A stiff upper lip

The phrase “stiff upper lip”, great self-restraint in the expression of emotion is a phrase highly applicable to members of the equestrian community.
This, and the ability to “grin and bear it” is often remarked as highly commendable in the horse world because we should simply just get back on and get on with it.

Whilst it is important to be determined, brave and strong whilst we get back on after having a small fall or facing a tricky cross country course, mental health and wellness should not be overlooked.

There is an essential difference between being brave with our horses and putting on a brave face whilst feeling low, anxious, depressed simply because we fear others within and outside our community will regard us to be weak.

  Talking about emotions and mental health whether this is to a friend, parent, a person over a helpline, trainer or simply by starting with telling your horse, is of great importance.

Research has shown that talking about how we feel is a great place to start to improve your mental health. It goes without saying it is difficult to tell someone you are struggling, so here are some ways to talk about your mental health:

  • Be direct - “I have been feeling quite low lately and I think I would feel better if I had someone to talk to about it, do you have a minute to chat?”

  • You are not alone - “I’m feeling very anxious about this event at the weekend. It's making me feel quite low. Do you have any tips on handling anxiety?”

  • Depersonalise the situation - “Some people find winter nights can make them feel lonely and depressed, it would be good to know how to overcome these feelings.”

Additionally, it is just as important to check up on your friends, fellow competitors, trainers, hacking buddies and grooms.
Here are some ways to check on someone if they appear to be struggling or you just want them to know you are there for them:

  • Show you are aware - “You have that big event on Friday, how are you feeling about it?”
  • Let them know you are there - “I know it is not always easy, but I am here if you want to talk.”
  • Depersonalise it - “Lockdown was quite difficult, wasn’t it? I found it quite isolating, did you cope ok?”

If someone does talk to you about their mental health, it is important to learn how to handle an interaction:

  • Don’t try to fix them. Just listen.
  • Assure them they are not alone.
  • Praise them for speaking up.

Talking about emotions doesn’t make you a weaker person, it opens up the gap to lead you to a healthier mind, which in turn will help with competing and daily life activities.
We all know the phrase; healthy body, healthy mind. Well, guess what? It works both ways.

Safe talking places are available online, both equestrian related and not. Bravery is in speaking up.

If you need to talk

Live text support:

07860 065 202

Call the helpline:

0300 102 1540

Or use the webchat button.

Article with kind thanks to Charlotte Spencer.