Holistic Narcolepsy Remedies: Part 3 – Equine Therapy

Holistic therapies have been around for centuries. I currently utilize holistic therapies in addition to the Western medication I need to adequately treat my narcolepsy symptoms.

These symptoms include sleep paralysis, sleep attacks, and much more. I have found that my narcolepsy symptoms take a toll not only on my body but also on my soul.

Benefits of service animals

Florence Nightingale once described companion animals – animals that provide health benefits to a person – as the “only pleasure of a confined invalid.”1

I consider myself disabled due to my type 1 narcolepsy. I have found that being accompanied by my service dog, Kida, a German Shepherd, helps me retain a zest for life that I did not have before getting her.

Discovering equine therapy

Equine therapy has benefits such as “include improved mobility, decreased [muscle] spasticity, improved psychological presence and improved self‐esteem, resulting in improved quality of life.”2

After 2 people recommended to me this week that I give equine therapy a shot, I decided to do just that. I expected to find a sense of mental clarity during this experience. I rode an older male horse, who was quite sassy, in my opinion. He kept flicking me with his tail, even when there weren’t flies to flick. When he wanted to snatch up a mouth full of wildflowers, I had to pull him away.

According to my guide, their horses might get sick if they eat foliage while on the trail. I felt bad pulling him away, but I knew that I had to do it for his own good! He responded by carefully running me into tree branches, not to knock me off his back… just to keep things interesting.

Staying awake during the ride

I found that it was intriguing and even mesmerizing to watch his body language. I normally find myself dissociating during certain activities due to mental health issues, and having sleep attacks during these experiences can make it even worse.

To my surprise, I found myself able to stay awake during the entire 1-hour ride. Something about being so grounded and connected to the movement of my horse, the physical exertion required, and the magical nature of the scenes around me just helped to stave off my sleep attacks.

Similar to hiking but no sleep attacks

I have a similar physical reaction when I am hiking. However, I find that hiking can result in pretty severe sleep attacks the longer I am on the trail. These sleep attacks can really impede my ability to navigate trails safely and accurately. I did not have this issue while horseback riding, and I think there were 2 reasons for this.

The first is that I was so mentally relaxed that whatever was happening in my brain chemically just resulted in a lack of sleep attacks. (I am curious to see how my symptoms react to longer rides, though).

The second is that I had no option but to follow the trail guide’s horse the entire way, and did not have to navigate anything by myself. This helped me feel safe knowing that if I had an issue with a sleep attack, I could just allow myself to go into “autopilot” and keep following the guide.

Have you ever tried equine therapy or holistic therapies for your narcolepsy symptoms? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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