Mental health issues in riders: what to do

Posted on May 18, 2020 by Categories: News

Here are some common ways that riders encounter mental health issues and how to reduce them.


1. They seek perfection. In a competitive environment, results can mean everything. Perfection comes in two forms; one is a healthy striving for your best, the other is a compulsive need to adhere to the details, to the detriment of the bigger picture.


What to do: be active in reflecting back on how far you’ve come, the obstacles you’ve overcome and how the world does not reward perfectionism. The world rewards action taking. Action takers are more successful, even though they may be imperfect! Action takers gets the rewards.


2. They are active on social media. We can’t help but read others’ updates and find that their lives are flowing perfectly smoothly, effortlessly even. This repeated distortion of reality – the poster has deleted whole swathes of real-life ups and downs – makes us feel like we’re on catch-up, that we’ll never be/do/have what others can.


What to do: Limit yourself to 50% of your usual time on social media – time yourself on your phone! Post and don’t scroll! Chat with real friends with real lives!


3. Financial pressure. As a professional rider, you’ll be only too aware that your horses may be owned by others and that relationship with your horse and owners can be a precarious one. Add to this the expense of keeping horses…..


What to do: set out a business plan, with forecasts and costs for the next 3,6,12 months and beyond. Add into this training and competitions. Make this into a professional-looking brochure. Show this to the owners and prospective owners. Maintain great lines of communication by sending frequent updates.


If your owners are simply too much like hard work and causing you to question yourself over and over, is that a relationship worth keeping? Could your energy and effort be better placed in seeking out new owners?


4. The disappointment of not winning. To go all out to win, to work hard from morning till night, every day with little time off, then to not do as well as hoped, or not to win creates a massive shift in confidence, self-belief and self-esteem.


What to consider: Few successful, high-level riders win the ultimate goal of their sport and very few win more than once!


That sounds odd, I know, but consider your favourite equestrian, how many times have they entered and had to withdraw, how many times did they go out and not finish first?


Think about record-breaking jockey Sir AP McCoy. He won more than 4000 times. But he had more than 17,000 starts. That’s around 13,000 he didn’t win!


5. Not being able ride. To a non-equestrian this may seem insignificant. To a rider who is prevented from riding due to injury (of the horse or rider) or lockdown or a bout of Strangles, this is an added stress. Riding is the stress release button for so many, to take this away for an extended time can wreak havoc with their outlook.


What to do: have a back-up plan. Have something else in your life where you can relax, reduce stress and have a mindful moment. Think in advance what you could do alongside riding that will keep you feeling good, should riding not be an option. For example, a daily 20 minute walk. 10 minutes away from home, 10 minutes back, simple and stress-busting.


What else you can do to alleviate and eliminate mental health issues: if you are struggling with a riding or non-riding related mental health issue, from emotional challenges to anxiety, panic attacks or other obstacles, please do get in touch. You can email me at or book a free no obligation chat here


You may also be interested to read similar articles on mental health,  What to do if anxiety creeps up on youEmotional Resilience Can Come from Time Line Therapy® and Burnout in Professional Equestrians – More Common than You Think