Depression - Matthew Wright

Matthew Wright is an eventer whose personal story inspired him to form Riders Minds. 

He achieved a huge amount of success from a young age; representing Great Britain at Junior, Young Rider and Senior level and earned his Senior Team Colours by just 23 years old.

Matt shares his experience of overcoming the dark times, cancer survival and how he recognised his mental health needed help: 

Did you recognise you were struggling?

Playing it all back in my head now it seems completely surreal; a lot of what I achieved at the time is a lifelong ambition for a lot of people and I completely took it all for granted at the time.

I know there are other professional riders out there from different disciplines who have achieved success from a young age and I often wonder now if they too went on to experience some of the issues that my mind kept throwing at me. 

Trouble was, not only did I take these achievements for granted, I never appreciated them at the time and it gave me a false sense of what normality was.

A lot of the people I was competing against were much older than me and had been doing this sport for a long time, most of them were my idols. But weirdly I saw myself as the same age as them, and not as someone who had so much more to learn and experience to gain.

With horses you don’t learn true experience until you’ve been doing this job for many years and even then you’re still learning. 

But there I was at 23 years old strutting around like 'Billy Big Bollocks', not really mature enough to understand any of it. I was on a hamster wheel that I couldn’t get off and wasn’t prepared for the ups and downs that life would present. 

At such a young age I think we totally take for granted the things our parents protect us from.

Now we all know with horses, when ‘your lucks’s in’ and when it’s’re on the ground!

My luck seemed to last until my late twenties, which to me felt like I was already in my late forties and having a mid life crisis. I felt like I needed a sports car and a Paul Hollywood style hairdo and I was constantly having a ‘I am better than you’ competition in my head.


What was your key moment?

I’d been in with a shout of winning at a 5* on what I felt were the most talented horses I’d ever ridden, and then on three separate occasions, three separate chances and ironically three fences away from home....CRASH!!

I’d broken most things by this point so my body felt like I was ninety years old and my mind quite honestly was a mess.

I had physical and mental health problems and above all I’d lost my love for the sport I once loved so much and in hindsight, loved for all the completely wrong reasons.

I chased anything to try and change my luck, to feel wanted or to get a bit of success.

But the expectations in my head were so unrealistically high as to what I thought I should be achieving, nothing was ever going to suffice. And until you can step off that hamster wheel and take a step back and look at your life, you can’t change.

This caused to me to make some pretty bad decisions and choices in my life both in business and personally that I didn’t need to make.

When the business struggled and I struggled to get out of bed in a morning I always used to say “at least you have your health”, but there was a time that followed when I didn’t have that.

Radiation treatment and medication for my cancer made me balloon in weight, which also left me very self conscious and anxious.


What was depression like for you?

It’s when your in a bad place that people mock you, look at you unsuccessfully, keyboard warriors and trolls rear up and lash out, which can really get on top of you. But the reality is people like that will only be brave enough to put you down at low points in your life.

Why? Because they either want to keep you there or to stop you progressing any further because they fear progressing themselves.

Depression became known to me as ‘the black cloak’.

When my head was a mess, it was like a black cloak wrapped around me and every thought I had was clouded by a fear of my own past failures. I had no recollection of any of the good things I’d done, past achievements or happy thoughts, only things that were bad.

To people on the outside I think I appeared lazy and ungrateful because the simplest of tasks seemed difficult to do. And to be honest I didn’t want to go back onto the yard feeling a fraction of the person I used to be.

There were some days I couldn’t bare to speak to anyone.

I’d contemplated taking my own life and I know people who have felt no other option than to actually go through with it.

The question I had to ask myself and the discussion I wish I could have had with them is this, at what point do you feel like you lost control of your own mind? What was driving your fear of failure so much that you couldn’t take the control back?

I didn’t have counselling, I didn’t take antidepressants, things which I know help a lot of people, but for me it was about understanding my own mind and what was driving my fears. We are all afraid without knowing it at times of failure.

It’s just the things that drive the fear for each and every one of us is different. In my early years, my fear of failure was driven by ego which isn’t good. This encourages you to make decisions that are not a true reflection of the real you.

Then it turned into fear of failing as a father, fearing change, fearing my past, fearing not being as good as I used to be.

The truth is, the person you were ten years ago, two weeks ago or two days ago doesn’t need to be the person you can become today.

Why did you form riders minds?

What Riders Minds will hopefully do for many people is give them the information they might be looking for to assess their own mental state of mind by using the self help guides on the website.

One of the biggest things that can help anyone overcome depression or anxiety is an understanding as to why they might be feeling the way they are. It will also hopefully encourage people to talk or have a courageous conversation.

Most importantly for those who have nobody to talk to, there’s a helpline available 24 hours a day that we hope people will use before considering more drastic measures.

At Riders Minds we know that it’s ok not to be ok and we want to spread the message that we are here for ALL the riders!!

I really hope that we inspire many other riders both amateur and professional to come forward and share their stories with us to inspire many other people that they can get the understanding they need and they can find a light at the end of the tunnel.