As a child I was OBSESSED with horses. I had so many horse-themed things in my childhood, from key rings to fact books to a set of Barbie’s stables. I absolutely loved them. Until the age of 18, however, the closest I had got to riding one was at Skeggie beach on a donkey.
I came from a big family (I am one of 8 siblings) so a hobby as extravagant as horse riding was just something we couldn’t afford. My grandma paid for me to take up piano lessons, but nothing ever really made up for the fact I couldn’t learn to ride. It was all I wanted!
When I turned 18 I went to university and met one of my closest friends, Holly. She had learnt to ride as a child and also loaned a horse for many years. I was lucky enough to visit the stables where she loaned her horse and got to sit on one for the very first time! After that I was eager to have real lessons. At university I joined an equestrian society and had a handful of (expensive) group lessons with the girls from uni. However, it was just too expensive for a student to maintain and the stables that we rode at were also really far to get to via public transport, so I had to stop learning.
Years went by and I left university, took up teacher training and started my career. I was busy and didn’t have time to think about much else… until depression hit me last year (alongside the horrible anxiety that I still have now). After that, I couldn’t even get out of bed let alone think about hobbies. Just having a simple smile on my face was a challenge.
After my partner told me that I needed to get something for myself ‘or else’ I knew exactly what I needed. (I know he just wanted what was best for me and at the time I really was just sitting at home feeling sorry for myself.) I googled stables in my local area and booked my first riding lesson with them.
This was a few weeks ago and now I really enjoy my private lessons. The first few lessons I had, I joined a group lesson but this was usually made up of children (because generally adults don’t really go and learn new things it seems!). I’ve quickly learnt the basics and how hard it really is to control a cheeky horse with a strong mind of its own!
The biggest lesson I have learnt, however, is that having a hobby is so important when you’re battling a mental health problem. Just knowing that you have that one thing that you can escape to can make a world of difference. People told me that exercise is good for you and I always hated the effort of going to the gym, but I finally knew what they meant when I began riding lessons. No matter how low I feel, every time I’ve had a lesson I’ve felt much brighter and happier than before.
I’m so lucky to have something that I enjoy that is all for myself. It’s easy to look at how I progress and I can’t wait to see what I will be able to this time next year or in ten years. You’re never too old to learn something completely new! So do it today!