Equine, Outdoors

My Horse Helped My Mental Health

horse on a cross country course

Starting university is a huge change for anyone. But for me, an outdoors, countryside, home-loving gal, it changed everything. I moved away to a city university and left behind my family, friends and hobby. Suddenly I had little to no reason to get out of bed, there was not a field in sight, I had hours in my day that I had no idea how to fill anymore, and I had no excuse to go outside on the rainiest of days. In the depths of winter I would spend days on end stuck within the four walls of my university house. It only took me a matter of months to realise that something really needed to change. And at my lowest, I believed that something was quitting uni and going home.

But I’ve never been a quitter and I wasn’t about to become one (please note, there is no shame in leaving if you don’t feel that uni is right for you, but for me quitting wasn’t the right decision). So instead of wallowing in self-pity for another few months, I sat back and really assessed what had changed to lead to me feeling so unbelievably down.

Pony cantering through water on xc course

I eventually put it down to the sudden loss of my hobby. For the previous six years I had spent a huge portion of every single day at the yard. Because the thing about horse riding, or more specifically having your own horse, is that it takes up such a huge amount of your time. Horse riding is more than a hobby, it is a lifestyle. So without that there I found myself with hours to fill. Horse riding combines everything I love into one cohesive activity - it gets me outside, it gives me daily interaction with an animal and its a social sport like no other I’ve ever tried.

Alongside not being a quitter, I’ve also always been a firm believer that life is about so much more than working 24/7. And without my hobby, in my first year of university, all I was doing was working and sleeping (an unhealthy amount).

Dun pony on a cross country course

So, after a LOT of consideration, I pulled together all of my finances, organised work for the holidays when I was home and began my search for a pony. A pony that was going to bring purpose back into my life.

pony cantering on cross country course

Buying a horse isn’t something that I would recommend to anyone, and it certainly isn’t something that I would suggest doing while you’re halfway through your degree but for me, it was the right choice. In fact, it is with huge confidence that I can sit here and say, without a doubt, that buying Beano changed my life for the better. He altered my mental health in ways that I don’t think any amount of medicine or therapy would have done. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my down days since, days that have been filled with panic and anxiety but that pony of mine is the sole reason I can sit here and proudly say that I finished university. I did it. All because of that little dun pony.

He gets me out of bed every single day of the week. He means that no matter what the weather is doing, I get a bit of fresh air every day. He is my stress release on days when everything is going wrong. And hearing him neigh at me when I arrive at the yard puts a smile on my face, even when it feels like everything else going on around me is falling apart.

horse on a cross country course
pony jumping a table out on a cross country course

On the 13th April 2015, I found Beano. He was a scruffy little dun pony with far too much hair, with startled eyes and he was a bit smaller than I had hoped he would be. But he was perfect and I instantly felt a weight lift when we loaded up him onto the lorry to bring him home. It may sound silly, but in a time when I needed him most, I found Beano and he filled a panic filled hole in my life.

Since that day, three years ago, we’ve been through a lot. In my second year of uni, I kept Beano at home and travelled back whenever I could to see him. The knowledge that he was there, waiting for me, was enough to get me through the weeks I was away. And in my third year, with his sharer unable to continue  riding him while I wasn’t home, he came with me to Reading. We moved yards a couple of times while we were there, until we found the perfect yard just down the road from my uni house and then, in May of 2017 we moved home together for good. He acted as my partner in crime during those two years, giving me a way of structuring my day and a way of relaxing (which was particularly important in third year). And yes, he cost me an absolute fortune (who knew that keeping a horse in the city would be SO much more expensive than keeping one in the countryside?!) but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

He rid me of my homesickness and he de-stressed me at what was hands down has been the most stressful time of my life up so far. He is the sole reason I battled through university.

pony jumping over house on cross country course

Some people say that animals are just animals. But I wholeheartedly disagree.

Beano changed my life and, even though he had a wonderful home before he came to me, I like to think that I’ve changed his life too, by giving him a home that he will stay in forever.

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My horse altered my mental health, for the better
My horse changed my life, and my mental health

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