Every single sport known to man has its advantages and disadvantages, ups and downs; and equestrianism is no stranger to it. This doesn’t even include the incredible amount of trust we have to put into our four-legged partners not to drop us and run, not to mention the scary leaf on the ground they might be escaping from. A hard hat might prevent our heads from physical damage, but how do we tackle our mental health challenges? And what are those challenges which are causing many of us to suffer?
There’s no denying it, we have to be some of the most dedicated sportsmen and women out there as we are required to wake up, feed, muck out and ride before we start our mundane day jobs (or for those of us who are lucky enough to have it as our dream job, ride the other horses). The continuous early mornings and late nights are enough to put strain on anyone as there is no chance we are hitting the minimum amount of sleep a person should be receiving; or at least enough hours to recover from the exhaustion. And when there’s horses, there is an ever-existing demand. Horses like to keep us on our toes, or tread on them, and like to surp
rise us with a vet bill every now and then, which seems to aim to bankrupt us, as well as the various other bills. In a world with horses, money doesn’t get delivered via a water pipe, but it often ends up down the drain. That's leaving aside the global pandemic we've all been facing.
Whether it’s from others or from within, pressure piling on top of us can cause some serious damage to our mental health. We all strive to be perfect every time we get in the saddle, but that's not realistic. And when things go wrong, it can be hard to remember why we ride, even make us question our passion for it. We question ourselves daily ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Why can’t anything go right?’. Even top riders, with plenty of support and fans, still experience the bad comments and pressure from owners and syndicates to be placed in their next event.
Negativity Away From Home
Events can make or break us, and other than hard graft and practice, sometimes all we can do is hope for the best and acknowledge that we will have some highs and lows with competing looming over our heads. It doesn’t help competing occasionally with holier-than-thou riders who dish out death glares over the fence which can be discouraging as well as making you feel out of place in your own sport.
Social Media Perception
Social media can deceive us almost immediately with the false idea that someone’s life is always perfect; always winning at some big event and having the perfect horse. What we don’t see is their falls, the days where training doesn’t go right, or the vet being called out three times. This is a fantasy that no one, no matter how much money or the excellence of the breeding of their horse, can live up to. Simply put, no one is perfect; the way it should be. People neglect to remember that by having some hard times, they make the happy times extra rewarding, not to mention how much we learn from the mistakes we make.
Working Together As A Sporting Community
No one should be quiet when it comes to mental health struggles, and especially with the challenges we face as riders. So when you're feeling glum - talk to someone. A kind coach, a friendly farrier, the older people at your yard, even a friendly-looking random stranger at an event. And if you spot someone who looks dejected, don't steer away - make a course straight for them and offer a friendly chat. We're a community and given recent times and the trying nature of global pandemics which have meant many of us missing out on our dreams, we need - now more than ever - to come together as a community.