In the shadows of the showgrounds and behind the gleaming trophies lies a stark reality that the equestrian community can no longer afford to ignore.
A recent comprehensive survey by The Grassroots Gazette, The HAY Campaign and us here at Equitas, unwavering supporters of the mental well-being of female equestrians, sheds an unflinching light on the urgent need for mental health support within the equine industry. The statistics are not just numbers; they are a resounding wake-up call demanding immediate action from governing bodies and the government here in Ireland.
An overwhelming 91.3% of the surveyed individuals voiced their support for an anonymous professional helpline.
This figure is not merely a statistic; it is a collective outcry for help, a signal of the dire need for confidential support mechanisms for equestrians at all levels. It underscores a pervasive issue within the equestrian community: the pressure to maintain a façade of stoicism, even as the mental burdens of competition, costs, ownership, performance anxiety, and the emotional demands of equine care weigh heavily on individuals who for the most part, simply want to mind, support and care for their horses.
The survey also revealed that 89.2% of participants recognise the scarcity of mental health resources for riders. This consensus spans across all echelons of the equine industry, highlighting a systemic gap that leaves not just athletes but all equestrians vulnerable. The equestrian world is a microcosm of society where the stigma surrounding mental health issues is magnified by an ethos of toughness and resilience that is often confused with silence and isolation.
This needs to change. And, it needs to change quickly!!!!
Perhaps the most sobering aspect of the survey is the personal admission by nearly 70% of respondents that they have battled with their mental health. These are not just competitors; they are mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. Their admission peels back the curtain on a hidden struggle that resonates with too many in the equine industry. The days are long, the sacrifices are many, the commitment is relentless and the mental health supports are simply not there for equestrians at all levels.
In confronting this reality, Equitas in partnership with The Grassroots Gazette and the HAY 'How Are Ya?" Campaign are spearheading a movement to destigmatise mental health in the equestrian industry. It's a call for a cultural shift that replaces the glorification of grit with a recognition of vulnerability as a shared human condition.
It's an imperative to weave mental health into the fabric of equestrian life, ensuring that every rider knows they're not alone in their struggles. Every single one of us and I mean literally, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has been touched by Mental Health in some way. We have all faced it so lets come together to address it.
The very future of our industry is on the line here. You can't tell me that the industry wide staffing issue we have has nothing to do with mental health, working hours and finding any kind of balance at all in equestrian life.
If you do, I will tell you.. YOU ARE FULL OF SHIT!!!!
To address these pressing concerns, Equitas proposes a multifaceted approach. The establishment of an anonymous helpline is only the first step. There must be a robust support network comprising psychologists, sports therapists, and peer support groups, all specialising in the unique challenges faced by equestrians. Resources need to be readily accessible not just online but in stables, arenas, and through digital platforms, ensuring that help and support is never more than a few clicks or a phone call away.
Furthermore, Equitas will launch a series of hard-hitting campaigns aimed at bringing mental health to the forefront of every equestrian organisation's agenda. There will be no room for half-measures. The campaigns will push for mandatory mental health first-aid training for coaches, rigorous support systems for athletes, and regular mental health check-ins at competitions.
Education is equally crucial. From grassroots clubs to elite training facilities, there must be an ongoing conversation about mental health. Workshops, seminars, and online courses will be integral in equipping the equestrian community with the knowledge to recognise signs of mental distress and the competence to act swiftly and compassionately.
In the spirit of accountability and follow through, the media and representative bodies need to come together and commit to commissioning research that will monitor the impact of these interventions on an ongoing basis, ensuring that the measures taken are not just performative, but effective. Equitas as a media brand and organisation will never ever shy away from challenging outdated norms and pushing against resistance within the equestrian establishment. The time for change is now.
Equitas stands with our fellow equestrians. We are ready to lead the charge in transforming the culture of equestrian toughness and silence and turn that into one that values mental health as much as physical prowess. It is time we empower change, together.
The journey ahead is daunting, but the course is clear. It's time for the equestrian community to dismount from the high horse of indifference and take a stand for the mental well-being of its members. The time for change is now.