WHEN Sarah Walkerden steps into the paddock with her horses it is a reminder to take time to be still and in the moment. On the day when horses’ speed and power is revered for the race that stops the nation, Ms Walkerden is encouraging ‘horsey mums’ to reconnect with the intelligent, gentle beasts in a bid to help combat post-natal depression and the pressures of motherhood.
The One Stop Horse Shop co-owner runs an online platform for mothers who love horses but said the group was “not as black and white” as it might seem.
“It’s more than getting back in the saddle. It’s about mothers reclaiming a bit of themselves,” Ms Walkerden said. “When you have a baby, it can be a big shock to your life and once you get past the baby stage, it’s about fitting your life back in around raising a child.
“Horses reflect all your emotions. When you’re with them, you just have to be in the moment and drop all the emotional stress: if you’re stressed, they’re anxious; if you’re angry, they’re grumpy.
Equine therapy has played a role in helping the region’s troubled and traumatised young people the past decade, often unearthing deep buried emotions. A new Child and Family Services Care Farm opened near Creswick last month.
Horses can teach us a lot and they teach you to be in the moment. I find it’s really helpful for all mothers to take time to drop all that stress and take a little time for themselves.
Personal experience spurred Ms Walkerden to build support for women to help navigate motherhood.
Ms Walkerden grew up with horses and agisted her horse nearby when studying then entering the hectic corporate world in Melbourne.
After having her first child six years ago, Ms Walkerden realised how much she cherished horses. But in the past 18 months, a young off-track thoroughbred has been vital in helping Ms Walkerden rebuild self-confidence.
The Berringa mother-of-two had only been sporadically the past six years until bold Trigger arrived in her life.
“He’s been really important with me getting my confidence back. With him, you need to be direct, you need to be confident and you need to be clear and consistent,” Ms Walkerden said. “He’s a challenge in a good way.
“Horses can make a world of difference. To me, even coming out in the evening just to hang out for five minutes is amazing...When you’re a mum with feeding issues, or life gets so busy, you need to take time out.”
Ms Walkerden created Horse-A-Holic Mums United online platform six months ago for women to encourage each other. The Smythesdale One Stop Horse Shop also runs a mums and dads’ group. Ms Walkerden said the groups were a way for parents to connect and form a support network based on similar interest.
“I find too, I’m really lucky (husband) Toby has a horse background. A lot of women don’t have that and their partners don’t always understand the emotional attachment to their horses,” Ms Walkerden said.
“It makes it harder when, as a parent, everyone else it telling them what to do or telling them whether they can afford to keep a horse...I speak to a lot of women who say they used to ride about 20 years back but there shouldn’t have to be such a gap between rides.”
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