Improving My Health With The Help Of Animals

Billie And Her Pony

I’ve always loved animals. I could ride horses sooner than I could walk. I have always felt an overwhelming calmness around horses. Everything about them is mesmerizing to me. I spent my childhood around them. 

My first pony was called Molly - she was a rascal.

Throwing me off at any given second or trying to run away with the feed bucket. She was a nightmare, but she was my nightmare. I loved her and always felt like we had some sort of connection (when she wasn’t throwing a tantrum). My second pony was Corky. He was a gentle giant and the last horse I rode. That was almost five years ago now. Since that day, I’ve been promising myself I’ll get back in the saddle.

Like most children, I begged my parents for a dog. But as per, “Horses,” my mum said, “are perfect. They’re like big dogs that don’t live in the house or chew your shoes.” Molly chewed by riding boots once, but I daren’t tell her that.

I’m now 23 and although I don’t have the horses anymore, I do have a dog… kind of!

Well, next-door has a dog and I look after her. I didn’t truly understand the healing power of animals until I started walking her everyday… meet Beau:

I’ve known her since was a puppy. I used to be able to carry her in my arms - now she could carry me! Lockdown hasn’t been easy. The long days sat at my laptop, staring at the same four walls for hours. I felt them closing in on me. There are three of us in the house - all working from home when lockdown started. As the weeks passed, it started to feel monotonous. That was until I started taking Beau out during my lunch breaks. 

My neighbour is a nurse and when lockdown hit, she couldn’t take Beau for walks during the week, so I offered to.

Taking her out forced me to actually take a lunch break, get out in the fresh countryside and switch off. When I lost my job a few weeks into the lockdown, she was my escape. We go for hours. I chat to her along the way - about everything, as if she can understand. She looks at me, those big puppy-dog eyes, not having a clue what I’m saying. Probably hoping it’ll involve a treat from my pocket; which it usually does. Just as I found the horses a space of calm, I find the same with Beau. 

It takes me away from the mundane day-to-day of sitting at a laptop, inside the house all day and into the beautiful English countryside where I live. I try not to look at my phone or listen to music and just be there in the moment with her. Listening to the birds and saying an awkward “hello” to everyone who walks past me. Sometimes offering the occasional line of small talk to another dog walker about how she’s still a puppy, but the size of a small horse. 

I find the walks with Beau have allowed me to take a step back and breathe.

I had no idea going for walks, playing with her in the garden or just sitting with her when it’s too hot could be so cathartic. Since I’ve been out with her, it feels like my mind has settled. The moment I step out the door, lead in hand and treats in my pocket, all my worries are left at home. It helps me organise my thoughts instead of being consumed by them. And my mum is still happy because she doesn’t live at our house! The perfect set-up! Beau has helped calm the stresses of life for me in ways I never thought possible. And it feels like I’ve found a best friend. 

by Billie Anderson

Billie Anderson

About the author

My name is Billie Anderson, I'm in my twenties and study history at Portsmouth. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2017 and after a year of very aggressive drug therapy, I became an ostomate. To help raise IBD and stoma awareness I started a blog https://trustyourgut.blog and an Instagram account @billieandersonx.

This is my attempt to make my very unconventional stomach, conventional. I hope to show the world that you can love yourself - with your insides on the outside. 

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