Derek Morton on surviving lockdown

Derek Morton, showjumper, breeder, employer and business owner tells Riders Minds about the struggles he faced during lockdown and why not everyone finds it easy to talk about mental health:

As the end draws nearer, (at least that’s what we’re being told and what we’re all praying for), it’s time to reflect on the past 12 months and all it has thrown at us; lifestyle, medically, financially and most importantly mentally.

Having a yard of horses, belonging to owners and myself has been a testing time. The first lockdown was easier as we had the summer, good weather and green fields, so most of the horses on the yard were turned away. Luckily, we were able to continue with stud work so we were able to get stuck into that.

  When things competitively did start again, it proved a very demanding and stressful time as the pressure was on to cram a six month summer season into two and a half months. The young horses bore the brunt of it, but we were grateful of any kind of season.

However, this lockdown has made the first one feel like a holiday. I was lucky enough in the summer to be able to furlough two of my staff and managed to get through working just with myself and one member of staff.

This lockdown did not make that possible, with 25 horses in work and the majority of them clipped out. The fields were like bogs, the weather was not being helpful, and another 10 youngsters/broodmares which were also stabled. I was not able to furlough anyone!

  Trying to do right by staff, owners, sponsors and everyone involved (keeping costs down while we’re only able to ride in our own school at home) is, as you can understand, a difficult time for everyone.

Lifestyle for the entire population has changed. No hospitality, pubs, clubs, restaurants and most importantly no hairdressers (like I need one!) has had a major impact on everyone. Being confined to home with no socialising with friends or family has taken it's toll on the nation.

However in the horse world we are lucky to still have that ability to interact with our horses, which is an unconditional love affair.

  Financially, life is a struggle. Keeping all costs to a minimum for owners, the loss of prize money due to no shows and the slow down of horse sales is having a huge effect on my bank balance. So, the main objective at the end of every month is to stay out the red. It’s been touch and go I’ll tell you.

But the main factor everyone is having to deal with is the mental effect that we all face.
These words amongst many more;
Bored ! P&*%d Off! Monotonous! Angry! Stressed! Let Down! Lost! Alone! are words I hear every day from friends and family. Throw a financially testing time in the mix and you can imagine that everything multiplies by 10.

Don’t get me wrong I fully appreciate that in so many ways we’re lucky in that we still have the horses and the ability to be outside, however when it’s a business that has to make money, it is a very different dynamic to having a horse as a hobby.

  Mental health is something that no one can ignore or even try to start to understand as every single person in the world has a different approach to dealing with the voices, demons and thoughts that each and every one of us has to deal with every day of our lives in our heads.

Anyone that knows me well will have heard me say these words -


Do I really believe that? Certainly not!

But for years I hide behind that comment to deflect anyone from realising that I suffer from that “man-made illness” and I chose to deal with it by kidding myself that it’s not real.

Back in February 2020, I was on the verge of a serious breakdown. I managed to 'pull myself together' with the help of friends and a great support team around me to go on to have a successful weekend competing and winning the Grand Prix at South View Winter Classic show.

This was only three days after sitting in the middle of the yard sobbing and crying due to a number of factors that just 'got to me.' It was at this point that the external mind (as I refer to it), that I try so hard to control my life, lost the battle temporarily to the internal mind, (that no one wants to see), and was in control.

Lockdown has made things difficult to say the least. I personally try not to allow factors that I have no control over ie, weather, covid and government decisions to take control of the yard. The main objective is the welfare of the horses and the team around me. 

Lockdown and the last 12 months has taught me and many people I know, to adapt and how to make sacrifices in what we knew as normal.
The way forward will throw up challenges and we will face them head on. In the meantime we will soldier on and hope that some kind of normality will prevail sooner rather than later.

Thank you to Derek for sharing his story. If you need to talk, call the Riders Minds Team on 

0300 102 1540