Menopausal women in the Equine world. You are not alone!
There.. I’ve said it... the dreaded M word. Something that will affect every single female in the world, but yet something that we don’t talk about half enough. Menopause is not a dirty word. It’s not something any woman should be ashamed of... but yet it’s something so many of us hide, whether it’s through embarrassment or the fact it’s a sign of us getting older, or simply because it’s a taboo subject. But when It affects SO many of us, why do we as women have to suffer in silence?
The menopause or perimenopause, which many people do not even know is a thing, but it’s the lead up to the actual menopause and can last for years, can have catastrophic impacts on our equestrian life. Physical pain, anxiety, stress, hot flushes, night sweats, sleepless nights, brittle bones, forgetfulness, lack of confidence, these are only a few symptoms that can hit out of literally nowhere.
I’m 45 years of age. When I started experiencing some of these symptoms, I did not know what the hell was wrong with me! My back pain was literally crippling me. I was needing to pull my horse up mid round to remember the course, something that had only happened once or twice in my entire life of competing.
When I dismounted, soaked in sweat and physically drained, I would just feel like crying. I was snappy and exhausted continually and once my sister suggested I look into the fact, I could be peri-menopausing, once I did and I got the answers and medical help I needed... my life changed.
I took the option to step out of the saddle for now as with lower back problems that I already had, coming to the point of being unbearable even with tablets, It was something that needed to be done, In my particular instance.
Once I started talking about my decision to quit riding...
It was shocking how many women then opened up to the fact that they were feeling the exact same way. Like me, some did not know what was wrong and many lost their confidence so badly that they got out of riding because they were starting to dread it. Others, similarly, were crippled with pain throughout their body. Women told me how they would wake up and cry at the thoughts of firstly trying to even fit into their competition wear due to the weight fluctuations, feeling totally unconfident in even trying to get on their horse, let alone enter the arena as they were already struggling to remember a dressage test or how anxiety would grip them when they were watching other riders go before them.
Stories of how women who would have confidently jumped courses of 1.30m, were now sick at the thoughts of jumping an 90cm course. And it wasn’t just those that competed.. women spoke of how they couldn’t even face going to see their horse, because they might meet someone who would try to engage in a conversation. Women who experienced symptoms so badly that they were not up for leaving their own home.
These are just a few of the symptoms of the women that I spoke to. Obviously some are a lot more drastic than others. For those of you who are reading this in your 20s, don’t worry... not everyone goes through this. But at the same time, I feel it’s no harm for women of all ages to be aware of signs for when the time comes.
Women already suffer in silence so much for just being a woman
Once a month, many of us just have to get up and go on with our everyday lives, in agony and discomfort. I am certain there is not one woman who won’t read this and agree with me that “the time of the month” is the hardest time to be around horses… headaches, backaches, stomachaches, weakness, the uneasiness of wearing white jodhs whilst doing a physical activity. All of this during a time when 90% of women would rather spend it in bed with a box of chocolates.
But just as we have to get on with every other aspect of life... being an employee, a boss, a mother, a daughter, an animal owner - but as we always do, we show up for our horses and for everything else. We get up and get on with it... battling on through the pain and discomfort.
And then if you stop to actually think what absolutely incredible specimens we are... relentless and strong, capable of carrying and bringing another life into this planet - it leads me to the question... WHY is there not more being done to support us when there are so many women in the Equestrian sphere here in Ireland?
Why, in 2022, is menopause still a hush-hush taboo subject that women don’t or can’t openly discuss without feeling a certain type of way?
In the UK and parts of Europe, they are taking huge strides towards helping women In the equestrian world who are experiencing this time of life and Ireland NEEDS to follow suite…
WHY are us women ashamed, or too embarrassed to admit what we’re going through?
Sure, in times of old, where we were encouraged to be discreet and hide our natural womanly body cycles! We were literally taught not to talk about periods like they were a dirty thing that we had control over. And I believe that many of us, at menopausal age, still carry that attitude with us.
If we didn’t have these things, we wouldn’t be able to re-procreate! The world relies on us to keep our population going.
The menopause is just the end of a cycle that is perfectly natural and should be celebrated!!
Let’s face it after so many years of periods and all the bothers that come with them, then getting through the next batch of misfortunes of womanhood that come with the peri-menopause and menopause... women should be screaming from the rooftops – I’m nearly done with this sh!t... this is the last hurdle!!!
So to all of you fellow menopausers out there... I salute you! On the days when it's at our worst, we need to remember that... this too shall end.
For now, whilst I’m out of the saddle, enjoying my “mini-pause” with these two little ladies... just remember, if you are one of the women who opts to take time away from riding, that doesn’t mean you have to take time away from horses.