Horse-mad Jose Watson loves nothing more than going for a “hoon” on her horse along the beautiful, untouched beaches of her hometown.

Jose says getting out on her horse almost every day is essential to her wellbeing.

“For me it’s really important to feel good in myself. When something happens and I can’t go out I really miss it and start getting ants in my pants.”

She grazes her two horses Steiny and Whimmy in Hokitika on a paddock between a wild beach and a creek.

“It’s such an awesome natural area. As an adult it’s sometimes hard to get outside on a regular basis. Having horses makes you have to go outside every day because you have a living thing relying on you.”

The first thing she notices when she gets out in nature is the fresh air.

“The air feels amazing and it reminds me to breathe.”

Jose always takes stock of her surroundings, noting any changes.

“I always go and check what’s happening in the environment, I can check what’s happening at the creek or see what the pukekos are doing and that’s really cool. Other times I go to the beach and warm my horse up down there.”

Mindfulness is one way to look after your wellbeing

By focusing on the environment and observing the subtle changes in it, Jose’s mind is kept in the present moment.

This state is known as being mindful – the practice of giving your full attention to what is immediately happening within and around you. Mindfulness has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety and to increase resilience and wellbeing.

Practising mindfulness is one of the ways the Mental Health Foundation says you can use to take care of your mental health and wellbeing.

“I might notice plants have got bigger, there’s been some erosion or something like that. If I want an experience to fill me up and to feel better, I need to go to natural places.”

Riding good for fitness and social life

Another bonus of riding every day is fitness for both Jose and her horses, but there is also a social element.

“Even though it’s not people you are connecting with you are connecting with another living thing.”

Jose, 38, who works for the Department of Conservation, got her first horse when she was 10 years old and can’t imagine a life without her horses and being in the natural environment.

“I’m just a person who likes spending time outside. I’m a pretty happy person and it helps me feel good. It’s very exhilarating and exciting to go to a beautiful place... On a horse you can be so free.

 “It keeps me in a good space When you are in nature it makes you feel good and that’s a good enough reason to do it.”

Read about Mental Health Awareness Week