The Magazine January 2021

Rider health: mental health matters

Posted 9th November 2020

Do you feel out of control or overwhelmed by stress or worry? Find out how you can stay on top of your emotions with a few handy physical and mental exercises

Two riders hacking

There’s nothing more rewarding than the equestrian lifestyle. Though we wouldn’t give it up for anything, at times it can also feel incredibly demanding and a little lonely. Winning is a rare event, finances can feel tight, injury’s always a worry, and expectations and pressures are high.

So much of our success is out of our control and luck often plays an influential role. Factor into that the amount of time we spend on social media, filled with highlight reels, and inevitably the inferiority complex creeps in. It’s hardly surprising that riders may be especially vulnerable to experiencing stress and mental health difficulties – but what can you do about it?

The how and why

Mental health difficulties don’t discriminate, and anyone can suffer their effects. We’re all unique and, as a result, react to life’s ups and downs in different ways, but when stress becomes overwhelming your mental health can be compromised and begin to have an effect on your life. Stress in your day-to-day life can affect how you…

  • think, feel and act
  • understand and learn from experiences
  • cope with challenges and change

Mind and body are interconnected, with your mood and mental health heavily influencing your ability in the saddle – and they can have significant consequences on interactions with your horse and your performance, too. When negative cycles are allowed to develop, this can have a huge impact on your relationship with your horse and your partnership.

Careful management

How can you manage the symptoms of these mental health difficulties should you experience them? The key is to RIDE – recognise, inform, dial and empower.

Recognising that there’s been a change, that those experiences are causing difficulties in your life, or that the bad days outnumber the good, is the first step. Pause, take a breath and observe your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Recording your experiences in a diary will help you identify changes while providing a good record to take to a professional if required.

Keep in touch with your mental health in January Horse&Rider, on sale 12 November.

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