It’s Mental Health Awareness week, Eventing Worldwide contacted some of the Worlds best event riders to ask how they cope in such a busy and pressurised world..
How are you coping during the COVID-19 pandemic? Have you encountered any difficulties due to lockdown?
Covid-19 has offered us the perfect opportunity to get the young horses up to speed with their training so that they are ready to go out and about when we are safe to do so. We’re very lucky to have everything we need at home to keep them ticking over and learning during the lockdown period.
We haven’t really suffered any difficulties during this period. Instead we have used it for it’s benefits and have eased the pressure off the more experienced horses now that they are not out competing. Instead, these horses have been focussing on any specific skills they need to work on, such as flying changes, and have been enjoying plenty of hacking and field time. We have also used this time to change our training slightly and incorporated more basic strengthening and hill work to improve and tone the correct muscle groups.
Would you say you feel more stressed than normal, due to the restrictions?
I think if anything I feel more relaxed rather than stressed during this time. In the beginning I was slightly more stressed as the restrictions meant that we could not get the horses who we were producing to sell out to training or competitions in preparation for selling, and it seemed like all the hard work over the winter with the more experienced horses was wasted as their season plans were put on hold. However it has actually been nice for myself and the horses just to relax after a very long winter! It has allowed us to try out some different ideas without any pressure or time restraints
with trying to perfect things before the next competition. It has also meant that we have saved money in diesel and entry/hire fees too!
Has being around horses helped overcome any stress related struggles in your career? What strategies have you implemented to help you stay level headed in tougher times?
I think one of the main ways that I stay level headed during tough times is that I believe in fate. I think everything happens for a reason and we can learn from and make use of things that do happen to help us in the future.
Have you or anyone close to you felt that they couldn’t speak up about how they may be feeling for fear of being judged or perceived differently? Do you think that mental health conditions can have a bad reputation which means some who suffer are less inclined to open up about it? Do you think that people who do not suffer with any mental health conditions may think that those who do, are either doing it for publicity or attention?
Being from a farming family I do feel that metal health is still heavily stigmatised and a subject that is difficult to speak about and often ignored. In the farming industry, although things are beginning to change, mental health issues are still viewed as a feeling of failure and being unable to cope and there is a level of shame that comes with that. I feel like on the whole mental health is a much more open subject to what it used to be and that it is losing its negative connotations. Even those who do
not suffer from mental health issues I think are becoming more aware that it is a serious issue and people who suffer from it need support, rather than thinking people do it for attention/publicity.
Do you think that other competitors or spectators might see someone as weak in a competition driven by bravery if they were to open up about suffering with a mental health condition?
I don’t think competitors or spectators would see someone who has opened up about mental health as weak, if anything I think they would be seen as being stronger for opening up and asking for help.
What would you say to someone who finds therapy in their horses, but struggles with event related anxiety?
I used to suffer a lot with nerves before an event, particularly before show jumping! To control my nerves I learnt to reason with myself as to why I did this and remembered that I did it because I enjoyed it! I would remind myself that I had put in all the hours of training, I wasn’t going to go into the ring and forget how to ride! I believed that what was going to happen would happen for a reason and all I could do was try my best to make what would happen what I wanted to happen.
It’s time to remove the stigma of mental health from our sport by speaking out and increasing mental health awareness, understanding, and confidence amongst all riders. Remember that #ItsOkayNotToBeOkay
Riders Minds is available to ALL riders both amateur and professional for anybody struggling with mental health
RIDERS MINDS are here for you with their dedicated 24 hour helpline 0300 102 1540
Images Courtesy of Benjamin Clark and Eventing Focus