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A Novel Occupation, Essay Example

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Essay

The pursuit of new experiences is something that can enable individuals to improve their overall outlook on life, achieve new heights of wellness, and engage in self-empowerment and confidence by confronting the uncertainty that comes with the novel experience head on. In “Curiosity and Pathways to Well-Being and Meaning in Life: Traits, States, and Everyday Behaviors,” Kashdan and Steger (2007) suggest that “one of the most important aims for psychology is to discover mechanisms that enable people to achieve high, durable well-being” (p. 159).  It was with this in mind that I decided to go horseback riding, an activity that I had always wanted to try but had previously avoided due to my fear of large animals.  However, despite this fear, which is compounded by a fear of falling off a horse and looking foolish in front of other people, I was still curious to experience what other people had told me was a fun and rewarding pursuit.

I went to a ranch that specializes in providing horseback rides for first-timers, and was promised by the owner, Sandy, that all of their horses were gentle and safe. On meeting Sandy, I was immediately struck by her intuitiveness and kindness. Obviously familiar with nervous riders, she took me to the barn and introduced me to, Steve, a six-year-old Palomino who Sandy called “small” but seemed huge to me. The manner in which she familiarized me with all of the equipment, allowed me to feed Steve a carrot, and used positive and encouraging body language while helping me to lead Steve out to the paddock helped me to relax a great deal.  It also brought to mind Englehardt’s (1983) observations about the shifting roles of occupational therapists and the way that they are able to act as both a “technologist applying scientific theories” and like a “healing priest” (p. 140).  Although Sandy isn’t an occupational therapist, she is keenly in tune with the emotions of humans and animals, and was able to act as both a teacher and a mediator in helping me to develop a trusting relationship with Steve.

The most frightening moment of the whole experience was putting my foot in the stirrup and swinging my other leg over Steve’s back, as this act was an act of faith:  faith that Steve would not bolt away; faith that Sandy would not laugh at my nervousness; and faith that I wouldn’t lose my nerve. In retrospect, I wonder now what I was so frightened about. As Garrison (2002) points out, all creatures are creatures of habit able to respond to “environmental stimuli [and] social signals” (p.13S). Steve had been conditioned, many times over, to understand that there is nothing to fear from having a person climb onto his back, and he has even come to enjoy it as the social creature that I now understand him to be.  Together, Steve and I travelled around the small paddock and I was finally able to relax and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and even the very pungent horsey smell of Steve himself.  This clarified for me that, as an occupational being, my spirit is revived by engaging in positive physical activity.

This curiosity-driven novel experience has implications for my work as an occupational therapist, as it has demonstrated that misplaced fear can hold one back from trying new  activities. Horseback riding has multiple uses in the context of occupational therapy. Not only does it promote physical stability, but it also has “physical benefits, psychological benefits, social benefits, and educational benefits” that stem largely from “the relationship that develops between the rider and the horse” (All & Loving, 1999, p. 52).  Riding a horse isn’t like riding a bicycle or another inanimate object; Steve has feelings, emotions, and opinions of his own, and I feel as if our experience provided us both with pleasure and the chance to begin a friendship. Kashdan and Steger (2007) look at curiosity as a self-perpetuating mechanism that creates further and future experiences, ultimately aiding an individual’s quest for both physical and mental well-being. After one hour spent horseback riding, I am eager to return to Sandy’s farm so that I might take Steve out of the beginner’s paddock and onto the open trails.

References

All, A.C. & Loving, G.L. (July/Aug/Sept, 1999). Animals, horseback riding, and implications for rehabilitation therapy. Journal of Rehabilitation Therapy: 49-57. Retrieved from http://www.sld.cu/galerias/pdf/sitios/rehabilitacion-equino/therapeutic_riding.pdf

Engelhardt, T.H. (1983). Occupational therapists as technologists and custodians of meaning. Health Through Occupation: Theory and Practice in Occupational Therapy. Ed. Gary Kielhofner. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis:139-144.

Garrison, J.W. (2002). Habits as social tools in context. The Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 22: 11-16.

Kashdan, T.B. & Steger, M.F. (2007). Curiosity and pathways to well-being and meaning in life: Traits, states, and everyday behaviors. Motiv Emot, 31: 159-173.

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