Your mental health and your horsey life

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30 June 2021
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People talk about how being around horses is good for mental health but in terms of buying horses, riding horses, caring for horses, has your mental health ever affected any of this for better or for worse, or has anyone elses mental health suffered a lot because of your passion for horses
 

Sleipnir

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Several serious riding accidents have left me with PTSD which I am still battling. However, in general, the yard is my sanctuary and I find great comfort in just spending time with my boys and their herd.
 

Old school

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Really good question. My issues were trivial compared to others. But can fully understand anyone who just can't cope if you get a relentless series of incidents. It is very overwhelming. Most people are too busy coping with their own day to have much time to listen. And no one really wants to burden others. Well maybe that's just me. If someone genuinely asked 'do you want to talk ', I would burst into tears.
 

luckyoldme

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My old boy was great for my mental health....after the first year.
We laugh at it now but for that first year my entire mood depended on how I had "got on with that bloody horse" that day.
I am totally crap at people as I really do suffer badly from a spades a spade syndrome.
For me being around horsey folk and the sheer amount of backstabbing was worse than the actual horse ownership.
 

mini_b

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I am the most happy when I’m with my horse, as selfish as it sounds nothing else in my life brings me as much joy but perhaps I’m strange like that. I like a few people but I’m not a people person.

however he has had a few issues in the time I’ve owned him (behaviour & health) and it really sent me into a downward spiral. Inconsolable, weight loss, moody, despairing and catastrophizing every scenario.

he really does affect my mood swinging from dizzy highs to very deep lows but I feel this is part of my personality. He just exacerbates the swing either way!
 

milliepops

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I've been absolutely mentally crushed when horses get injured or sick. i think that's the time I've been the lowest in recent times.

and conversely, when they are going really well i feel very resilient to all the other crap that life throws at you.

the routine of having to get up and care for them is really good for me, it makes stuff like work pressures etc stay on a fairly even keel.
 

PictusSweetDreams

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My mental health spiralled when I lost my mare last year. But not in a depression kind of way, it was strange.

I kind of went off the rails, drinking and stuff but not ending up sad and crying I just wanted to forget life. I spent money on unnecessary things, stopped looking after myself and put 3 stone on…so I guess you could say I was depressed actually. I then went out (as soon as lockdown lifted) most weekends, being reckless really.

I tried so hard to click with my fell youngster, like TOO hard and it made me worse. She wasn’t Tilly, never would be. That was the biggest kick in the gut for me. So I took time away for a couple of months, it didn’t help that I couldn’t ride. I’ve now sold her and bought a wonderful new horse and I’m looking forward to enjoying being a horse owner again. I can already feel my spirits lifting.

Taking care of a sick horse is soul destroying
 

mini_b

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I've been absolutely mentally crushed when horses get injured or sick. i think that's the time I've been the lowest in recent times.
it makes me feel slightly better knowing other people react just as badly. Mentally crushed is the perfect way to describe it. The other horsey people I know are a bit more workmanlike about it all.
I felt guilty neglecting my family a bit but it was like I’d been punched in the stomach, no get up and go whatsoever.
 

Chappie

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When I'm out on my own in the countryside with the horses, nothing can compare to the good feeling it gives me. Like it gives me strength to carry on living. Going out a walk or cycle isn't the same.

But coping with being on a livery yard and loaning and even aspects of the horses's care and behaviour is a constant challenge, and when my work and home situations are bad too, it can be tough to get through the days, nobody to talk to about it either.

I'd never leave them as I care about them too much. Sometimes wish I could take a day or two out or even a week to rest but it's not possible for various reasons. Figure this is what I'm doing now, at one point it will change.
 

AdorableAlice

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I've been absolutely mentally crushed when horses get injured or sick. i think that's the time I've been the lowest in recent times.

and conversely, when they are going really well i feel very resilient to all the other crap that life throws at you.

the routine of having to get up and care for them is really good for me, it makes stuff like work pressures etc stay on a fairly even keel.
I could have written your words at this present moment.
 

pixie27

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I've been absolutely mentally crushed when horses get injured or sick. i think that's the time I've been the lowest in recent times.

and conversely, when they are going really well i feel very resilient to all the other crap that life throws at you.

the routine of having to get up and care for them is really good for me, it makes stuff like work pressures etc stay on a fairly even keel.
This describes me perfectly, thank you MP for articulating it so well.

My mental health crashed at the beginning of this year, and one factor was having my boy PTS. He’d been retired for a while and it was coming, but losing that final link to horses really crushed me. I started loaning a horse a few months later and the difference is unreal. I need to get better at being resilient when horse stuff goes wrong, but on the whole, the routine and dependency does me the world of good. I’ve just put a deposit down on him and I can’t wait to get this part of my life back fully.
 

coblets

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I liken horses to a toxic relationship. The lows are so low, but the highs are too high to stop.

I struggle with anxiety which makes many aspects of my horsey life difficult - the idea of a new instructor/riding school very much stresses me out, and I can also be a very nervous rider on days where my anxiety’s really acting up.
 

SEL

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I liken horses to a toxic relationship. The lows are so low, but the highs are too high to stop.
I'll never be without them but last winter I had 3 off work with various problems and it nearly finished me off. That was the most depressed I've ever been around horses and the least supported I've ever felt (apart from my OH who just worried about me constantly which made me feel worse)
 

CanteringCarrot

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This horse thing is not the best thing for my mental health. Horse, himself, is fine, it's all of the surrounding BS. Mainly horse professionals (trainers, farriers, Saddlers) and fellow liveries. I don't have beef with any liveries, but I am just not someone that wants to be around people. So it "ruins" things a bit for me.

My horse is incredibly sensitive and I've learned to be a calmer person from him. I'm relaxed when I'm just with him. When other people are involved, not so much!

Plus I live in an area where good dressage instruction can be scarce, good saddle fitters don't exist (mine comes from across the country, basically), good farriers are like hens teeth (thankfully I've got a good trimmer now), trainers are just scattered about. My vets are decent though.
 

ecb89

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I realised how bad my depression was when I didn’t want to leave the house to see my horse. He’s been off and on full livery since I’ve had him as I know there will be days when I cannot leave my bed. You could put a million pounds outside the front door and I still wouldn’t have left the house
 

Red-1

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The past 2 1/2 years, my life turned upside down due to mum having dementia and all the fallout that brought with it. I became less resilient and became not suitable for the sports horse that I had. That itself became a burden.

I sold the fancy horse and bought an aged cob. He was just the ticket and helped me through a load of crap.
 

janietee_5

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My horses got me through lockdown #1 without a doubt. The whole situation made me feel anxious and with a feeling of dread. But having to go and sort my boys out helped immensely. Losing the oldest last September was awful even though it was a planned pts due to his various health issues, but the other one kept me going. Sometimes I could just give it all up and take up crochet but on the whole my mental health is helped by the horses and I dread to think of life without any.
 

smolmaus

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I'm not at the owning stage yet and it is very probable that I will find it hard to cope when things go wrong. I find it hard to cope a lot!! But getting back into horses the last... 18 months? I'd say has saved my mental health. Gets me out of the house, I've met some absolutely wonderful people and just going round the yard and saying hello to everyone relaxes me.

I started a part loan this week and I am having some anxiety about the time commitment but you don't know if you don't try. I would never have had the confidence to do it this time 2 years ago. It would have been "this is scary, lets not try at all". I'm also HOPING this helps me stop relying on alcohol to relax on the weekends. My drinking has been a lot worse than it is right now but kicking that Friday night bottle and then Slug Saturday is proving very difficult. A nice early Saturday morning hack might do it.
 

ecb89

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My horses got me through lockdown #1 without a doubt. The whole situation made me feel anxious and with a feeling of dread. But having to go and sort my boys out helped immensely. Losing the oldest last September was awful even though it was a planned pts due to his various health issues, but the other one kept me going. Sometimes I could just give it all up and take up crochet but on the whole my mental health is helped by the horses and I dread to think of life without any.
Lockdown 1 was banned from my yard for nearly a month. I can’t begin to describe the negative effect this had on my depression
 

naomibmck

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I find a huge amount of comfort just being around them. I especially find the hard work soothing in a way, things like the routine of grooming or mucking out. I used to volunteer at yards as a younger teen, and since losing that opportunity I can definitely feel a sense of purposelessness at times.
 

iknowmyvalue

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I’m with MP here.

I struggle massively with social anxiety, but horses mean I still interact with people and am (sometimes) able to make friends. They’ve also been great for depression as it’s something that gets me out of the house and a reason to get up in the morning. My mare was pretty much the only thing stopping me from a suicide attempt at one point, but when I lost her my mental health took a dramatic downward downward spiral.

The time I spent horseless was awful, but when things go wrong they are very stressful and do put a massive strain on your mental health.
 

planete

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The roller coaster of battling my old horse's Cushings and arthritis last year proved incredibly stressful and I realised I had to call a halt this February. i was only sleeping three or four hours a night and constantly stressed, my physical health was deteriorating and I had him put to sleep. I can admit now it was sheer self-preservation. I have always felt unwell when my horses or my dogs are ill but the rest of the time they are my greatest joy and make me look forward to another day.
 

Willowbankstables

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I have definitely had times (mostly in winter, trying to maintain a stressful and demanding full time job with a long commute and 2 aging horses on DIY) where it has all felt too much. However, other times it has been my absolute sanctuary!

I know it sounds awful, because I absolutely adore my horses, but I can't genuinely say whether, if I had my time again, I would want to own horses. It is such a massive lifestyle choice and it can be really limiting in terms of social time, holidays, finances etc.

It is a HUGE commitment to take on the care of any pet/ animal, and I take that responsibility really seriously. I guess sometimes it's that burden of responsibility that causes such bouts of anxiety and I know I am a bit of a control freak about their care. I never want to feel like I've let any of my animals down, and therefore that ends up meaning that looking after myself often comes bottom of the list!
 

Caol Ila

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It's sort of beyond words. They cause a lot of the stress -- the cause of stress. For months, I'd been fighting so damned hard to keep Gypsum going, the Last Battle, throwing everything at it, and I lost the fight. There was nothing I could do anymore, but admit that we'd lost; admit it before the barn staff called me to say that she'd fallen and she couldn't get up. She deserved better than that, so I made the decision, and the vet came, and it was under control, peaceful. I thought I would spiral out of control when I put Gypsum down, but then I suddenly had to switch into DEFCON 4, full-on crisis management, because I realized (and it was confirmed by vet 48 hours layer) that my rising-3 year old was unexpectedly in foal on the same day that Gypsum died. And the foal was due that week (for those who don't know, I'd bought the filly in early March). Yet I didn't spiral. I went on foal watch. Made sure my mare foaled safely. Dealt with all the fallout of an insecure 2-year old foaling. Then my flatmate had a mental health meltdown and needed me to placidly, gently deal with her sh1t as well, and I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I'd maxed myself out, used up everything I had (and continued feeling sucked dry because my mare became nuts and foal proud -- for weeks). I didn't have a choice about the horses. I did about the friend/flatmate, a 30-year old woman. But she's now moving out. I'm just not empathetic enough, apparently.

However, Hermosa is rejoining Planet Earth and 5000 years of domestication, so that's good. And her foal is cute, like annoying toddlers are cute. Ex-friend/flatmate and I are barely on speaking terms.

Despite all that, I like I how I feel when I'm with the horses. I just focus on them. I'm completely in the moment, like they are. I don't spin out worrying about all the other bullsh1t. It's like a void, this calmness, this focus. It's magic. It's not like dealing with people. It's so Goddamned addictive that I ended up with three(ish) after Gypsum died.
 

Boulty

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To paraphrase The Simpsons a bit I'd describe them as the cause of & solution to all of life's problems!

When it's all going well then horses definitely keep me sane. When it isn't then they drive me mad sometimes.

I once described keeping the Welsh Idiot (notable for his canary like qualities) sound & happy as being like walking a tightrope over a shark tank juggling chainsaws (& sometimes the chainsaws were on fire). I was VERY done with it all by the end with him & was muchly looking forwards to something that presented less management challenges. At the moment with Fuzzball it would appear that I'm now required to do all the above & also balance on one leg. Hoping for answers (or at least steps towards them) when we see the vet again in a few weeks.
 
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Pinkvboots

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I've been absolutely mentally crushed when horses get injured or sick. i think that's the time I've been the lowest in recent times.

and conversely, when they are going really well i feel very resilient to all the other crap that life throws at you.

the routine of having to get up and care for them is really good for me, it makes stuff like work pressures etc stay on a fairly even keel.
Out of everyone I hear about on here I always think you have such bad luck and you so don't deserve it because you are such a bloody good rider and owner, I always love hearing about Kira and what you have achieved you should be really proud.
 
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