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I’m Liz, a 22-year-old student, I’ve been riding since well before I could walk and have adored everything horsey ever since! I am very much an amateur in this sport with just my two little horses at my own yard! We participate in low level competitions and get involved in as much riding club activities as we can! I have studied sports at university and therefore I am very passionate about certain issues including mental health, sport development and teaching! When I’m not riding I’m normally out doing other sports or exercising!

In March I am completing a 27 miles in 27 days challenge set by the charity Mind, this represents the 27% of students who suffer from mental health problems! If you want to track my progress in this challenge you can follow me on Instagram @Liz_Griffiths__ Or for Horsey updates @Distinktly_Dun.

Let’s talk mental health…

Hi, I’m Liz and I am a blog contributor for Horsemart. For my first post, I would have loved to do something really out there and create, and I have got plenty of ideas for more fun things to create posts on. However, I had an idea come into my mind yesterday whilst mucking out and it’s just stuck.

This past week has been mental health and sport week at my university and having seen how passionate and proactive everyone was about getting involved and raising money for our chosen charities has inspired me to talk about it.

I feel like being allowed to post content on a platform like the Horsemart blog, comes with a certain amount of responsibility, not only to create exciting and innovative content but to also get involved in important conversations and work to keep those conversations going. I am insanely lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with Horsemart on this blog and so I feel I need to engage in contemporary issues that involve many sports, not just equestrianism.

Mental health awareness day (October 10th) saw many influencers, magazines and athletes posting about mental health and the importance of breaking the stigma, however this needs to continue   beyond one day or week a year, we need to keep shouting from the rooftops how important it is to address mental health and the importance of self-care.

Everyday Health (2014)

Discussed the uses of horses for physical and psychological therapies, aiding not only muscular disorders but mental health issues like depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Equine-Assisted therapy (EAT) has also been used in the treatment of Behavioural issues in young adults and children (Just look at Dr. Phil and the turn about ranch!)  EAT has been seen to increase confidence, build self-esteem, and relaxation within two sessions.

Hoof Ride and British eventing life

have both further considered the benefits on riding on an individual's mental health. For example, Hoof Ride suggested how Physical activity such as riding can reduce stress, enhance mood and improve memory.

However there are two sides to every story and whilst we have seen how riding and interaction with horses can improve mental health, Elite athletes have been seen to struggle with mental health issues but feel unable to speak out due to the stigma against it and how they can appear ungrateful for being a professional in their sport.

Horse and hound (2018)

investigated why riders can be susceptible to mental health issues, they explored the rarity of winning, demanding lifestyles, isolation of working alone rather than in teams, the impact of social media and financial pressures of working within the equestrian industry. The normal pressures of being an elite athlete can be enough to cause stress and anxiety, let alone the additional factors associated with professional equestrianism.

In academic literature, Bauman (2016) stated that we need to ensure a new-norm, an environment where athletes feel free to ask for help without the fear of negative consequences and can receive help from mental health professionals.

Mental health is becoming a less stigmatised issue, Equestrian Australia

launched their mental health awareness programme with an aim of reducing the stigma of mental health as it is essential to do so. Grooms Mind has also been launched, created by the British Grooms association, it is aimed to identify specific issues associated with mental health, to raise awareness for employees, employers and the self-employed. However, without being a member of the British grooms association, this support is not available.

I believe that Mental health support should be available to all riders in many shapes and forms, from utilising riding as a stress relief and form of therapy to advising those whose anxiety’s stem from the equestrian industry with coping mechanisms, self-care, and professional advice. Everyone can suffer from mental health issues, and so everyone should have access to an open forum, whether they use that to support themselves or support others or even to seek professional advice or help. The sooner mental health becomes an open forum and the conversation is kept flowing, the better.

Have you been affected by mental health issues? In what way and how did you overcome them? Feel free to keep the discussion going in the comments!

Elizabeth Griffiths
Horsemart Content Contributor
Published on 11-03-2019
Liz is a 22 year old student and has two horses at her own yard. She has studied sports at university and is very passionate about certain issues including mental health, sport development and teaching. When she's not riding she is normally out doing other sports or exercising!