

  7. Your Middle reference made me smile–I just watched the episode you referenced last night while I made dinner!! My boys’ first daycare was attached to a nursing home and it was the best experience. It was fully staffed with caregivers, but there was never a shortage of grandma’s to rock the little ones. It was the perfect mix.

    • Carrie, your children were so lucky! I don’t know why we don’t do more programs like your children’s. It gives both generations an appreciation for the other. That episode of the Middle is one of my favorites. I identify with Frankie going a little wild trying to figure out what her business is. Thanks for stopping by today and making me smile as well.

    • Denise, you’re so lucky to have an equine program nearby. The work they do changing people’s lives is amazing. My hero in Roping the Rancher came back from Afghanistan and started an equine therapy program on his ranch. That was one of my favorite books to write. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I enjoyed your beautiful post which is uplifting and special. Walking with my dog gives me hope and great exercise.

    • Pearl, you’re right. Walking a dog is a great way to deal with stress, get out in nature, and get exercise. Right now I have too many fosters, and am not able to get out and walk with each of them as much as I’d like.

  9. Having a rescue dog who is small but energetic has given me a great deal of pleasure and we talk together and he is a very good listen and understands what is going on.

    • April, I don’t think we have any idea how well dogs understand our moods and health issues. Some dogs can alert for seizures. I’m working on a book right now with a dog who does that. Some can detect cancer. That to me is mind boggling. Then there’s all the ways they act as support animals. It makes me sad we don’t utilize that more considering how many dogs are in shelters. Can you tell rescuing dogs is another one of my passions?

  10. When life was different in the old days as you mentioned surrounded by family we were closer in many ways and thrived. So many people where I live have several dogs or cats. To keep them company and provide the missing aspects in their lives.

    • Anne, the older I get the more I appreciate the life my grandparents lived. They lived on a farm, had a lot of animals and their neighbors were more like family. Someone would he heading back from town or in the are and would just stop in to chat. I have fond memories of sitting around their kitchen table on many afternoons like that. Thanks for reminding me of those great memories today!

  11. I couldn’t agree more with this bog, put the baby nurseries in the nursing homes and have a horse stable at them along with other farm animals and pets. I have MS and I have seen the effect of kids and pets on the elderly as well as people with MS and other illnesses. I had the great misfortune of being in a therapy nursing home at the age of 40. I had lost body function from just below the elbows down and just below the chest down. It was the most miserable thing I’ve ever been through in my life and I’ve been through more than many. Having ones mind but not being able to do anything for yourself is beyond miserable. All the stories about abuse by aides in nursing homes is true. I plan to never go back I’d much rather die. Reading has become my therapy, my stress relief and my vacations. Even if I could physically go on vacation disabilty income does not allow for it.

    • Stephanie, what you’ve overcome and what you continue to deal with testifies to your strength. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad reading provides an outlet for you. That’s exactly why I write to give people an escape. When people criticize romance, this is often how I respond. I write stories about love, family and honor that allow people to escape the challenges of life for a while. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  12. Horses are such beautiful animals. I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up around them but I think they are wonderful for those type of programs. When my daughter had cancer they brought in so dog for all the kids who were sick and it was amazing to see the huge smiles and eyes sparkle. Thanks for your post.

    • Carol, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t understand why hospitals don’t allow dogs and cats in to visit their owners more often. I think studies have showed people do better. I hope your daughter is cancer free! Thanks for stopping by today.

  13. I agree that spending time with children and animals can make everything better and brighter! My four year old granddaughter makes me laugh and she constantly amazes me with her perception of life!
    Thanks for your giveaway.

  14. There are several locations that have combined preschools and senior care. One example is One Generation in California. Both groups benefit so much from it.So many young ones are never around older people because grandparents live so far away. The reverse is true for the seniors who often are very much alone and have younger family members living a distance away. Many areas have Seniors for Seniors programs which encourage and help senior citizens adopt senior pets which are often overlooked. There are also programs using vetted visiting dogs and other pets. Some nursing homes now have their own resident dogs, cats, and other pets.
    These types of programs have been of great benefit for all of those involved.

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