Getting Through Winter:
How Equestrians who are struggling with Seasonal Depression can help themselves
By Hannah Bakewell, EC Pro
For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live in a country where the winters are sunny, winter can be tough on both our mindset and riding. The winter months make it harder to find the energy and motivation to ride when the wind is bitterly cold, the rain is hammering down and there are fewer daylight hours. When your fingers and toes become numb, we all know we would rather be under a blanket with a Hot Chocolate not pushing a wheelbarrow along an Icy yard.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognised medical condition that so many struggle with or don’t know about and wonder why they are finding these dark months so hard. This condition is often met with a sweeping disregard as “the winter blues,” and is therefore not fully understood. But now doctors have become more aware of this condition affecting so many it means we can be provided with advice on how we can manage our symptoms.
The NHS describes the main systems of SAD to be:
● Persistent low mood
● A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
● Feeling irritable
● Feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
● Low self-esteem
● Feeling stressed or anxious
● Becoming less sociable
These symptoms come from our biological clock changing with the decrease in sunlight which can trigger a decrease in serotonin (a neurotransmitter) and/or a disruption in melatonin production (a hormone that affects sleep patterns and mood).
If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms, it’s so important to speak to a professional. Depression is serious and although I am far from medical professionals here at EC Pro, I have a few ideas which have lifted my winter blues.
Grooming a horse
There’s something about grooming a horse up only to then get filthy yourself which is good for the soul. Removing mud and washing feathers couldn’t be more satisfying. The instant gratification of making something smarter and better with your own elbow grease is sure to lift spirits. Plus, when done right grooming can be a good upper body workout and keeps that circulation going on a cold day. A perfect quick uplift on a day where perhaps you are in a low spot.
Spending time with friends or family
Isolation can be one of the hardest parts of Depression. Plan with your equine friends to meet up even if it’s too cold to ride, you can rearrange your matchy matchy kit together! Or hang out and enjoy the company of your horse, they are great listeners.
This is so important. Even when the air is cold and there’s a frost on your car, leaving the house does so much for the mind. It’s tough to crawl away from your blanket and hot chocolate but I personally am still always glad I got outside.
Stable chores, walking the dog, and checking on the horses. You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to achieve big goals outside but breathing fresh again and escaping 4 walls really gives the mind a chance to breathe and take in natural light.
Be Kind to Yourself
Winter always comes around every year and each year it can really bring us down, but spring and then followed by glorious summer. Be kind to yourself and do the things that make you happy and through to the sunny seasons. Being kind to yourself is a way of life. Learn about what helps you feel better, or truly happy, what brings you up the most? But don’t be upset with yourself when you feel sad. It’s okay, and you’re not alone.
Riders Minds is a dedicated charity helping to improve the mental well-being of all horse riders.
- if you need to talk to a professional, they are there for you.
Remember: winter can be hard, but you can do this. Spend as much time with the ponies as you can, and before you know it, those dandelions and daylilies will be popping back up.