How to change/what's wrong with me (rant)

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(Warning: TMI, also I've just realised some terminology that may make people think of certain mental illnesses and also brief mention of suicidal thoughts)



I love horses, always have, always will. Two walls of my bedroom are dedicated solely to books on horses - there’s something on everything in there, from books on behaviour to books on race training, it’s my proudest collection. I’ve volunteered and worked part time at rescues, with dealers, in riding schools, etc. I specifically chose to go to a non academic university, even though I was strongly recommended by teachers to aim for Russell Group, just because it allowed me to stay at home, there were quite a few livery yards near my parent’s house, and I would have the time to own a horse. I own a massive assortment of tack, have shared horses on and off since I was 12, and currently work at a job that again I chose because it would best support time-wise/financially a horse.

I have wanted to own a horse since the minute I saw my first one. And yet I just can’t bring myself to buy one. And I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

I go through what I call “highs”, of wanting a horse desperately. I spend hours studying possible diseases, buy grooming kits or rope halters and the like, might even spend my whole evening bookmarking ads of horses for sale. In those phases, I”m convinced that I can buy a horse, and that I’m as ready to by my first horse as I’ll ever be. These phases can last anywhere from 3 hours to 2 weeks, but they always end. And I crash hard every time - hard enough that, even when the ‘lows’ over, it makes me wonder whether I’ll be stuck like this for life.

Triggers for crashing vary, and more often than not they’re very small things. For example, once I got a bit confused about how a breed society had explained transferring ownership of a horse. Not a big deal at all, and it only takes 1 minute to find out, but somehow that spiralled into me getting so nauseous over the idea of owning a horse that I actually threw up. I had been continuing planning buying a horse for over a week and 2 minutes was all it took for me to give up. Another time it was that a horse I liked at the rescue was adopted. I should have been happy for it - and I was - but instead I spent the rest of the week in my room, throwing my head against the wall until it bled so I could stop thinking about how maybe I should have adopted that horse.

More recently, I thought I had changed. The “high” had lasted three months, and though there were moments where I wavered, I was doing pretty good. On the way to try a horse though, someone bumped into me and that was enough for me to go straight back home, write very apologetically to the owner that circumstances had changed, and then to write back to all the other people I had written to about horses saying that the horses weren’t what I was looking for even though there was one in that mix that was my dream horse.

I really don’t know what’s wrong with me: commitment issues, anxiety, f*ck knows. But it exhausts me, it really does. And the worst part is that there’s another part of me who works so hard to provide a life for this theoretical horse, the one who’s been buying horse books for my collection since I was 9, the one who cries at night that they’ll never have a horse. And yet I can’t seem to make myself change. Nothing’s worked from the couple sessions I had with a therapist to giving myself a break from horses completely (awful idea - I ended up with suicidal thoughts, granted that when I next got a riding lesson it also made me think that this was what I was stuck with for life, and then I didn’t feel much better)

For anyone who’s read this far, a) I’m surprised and b) have you experienced anything similar (as in, your own self preventing you from achieving a life long goal) and if yes how did you get around it?
 

Widgeon

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To be honest it sounds like this isn't really related to horses but is more of a mental health issue that's currently manifesting itself in a horse-related way (for want of a better way to explain that!). I would take the pressure off for now, park the "buying a horse" goal for a while and try to figure out what's going on. Can you find a sympathetic doctor or counsellor? Or even a trusted friend or relative to talk this through with first, if you haven't done that already? And in the meantime maybe regular hacks at a nice trekking centre (or something like that) would be a good idea, something fun and no-stress because it sounds like you need some fun.
 

smolmaus

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I have to agree with Widgeon. This being related to horses seems like a symptom rather than the cause.

I can relate to a lot in your post though. I haven't been stuck in the circle of "I can do this!" to "I am a useless piece of sh*t who can't tie her shoelaces" for as long as you have but I am definitely in the same sort of ballpark. I do have problems with anxiety as well and I know this is just another manifestation of it.

It feels like taking an irreversible step forward, like something you can't ever come back from and of course that is bloody terrifying but I am working on telling myself that it just isn't. It's not like having a baby! And people have babies every day! Worst come to absolute worst a horse can be sold if it turns out horse ownership ruins your entire life (it won't). I haven't gotten around it myself just yet but I am finding ways to keep myself on the right track with as much learning and experience as I can get. Like you did I am volunteering at a rescue, I enquired about a share for the first time last week (it didn't work out and yes I wanted to vomit just sending polite FB messages to this lovely lady but I did it!) and every day the "You have the intelligence and work ethic of a garden snail" awful voice gets a bit quieter.

I will do the terrible thing of suggesting you try therapy again even though I myself am not in therapy when I absolutely should be 💩. But would it be possible to get back into volunteering? I can't speak highly enough of what it's done for my confidence.
 

Flame_

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Just an idea but maybe you could give a home to a rescue horse? Then you wouldn't just be doing it for yourself but to help the charity make room for another rescue - giving you a bit more encouragement, plus you'd have the failsafe of being able to return the horse if it turned out down the line you did feel out of your depth. I don't think you'd have the worry or pressure of the loan potentially being terminated by a charity as you would a private owner - the horse would feel like "yours" and probably could be for life if you wanted it. I hope you end up finding a horsey path to happiness anyway :)
 

LEC

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I agree with the user above who says you have hooked your mental health to the idea of ownership. You need to be able to regulate yourself better and live at a 5/6 rather than the highs and lows you are currently living at. I would also look at speaking to a GP to see if drugs would help with this regulation of thought. We all have that inner voice that can be negative but it should not be coming out in self harm and anxiety. You can also train your inner voice but it takes time, effort and some professional help.
 
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I also agree with what's been said regarding this being more of a mental health issue than specifically horse related. I used to feel similar some time ago, though my crashing wasn't as extreme. In my case I believe it came from past experiences of trying very hard to achieve something or getting excited for a life event only for it not to work out how I had imagined or have it go badly in some way. It got me to the stage where I expected everything I put effort in to to not really be worth it or end badly and I stopped getting excited about future life events and found it extremely difficult to make decisions. As others have suggested, I'd recommend speaking to your GP and/or therapist to see how they can help. You can come through this!
 

MrsCentaur

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I think this is more than we can diagnose over the internet. I'd recommend some really high-quality, private therapy - when you have the right partnership, it works wonders.
 

Alwaysmoretoknow

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I was an experienced 40 years + professional with BHS qualifications etc. and suffered the most astonishing anxiety when I 'acquired' a tiddly little shetty for my young son because it was mine and all the responsibility for it's welfare devolved to me.- which was ridiculous as I had been wholly responsible for the welfare of other peoples horses worth serious sums of money and which required very detailed and careful management. I think its a sort of committment issue. Have you thought of easing yourself into it by loaning/sharing something first and gradually building up the level of responsibily you are committing to before taking the big jump into (potentially very scarey) actual ownership? You sound like someone who would leave no stone unturned in ensuring your future horse's welfare and safety and, if you find you can make the committment, I think you would provide a fabulous home for a very lucky horse.
 

ester

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Makes sense to me in a lot of ways... it is a big deal, I talk myself out of stuff a lot- that is part me being logical and sensible, trying to predict any way things *might* go wrong, with a good dose of catastrophising and worrying about my stress-coping abilities - so then I hit inertia that I can't get past.
 

CMcC

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Please take care of yourself. Take the pressure off yourself by not even thinking about acquiring a horse. Find a way you can be with horses/ride by volunteering or paying for tuition at a riding centre. Just focus on the enjoyment of being with horses without any serious responsibility.

Alongside this take the time with whatever resources you can access (medical, therapeutic, alternative means, family, friends) to work on improving your mental health. I sense you are quite young (sorry if I am wrong) you have plenty of time to progress towards horse ownership when you are well.

Take the best care of yourself you can and let other people help you.
 

PurBee

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I was an experienced 40 years + professional with BHS qualifications etc. and suffered the most astonishing anxiety when I 'acquired' a tiddly little shetty for my young son because it was mine and all the responsibility for it's welfare devolved to me.- which was ridiculous as I had been wholly responsible for the welfare of other peoples horses worth serious sums of money and which required very detailed and careful management. I think its a sort of committment issue. Have you thought of easing yourself into it by loaning/sharing something first and gradually building up the level of responsibily you are committing to before taking the big jump into (potentially very scarey) actual ownership? You sound like someone who would leave no stone unturned in ensuring your future horse's welfare and safety and, if you find you can make the committment, I think you would provide a fabulous home for a very lucky horse.
I agree, committment issues do manifest in the kinds of experiences umaride is talking about.

With horses, having kids, romantic relationship partner, committment is required to do our best. None of it can be second-guessed. There’s no predicting the future. So its abit scary to take on something - an animal or person, knowing we can’t fully control them. We can control ourselves only but committment means we’re embracing a future of ‘unknowns’ due to the other being we’ve ‘paired with’….in this case a horse.

I can relate to OP, i had a hoofpick and leadrope i had bought years before ever owning a horse. .and after giving up riding due to work committments! Why on earth i bought those items i didnt know at the time - but now i understand i was trying to just make a small nudge in the direction of owning a horse…’someday’. Something i wanted since being a child.

When i finally owned a horse, i was greener than the horse, having not given it much thought for yrs due to other life stuff, then bam! Horse in my life! And unlike you umaride, i was NOT as well read researching for yrs etc….so the responsibility for 500kg of (pregnant) live flesh…its health and needs being soley on MY shoulder hit me like a truck, and i did wobble.
But despite that, we all survived, and are thriving.
It was helluva journey but worth it.

So committment issues can really be hard to take on. They’re like a blind spot - we cant see the issue. Just its manifestations and experience feelings all over the place.

But one thing i know - those who ive seen with passion, who put in the work and learning, are the ones best prepared for taking on that committment, and usually end up doing so, rather well actually.
Just getting over the hump of lack of confidence of ‘can i do this?’, is normally done by eventually launching into it.
Those folk who have the head dream but dont take that passion further with some real-life doing- yet always hold the head-dream, rarely manifest their dreams.

You sound like you have done so much preparation for owning a horse, and the wall infront of you is just resistance from yourself because being responsible for another sentient being and what it’ll be like and how you’ll cope, are all unknowns.
Climbing that wall requires courage, you know you have the passion/experience/knowledge…in that you DO have the opportunity to mine confidence, and taking the plunge may be scary, but oftentimes when we face our fears, we actually experience a personal liberation, and the future-self is a lot more confident.

As suggested, does the idea of part share/loan/rescue sound like it’s a good half-way step to full ownership someday? It’ll give you the responsibility of horses, while having support from owners.

There’s nothing wrong with you btw - nor anyone - we all react differently to life stuff that’s important to us.
You’ll get there 🙂
hugs x
 

OrangeAndLemon

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It has already been said but yes, agree counselling is the right way forward.

You can read all the books out there, do all the courses but when the horse arrives and you are responsible for its care, that's when you really start to learn. For that reason, get the counselling not just to get over the first hurdle but to build the resilience you will need for the first day / week / month / winter / spring / injury or illness.
 
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As someone who struggles with anxiety (and who attaches all that anxiety onto ponies!) my biggest advice would be to make sure you're in a position where money is not tight. Yes, lots of things can "go wrong" with owning a horse (behaviour wise and health wise, and also with your own health), but having the funds to deal with it takes away a lot of the emotional strain.

If you are prone to suffering rough patches in your mental health, then you would need to know that you had a safety net/back up team, so that you could take the time you needed to get better, and actually put the horse right out of your mind for a couple of weeks if necessary. Full livery including schooling would be ideal. This is very expensive, but it takes a huge burden of responsibility off your shoulders. And also, if the horse is surrounded by a team of professionals, then you're not going to be able to "ruin" it in any way, and if you decided that ownership were not for you, then you should be able to sell a nice horse on again from that situation easily.

Keeping a horse on a shoestring is incredibly stressful. Not having money for professional help where necessary is incredibly stressful.

Sometimes you have to just give something a go, but make sure you've got an exit plan if it turns out it's really not for you 🤷‍♀️
 

poiuytrewq

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On the plus side OP is everyone above is suggesting the right thing then you can get some help and try to separate horses from how you feel, this could make ownership or even just being around horses more feasible and may in the end be therapeutic to you.
Please be kind to yourself and get some help. :)
 

Cinnamontoast

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Tbh, right now, set aside the idea of owning/loaning. Small steps and all. How about a share or even just helping at a sanctuary? Zero commitment, horse fix.

Have you had a formal diagnosis ever? You remind me of one of my students.
 

honetpot

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I think every mum has that first night when you bring your baby home, your on your own, and 2am WTF am I doing!. Most children survive that night, and you go on looking after a small human, till they tell you to stop.
Horse ownership has become ever more complicated by vested interests, who want to make money out of the anxious, when really like the small baby, if you learn it eats, sleeps and poops and the rest of the time you are trying to protect from injury, and small humans are even more inventive at trying to get to A&E. Caring for anything is a worry, and sometimes you just have to set your self boundaries of what you can cope with.
I think the easiest way to decide if you can adjust your anxiety boundaries is to try and work somewhere, perhaps a few hours at the weekend perhaps, and just see what you can cope with, is the reality what you want. There is nothing wrong with the reality of horse ownership not being your thing, in fact for most horse owners, the reality of owning a horse is nothing like their dreams. It's 95% work and planning, oh and money, and in return you perhaps get the 5%, where you go, this is nice, and if you are really lucky, 1%, this is amazing.
 

SatansLittleHelper

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There is an awful lot to unpack here OP and sadly none of us can really help you get to the bottom of this, esp over the Internet. But everyone here is friendly and I'm sure that talking things through can help.
Your absolute first step, if you haven't already done so, is to speak to your GP..that will get the ball rolling and, hopefully, help you feel a little more in control. You don't say how old you are, do you live alone, with parents..?? Please, please try to seek some safe, trusted support to help you with everything going forward. I don't think you will be ready to own a horse until you can get to grips with yourself a bit more (I speak from experience)...mental health issues require a multitude of approaches and you need to be able to be much kinder to yourself...easier said than done I know xxxx
 
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I would say in the kindest of way, take a step backwards and look at the problem in a different way

First, if you’re not certain you can own a horse mentally and physically then you probably shouldn’t. They are a lot of work and despite all the book knowledge nothing can prepare you. Although it’s great you’ve tried to be prepared.

Second, why do you want to own a horse? The “I’ve always wanted to own one isn’t enough”, you can share/volunteer/ride without the burdens of ownership.

Third, you have to look out for yourself first, owning a horse is a huge responsibility and not for everyone. The stress and worries can and will keep you awake. Will this effect your own health and anxieties?

You can be a horse person without being a horse owner and be happy!
 

Marigold4

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I agree with Purbee. You have the passion, commitment and you've done all the preparation. You've been wanting a horse for years and years. I would go ahead and buy one. Be sensible and get a horse that has no issues so you can sell it again if owning a horse is not in fact your dream. Do NOT buy a horse you feel sorry for (I speak from experience). Like you, I find all the thinking and dithering of decision- making absolute torture - once decision is made, I'm out the other side and can cope with anything that comes my way. If you choose a nice yard with a helpful yard owner, horse will be fine. If you have the money, go for it - otherwise you are going to be stuck in this circle for ever. Wanting a horse is not going to go away on its own! You've got to try it out! This forum is good at "hand-holding", so you'll get lots of help here.
 

littleshetland

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I have nothing to add OP, I think all the advice given has been excellent and I wish you well. I'd like to add, that for a public forum, on the world wide web...a place where all of human life can be found, including the bad stuff (very bad stuff) this forum is remarkable. It's mostly inhabited by kind, generous, knowledgeable people who want nothing more than to help. To everyone on this forum....I applaud you.
 
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I have to agree with Widgeon. This being related to horses seems like a symptom rather than the cause.

I can relate to a lot in your post though. I haven't been stuck in the circle of "I can do this!" to "I am a useless piece of sh*t who can't tie her shoelaces" for as long as you have but I am definitely in the same sort of ballpark. I do have problems with anxiety as well and I know this is just another manifestation of it.

It feels like taking an irreversible step forward, like something you can't ever come back from and of course that is bloody terrifying but I am working on telling myself that it just isn't. It's not like having a baby! And people have babies every day! Worst come to absolute worst a horse can be sold if it turns out horse ownership ruins your entire life (it won't). I haven't gotten around it myself just yet but I am finding ways to keep myself on the right track with as much learning and experience as I can get. Like you did I am volunteering at a rescue, I enquired about a share for the first time last week (it didn't work out and yes I wanted to vomit just sending polite FB messages to this lovely lady but I did it!) and every day the "You have the intelligence and work ethic of a garden snail" awful voice gets a bit quieter.

I will do the terrible thing of suggesting you try therapy again even though I myself am not in therapy when I absolutely should be 💩. But would it be possible to get back into volunteering? I can't speak highly enough of what it's done for my confidence.
I don't know if it is a symptom as it's only horses that I've ever had this sort of issue with, but thank you for sharing your story :) I wish I could start volunteering again but the fear of getting too attached to one of the horses there again really scares me.

You sound like someone who would leave no stone unturned in ensuring your future horse's welfare and safety and, if you find you can make the committment, I think you would provide a fabulous home for a very lucky horse.
This is potentially the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you.

Have you had a formal diagnosis ever? You remind me of one of my students.
My therapist said that some people are biologically more anxious than others, and that I may be one of those people, but otherwise I've not been diagnosed with anything probably because this problem is only rises in the horsey context.

There is an awful lot to unpack here OP and sadly none of us can really help you get to the bottom of this, esp over the Internet. But everyone here is friendly and I'm sure that talking things through can help.
Your absolute first step, if you haven't already done so, is to speak to your GP..that will get the ball rolling and, hopefully, help you feel a little more in control. You don't say how old you are, do you live alone, with parents..?? Please, please try to seek some safe, trusted support to help you with everything going forward. I don't think you will be ready to own a horse until you can get to grips with yourself a bit more (I speak from experience)...mental health issues require a multitude of approaches and you need to be able to be much kinder to yourself...easier said than done I know xxxx
I'm in my early twenties but embarrassingly still live with my parents... I think you're right that I need figure myself out before buying a horse.

Second, why do you want to own a horse? The “I’ve always wanted to own one isn’t enough”, you can share/volunteer/ride without the burdens of ownership.
I just want a companion I suppose who's specifically my companion. This may make me sound awful but I want to be able to go to a yard and see two ears pricked in my direction and know that I'm their no1 person just as much as they're mine.

I have nothing to add OP, I think all the advice given has been excellent and I wish you well. I'd like to add, that for a public forum, on the world wide web...a place where all of human life can be found, including the bad stuff (very bad stuff) this forum is remarkable. It's mostly inhabited by kind, generous, knowledgeable people who want nothing more than to help. To everyone on this forum....I applaud you.
Yes, everyone's been really kind and helpful on here and I'm really touched by and grateful to everyone's responses.
 
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