What my horse teaches me about gratitude for being alive.

by Angie Heuser

Breathe in . . . . feel your lungs fill with air.

Breathe out, slowly . . . . imagine peace and gratitude for all you have.

I see the sun shining down. I feel the warmth of it soaking into my skin.I slowly walk across sand and grit, over uneven ground, taking my time to balance as my prosthetic adjusts to the new terrain.

My mare see me coming and gives a gentle, loving nicker and she finds her way to meeting me at her stall door.

Breathe in . . . . .

I smell her breathe as we are now nose to nose. She breathes out and then quickly takes a deep breathe in. She is living in the moment, taking in my scent as I do the same.

This brings me peace.

Her smell, her twitching ears, the sound of her gentle crunchy on the hay I just delivered to her.

She brings me peace.

I enter her stall, walking slowly beside her. As she eats, I draw close and rest up against her belly, quieting my mind, thoughts, and breathing to find synchronization with her breath.

This is where I come to silence my pain. I find myself living in the present, absorbing Sakari’s world when I am there with her. Her world is simple. Eat, drink, swat at flies, and pay attention to the noises and movements around her.

Equines are fight-or-flight animals. They don’t worry about the past, they don’t think about the future; they live in the present moment. It is their survival technique. We could learn a lot from them by doing this as well.

Equine therapy helps us do just that. It brings us closer to nature, learning to let go of past hurts, and clearing our mind so we can better serve ourselves in the present.

My phantom limb pain can be harsh at times, to the point of overtaking my focus and drive. When this happens, I have learned to stop, slow down, and work on deep breathing. It clears my head and brings a focus on what is really important. I am able to connect deeply with the big picture, instead of getting swallowed up by the pain I am feeling.

This is the lesson my horse has taught me. She is my renewed focus every single morning. She is how I start my day.  My journey with her is simple time together, being focused and present with her while I am there. No phone, no lists, no distractions—just she and I, together, experiencing the world through breath and body language.

If you struggle with pain, any sort of pain—mental, emotional, or physical—try breathing.

Did you know that deep breathing can:

  • decrease stress and increase calm
  • relieve pain
  • improve immunity
  • increase energy
  • lower blood pressure
  • improve digestion

Wow! That’s a lot of benefits! And there are many more.

Makes you wonder what if can do for you, doesn’t it?

I challenge you today, to build a deep-breathing routine into your daily routine. Start small, five minutes at a time, working on deeply breathing in and filling your lungs with air, then slowly releasing each breath through your nose. Gradually add to the time you can devote to this quiet, focused practice, and see what it does for you. You may be surprised at how your pain will fade away.

Don’t stop there. Find the benefits of deep breathing each night before bed and see what it can do for the quality of your sleep. I dare you!

I hope you find calm that overcomes your pain, and peace that allows you to live your best life.

Angie Heuser has been an above-knee amputee since 2019. She features amputee advice, interviews, news, and personal reflections through her blog and podcast at bawarrior360.com.

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