Nadia DiLuzio - Overcoming Crippling Anxiety

Nadia DiLuzio got in touch with Riders Minds to share her story about overcoming crippling anxiety following a riding accident.

Read Nadia's Story:

Riding is my escapism from a busy career as Head of People, alongside part time study; it’s the time when I can switch off from the constant hum of my phone going off or emails landing and I have nothing else to focus on but me and the horses. I’ve always loved showing, and over the years have had varying levels of success and those ‘WOW, did that just really happen’ moments when you get the placing or win you’ve always dreamt of.

  My riding confidence was always pretty good until I had a fall from one of my horses that broke the top of my left arm in three places. After that, I can quite honestly say that my new dream wasn’t getting a HOYS ticket, but simply getting back onboard without feeling sick to my stomach.

I have always struggled with anxiety, but it had not previously manifested itself around the horses and it came to head one day when I physically froze on a mounting block at a local dressage venue. The overwhelm was so intense. And this wasn’t on the horse I had my accident on; after trying for 12 months we had sold him on and found me an absolute dude of a horse, that my husband aptly named ‘Dude’. He stood like a rock that day, but I still couldn’t move beyond the overwhelm.

I struggled with people that had known my riding ability and seen me out competing pre my accident, seeing me ride now. I actually struggled with anyone watching at home, fearing the judgement and those looks that said ‘the pony is as close to bomb proof as you can get, why is she in tears at a walk’.

I struggled with asking people to hold him for me to mount, for asking people to lead me around and for a good while I just couldn’t say out loud that I was terrified, because I didn’t want the amazing team that Dude had come from, to want him back. And I have to add here; that they are the most supportive team, who say they take immense pleasure from watching me get the smile back on my face and know he is in an incredible home. But at the time, it didn’t stop me from feeling fearful and anxious and overwhelmed.

My riding confidence could be scored at a -10/10.

  Finally. I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to ‘get over it’ and that I needed help and with a mix of mindset and confidence coaching, getting the right instructors around me and finding a quieter yard. I started very slowly to take small steps towards regaining my riding confidence.

The first year with Dude, I went to our usual camp and I think we only trotted once all week. But the ladies and gents I had been at camp with for years were just the most incredible group that would encourage, support and lead me round. When we went back the second year, I was trotting happily and I think we even sneaked in a canter and when I did, I remember what seemed to me to be the biggest cheer from the gallery and it felt as though I had won a championship!

On jumping day they would make me trot poles next to each fence and I’d get to do the same course. Together, that environment of support from peers and instructors that really do know where your limits are, especially when they can vary day to day, and mindset and confidence coaching, we’ve strengthened our partnership and our trust in each other. We ended the 2019 season with our first attempt at a County show, taking the win! All I could shout as I was leaving the ring was ‘I rode past a fun fair, I rode past a fun fair’!

My win that day was far bigger than a rosette, it was around 5 years of regaining my confidence and overcoming some of the most crippling anxiety I’d ever experienced.

I am now into the second year of my counselling degree. I am a volunteer with Mental Health charity - SHOUT; who run a purely text based service for those individuals that do not yet feel able to speak out for support. I am really pleased to find Riders Minds as a way of speaking up across the Equestrian community.

One take away from 2020 for me that I will carry through this year and beyond is ‘community over competition’. If you see someone else struggling, ask them if they are ok. That simple act of kindness might make all the difference in that moment and for those of you that have ever asked me the same thing, you’re the reason I’m now training to provide professional support to others like myself. So thank you.

Thank you for sharing your story Nadia. 

If you are struggling and need to talk, call Riders Minds on - 

0300 102 1540