Mental Health With Oliver Townend

It’s Mental Health Awareness week, Eventing Worldwide contacted 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?

Trying to keep to a similar routine to normal, bar competing. I don’t have much of a social life once the horses are in, so it’s basically like January and February has been extended.

Have you encountered any difficulties due to lockdown?

There are obviously many, we are always careful in general, but there definitely feels to be an extra weight for the safety of horses and people, with the worry that you don’t want to be going to A&E, for personal reasons as well as extra stress on the NHS and of the course the general logistics.

Would you say you feel more stressed than normal, due to the restrictions?

I would say that I am more stressed with some things and less with others. We don’t have the competition stresses, but I have other ones, like income as I have other people relying on me to pay their wages and then the general anxiety of not being able to plan, which I am trying to control.

Do you normally suffer with any mental health conditions? If so, how have you dealt with it?

I have definitely had massive low points (which could possibly be diagnosed as depression) I think that’s why I keep so busy so I don’t need to think about it, it’s my way of coping.

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?

Horses have always helped me, as they don’t know what’s going on outside and treat you the same whatever your circumstances.

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?

I definitely think people can see it as a weakness which probably makes people more inclined to stay quiet and suffer alone.

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?

Only they will know.

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?

Possibly, although hopefully people are slowly getting more educated with things. Look at even something like food intolerances, the world is slowly understanding that everyone functions in different ways. I don’t think it always just affects people at competitions, I think it could be more behind closed doors, the things that stops you getting out of bed in the morning.

What would you say to someone who finds therapy in their horses, but struggles with event related anxiety?

I would say to be as prepared as possible in your training, so hopefully you can believe in yourself that way.

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




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