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Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: why is it so hard to admit we’re struggling?

Hi all and welcome back… and dare I say, welcome to another lockdown?

I’ll admit that I have found it hard to write recently. Nothing has happened, and there is nothing new to document or share. Every day is the same as the day before, with little to look forward too and the feeling of life standing still at the moment. But then I realised that all of that is something to write about on its own, so here we are.

This time around, lockdown has me feeling incredibly flat. I lack motivation, I’m permanently cold, I’m fed up. I am very lucky that I can still be outside, working with the horses in the fresh air. I know that and I do appreciate it. But it is also every single day, whatever the weather. Whatever the world situation is, the horses still need feeding. They still need working. And that in itself is hard enough in winter, let alone during a global pandemic. There is no reprise from it; no shows to aim for, no meeting friends to laugh off the bad days.

I’ve been worried about writing this down, because even I will admit that I sound whiney, and the fear of online trolling is a real one. I know full well the necessity of the British lockdowns and the severity of this virus — my Grandad Freddie very sadly passed away from it on New Year’s Day. However, living in said lockdown is dragging on everybody’s mental health.

“Why can’t we admit despair?”

I could write about my “lockdown training” with the horses, but honestly, I’m totally over that. I still ride and train them, and they’re all progressing, but that’s old news, constant news, and in all honesty — boring news. I feel as though my own trials and tribulations in getting the horses more elastic and forward, or my non-existent plans for postponed regionals, just aren’t relevant anymore. The news I’m craving for is for something exciting.

Cheeky Simba in the snow

My daily struggle of feeling despair and hollowness is not unique; everyone is feeling it. I recently took to Instagram stories to post about how hard I was finding this lockdown, and I was shocked at the number of replies I received from others who felt exactly the same. So why is no one talking about it? Why do people of my generation try to carry on like everything is fine? Why can’t we admit that we all feel unmotivated and that life isn’t rosy?

However, I actively try to get myself out of this mindset, and try to think positively. Often, I find I am full of pent-up anger at the world, at society, at the lack of anything happening — as well as anger at my own selfishness for feeling that way. So, when I finish the working day I now ask myself: “What three good things happened today?”

These things can be as big as achieving clean changes with Simba, or as small as finding a matching pair of socks to wear. Both of these things make me feel accomplished. I ask my friends too; reflecting on the good points of their day gives me a boost of happy endorphins. It helps us focus on the positive, instead of dwelling on the bad. I recommend trying it daily with friends and family.

Joanna, Sprout and sister Samantha showing off their waterproof gear

Continued below…


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“Love your horse more”

Some more tips and tricks I have found help keep me going during these times include:

  • Love your horse more. Forget training and plans, just ride for the sake of enjoyment. Or just brush them instead of riding if you don’t feel up for it — go easy on yourself.
  • Invest in thermals and waterproofs. Still feeling snug and dry at the end of the day is a must (and don’t forget to take a smiley selfie in them too!).
  • Have less screen time and read something physical — a book or a magazine. I can highly recommend picking up a copy of Horse & Hound.
  • Indulge in self-care, whether that be in the form of organising your saddle pads or resurrecting weather-worn skin with a face mask. But recognise it as self-care and congratulate yourself on it.
  • Take a day off. Spend all day in your pyjamas binge-watching Bridgerton. Doing this doesn’t make you any less of a successful rider — it makes you human.

The message I am trying to get across is that it is okay to not be okay, and also okay to admit that you are feeling down. I hope to be back in the near future with more actual riding news, but in the meantime I’m off to bake a cake and kiss the horses.

Until next time, stay safe.

Joanna x 

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