Horses Saved Perth Woman’s Life
A Perth woman who suffers from a complex depressive mental health disorder credits her close relationship with horses for saving her life.
For all outward appearances Cindy Black is a typical 27-year-old. She is an independent, resilient and intelligent woman with a talent for horse riding and teaching, with aspirations of becoming a paramedic.
However, her brain functions differently to most people; she has a complex depressive mental health disorder which is yet to be accurately diagnosed.
“I’ve spent almost four years in hospitals, including up to six months in locked wards, with nurses close at all times,” said Cindy.
But it’s horses and the unique bond she has created with these animals that she believes is healing her.
“When I’m not in hospital, my horses are my life. They are my motivation to get out of bed and put some clothes on,” she said.
“They need to be let out of the stables, they need to get their rugs on or off, they need to be fed, they need to be worked. It gives me that sense of responsibility,” she said.
Her medical treatment regime has included anti-psychotics and anti-depressants, electro-convulsive therapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy, and she has worked with many psychologists and psychiatrists.
And while these things have helped treat her disorder, nothing has more of a positive impact on her health than horses.
“I would set goals with my horses and that would allow me to get through difficult periods or even get through to the next week,” said Cindy.
“They were a massive help, just to have direction and something that wasn’t negative to my mind set,” she said.
“My mental state swings with no warning from being functional and level-headed one minute, to extremely suicidal and mentally absent the next.”
Cindy said her horse Bell particularly helped her mental state.
“She’s just the most amazing animal and she has the biggest heart. We have the most amazing connection, I know that she is gonna look after me,” said Cindy.
“Whatever I ask her to do, she will do everything in her power to do it. Knowing that and having that feeling when you know you’re not 100%, but you know that she will try and compensate for that,” she said.
Cindy experienced significant trauma as well as bullying growing up, and as her mental health started to decline around age 16, she discovered great solace in the horses she worked with at her agricultural school in Narrogin.
“I started competing and the more I went out, the more ribbons I would come home with, and I just got addicted to that feeling of accomplishment that I got with horses.”
Cindy said she has no control over her extreme depressive state and at her lowest point, not even her horses could lift her out.
Once her mood starts to lift slightly, she said “the cogs start moving a little more,” and she can turn to her horses as motivation to get healthy again.
Cindy looks at photos of when she was competing, reminding herself of what it felt like.
“I will make goals to get to certain events with my horses. It means that I have to get out of bed, and they have to be worked a certain amount of times before this event,” said Cindy.
“I don’t get that feeling from anything else, I don’t get that drive. That’s been what’s saved me, because I have the most amazing partnership with my horses, and they’re so forgiving,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be here without them.”
For help with similar issues to Cindy, call Lifeline: 13 11 14
For further information about the therapeutic riding centre where Cindy also works, visit Claremont Therapeutic Riding Centre
By Yvonne Ardley