The Equestrian Industry Can Help

Finley Hughes, a 15 year old junior eventer from Sydney, Australia shares her story about mental health and how she feels the equestrian community can help anyone who is struggling with mental illness.

Earlier this year I reached out to Equestrian Australia and was able to share my story on mental health. I struggle with severe anxiety and depression and have done for many years.

I started riding when I was five years old and haven’t stopped since. I’ve always had a love for horses from a young age and I was beyond excited to start having lessons. My dad rode as a kid and I think that had a big influence on me too.

As much as I loved riding when I was younger, I would become very anxious and it’s something I’ve had to learn to manage over the years.

After recovering from a life threatening period of poor mental health during 2019, I discovered I had the strength and passion to speak about my struggles. I wanted to share my story with the equestrian community in the hope of inspiring others to reach out for help and support when they need it most.

When I was twelve years old I watched a video on YouTube called ‘About My Social Anxiety’ which was published by my friend and now sponsor, Hannah Hardy. Because I experienced high levels of anxiety from as young as seven years old I was always so ashamed and embarrassed about being different and I often worried that I was abnormal compared to kids my age.

My anxiety stopped me participating in so much as simple as it seems to some, everyday activities became a massive roadblock and held me back for many years.

After sitting down and watching Hannah’s video it was the very first time I hadn’t felt alone in this journey. Until then I didn’t have anyone to talk to that wasn’t a psychologist or my parents, being able to not only watch and listen to Hannah but being able to relate to her struggles is a feeling I will never forget.

To this day I still struggle to deal with the ups and downs of not only riding, but everyday life too. Although I am in a better place now than I ever have been I still deal with the effects of my mental illness daily.

What has really helped me is knowing I can open up to people about what I am experiencing without feeling judged. Whether it is that I was nervous going into a lesson or on the verge of having an anxiety attack in the start box, being real about what I am struggling with, being honest and not hiding behind the issue of mental health has helped me to feel more confident.

What I admire most about our community is the love and care we have for each other as equestrians despite the different disciplines we may ride in. During tough times whether you are fighting a battle with mental illness that no one can see, or struggling to adjust to changes to our lives and routines due to the worldwide pandemic remember you are not alone.

This is a community of love and support which we all belong to where we can be our real and best self.

If I could give one message to anyone suffering from mental health issues, it would be that you are not alone and to reach out for help. It can be a very isolating and lonely feeling, but there are so many people out there fighting battles that no one can see every day. We are lucky as riders to be part of a community with support networks, like the Riders Minds.

I truly believe that the Riders Minds is going to turn over a new leaf for raising awareness in the sport. It’s a topic that isn’t spoken about enough and the support and information that is provided on the website is second to none. It’s a safe place for riders to be able to reach out and get the help they need anytime.



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