Mental Performance Coach: 10 reasons why eventing is good for your brain

Mental Performance Coach Sally McGinn identifies why she thinks eventing is so good for mental health.

1. It’s simple - Having a horse is good exercise and gets you out into the fresh air. It’s not just the riding aspect, it’s also the grooming, the mucking out, the yard sweeping – a great workout. There are studies to show that exercising and spending time with animals raises the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin, so connecting with and riding a horse is good for your body, brain and emotions. It helps to reduce anxiety and irritability while increasing your self-esteem and confidence.

2. Eventing is a team sport between horse and rider. Horses are very social animals and spending time with them gives an opportunity for you to develop your social skills. They can sense when you’re feeling anxious or stressed which can often affect them. Not only that, eventing has great camaraderie where you can develop some great friendships and share stories and help each other.

3. With the three phases in eventing, it gives the rider lots to think about, meaning there is not a lot of headspace to consider anything else other than riding the horse. Riding or just being with a horse can help relieve you from the stresses of the day and make you feel better. 

4. The act of caring for a horse can help to make you feel good and improve your interpersonal skills. By being calmer, more open and relaxed, horses will respond more positively to you.

5. Consider setting yourself some goals with your eventing. Goals are a great way of seeing the journey that you have been on and helping with your confidence. Think about what you want to achieve and ensure you are enjoying yourself. 

6. Horses love routines and when you have a routine with your eventing – whether that is looking after your horse, training or at competition – you have a sense of control and consistency. Routines help you plan and prepare, providing a sense of control.

7. A rider can gain an enormous amount of reward when learning to control a horse. Eventing offers the rider an opportunity to learn how to control the horse across the three different phases, whether that is through riding a calm and responsive dressage test to riding at speed across country.

8. Eventing challenges a rider to be quick thinking. Riding a horse can help improve your thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Although a fun task, it’s not always easy, so you need to stay alert and focused. 

9. Not everyone has the confidence to ride a horse. When you overcome fears and work with the horse, your confidence to face other situations is increased and makes you feel good. Eventing is exciting and often challenges the rider to overcome fears, which builds confidence. These are key elements for regaining and maintaining strong mental health.

10. The most important thing is your horse can be a good friend. Eventing is about building trust with your horse. In building that bond, it can help teach you how to develop trust with others. Building that relationship and enjoying the experience of working and riding a horse can in turn give you some great mental health benefits.

To find out more about how eventing helps mental wellbeing, click here.

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