We all love our horses and would do anything for them, even sometimes to the detriment of ourselves. Amongst the online group discussions, yard chats and even catch up with friends - there's one topic that almost never spoken about...equestrian burnout.
Many people find it hard to share with fear of being judged by the equestrian community, their friends and even family. In truth, we've all suffered from equestrian burnout at some point in our lives. So what is it?
• You feel overwhelmed with yard work/riding on top of your day-to-day life
• You feel differently towards your horse/sport and are unsure why
• You're exhausted both physically and mentally
• You're anxious or scared about the next visit to the stables
• You're frustrated about your lack of progress/improvement in scores
• You feel bored/irritable/frustrated
• You don't feel your expectations are being met
• Struggling to sleep
It's true that for all of us horse crazy folk, time with our horse is an escape from everyday life, a stress reliever and a re-set button. However, there are many reasons why our horsey escape can become stressful and overwhelming. We've put together our top triggers and remedies to help remind you that you shouldn't be ashamed of wavering feelings towards your sport or four-legged friend.
In an ideal world, we'd all be able to prioritise our horses over our jobs and school. In reality, that's not always possible, work and school commitments can soon take over your life whether you like it or not.
Some university starters with a heavy heart, take the decision to find their beloved horse a new home, knowing they can no longer provide the time they need. Of course, for those who don't want to sell their horse, there are other options. Make sure you find a balance that works for you and has a flexible solution should your circumstances or commitments change. Megan kept her horse when she attended university and took the decision to commute up to 4 hours a day.
"At the time, I couldn't imagine it any other way. I knew I couldn't take care of her entirely by myself away at university if I'd of moved yards. So I felt that she'd be best staying at the yard she loved where my mum and dad could still help when necessary.
I soon found commuting every day on top of a heavy course curriculum really difficult. I felt worn out and started to resent that I couldn't just waltz out of lectures and go straight back to my dorm room or out with my friends. It would often add up to a two-hour commute by the time I got home and then I had to go up and muck out, ride and take care of her.
I loved my horse to the ends of the earth and hated that I'd begun to wake up dreading the full-on day ahead and especially hitting the cold, wet yard in the dark at the end of all of it. My parents were a great support, but I hated landing them with taking care of her. My yard manager suggested part loaning her to help balance my load, initially I didn't like the idea and felt as though I had failed my horse and parents by not being able to continue.
A couple of candidates later and some teething issues, we found the loveliest mother and daughter combo who adored her and helped 3/4 days a week. It finally all dropped into place and the guilt fell away, I knew she was with good people whilst I wasn't there and better still the yard no longer felt like a chore on top of busy days."
You're frustrated with a lack of progress
Whether you're competing or not, we can all become disheartened when we don't see progress. That can be in any aspect of riding, whether your dressage scores don't budge no matter how hard to try, that third fence pole comes down every time or you suffered a bad fall and can't move past the nerves.
There's a number of things you can try to help ease frustrations with progress, whether that be competing or not. Hiring a specialist can help, though this may be costly the investment can be well worth it. Tracey Cole is a mindset coach and has helped many riders find balance and combat nerves. Her blog is a great source of information for riders and the types of mental health issues they can come up against.
Taking a step back may seem ludicrous at this point in the season, but if you're feeling burned out most likely your horse is too. A break can often do more good than harm, taking time out to do something fun with your horse could reap benefits for you both. Try a trip to the beach, pleasure ride, a photo shoot or even just join up.
A photoshoot can be a fun way to relax and re-connect with your horse.
Horse or rider injury
Any type of injury can be devastating and have a huge impact on both yours and your horse's mental wellbeing. Whether it be months of box rest, test after test or a diagnosis that has changed your path together. There's a lot of things you can still do together to help keep spirits up and stay engaged. From teaching them tricks to polishing up on your plaiting skills - you'll find great inspiration from Baxter Equine Services.
Be honest with yourself
The most important part of your equestrian journey is learning to be honest with yourself. It is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Whether you need to take a step down in classes to re-group, a break away from your horsey commitments, feel over-horsed or just don't feel the same way about riding in general anymore.
By being honest, you save yourself a lot of stress and heartache that could otherwise be avoided. There is nothing to be ashamed of in asking for help or admitting that it is all a little too much. Here are our top tips:
• Take a break, paying for full/schooling livery can give you the opportunity to re-charge
• Take a step back from competing
• Hire a specialist
• Consider part/full loan to help you manage the workload
• Do something fun like a pleasure ride or photoshoot
• Be honest with yourself and don't fear the opinion of others
We hope this helps anyone who feels they are struggling. If you feel that you need help beyond your equestrian life, there are many support services available like Mind to help. If you need someone to talk to, our door is always open, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.