Mental Health for Athlete Equestrians

The hidden hurdles of elite equestrianism

The world of elite equestrian athletes is one of intense competition, rigorous training, and a deep bond between rider and horse. While the physical demands of the sport are widely recognized, the mental health challenges that accompany this level of competition are often overlooked.

Untreated mental health challenges can often spiral into deeper, more complex issues, impacting every facet of one's life. At BTC, we are not only committed to acknowledging and addressing these challenges but also place a strong emphasis on providing evidence-based treatments that have consistently shown positive outcomes. Our goal is to empower individuals, helping them reclaim control over their mental wellness. We understand that each journey is unique, and therefore, our approach is tailored to meet your specific needs, ensuring a path to recovery that is both effective and compassionate. With our support, you can embark on a journey towards healing and rediscovery, paving the way for a healthier, more fulfilling life.

PTSD from injuries

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in equestrian athletes is a significant concern that often stems from traumatic experiences such as falling off a horse during training or competition. This type of incident can leave a profound psychological impact on the athlete, affecting their mental and emotional well-being. The fall, often sudden and unexpected, can instill a deep sense of fear and anxiety, leading to recurring flashbacks, nightmares, and an intense, persistent avoidance of situations that remind them of the fall. This response can be particularly challenging in equestrian sports, where athletes are required to maintain a close and trusting relationship with their horses.

The physical injuries sustained can heal over time, but the psychological scars may linger, hindering the athlete's performance and their willingness to return to the sport. The path to recovery involves not only addressing the physical injuries but also providing psychological support and therapy to help them overcome their fears and regain confidence. It's a journey that requires patience, understanding, and a supportive environment both within and outside the sporting community.

The pressure to perform

Equestrian sports require a symbiotic relationship between horse and rider, creating a unique pressure to perform. Athlete equestrians must not only manage their own mental state but also remain attuned to the psychological well-being of their equine partners. The weight of competitions, the pursuit of perfection, and the high stakes of elite events can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout.

An equestrian athlete leaps with her horse, depicting the risk of injury and how such injuries can result in depression and PTSD

Giana Chilcott, our Director of Business Development, brings a unique perspective from her experience as a professional equestrian. She understands intimately the critical importance of mental wellness for athlete equestrians. Her firsthand experience in the competitive equestrian world has taught her the value of prioritizing mental health and the risks associated with dismissing it as trivial. Her insights are invaluable in highlighting the necessity for mental wellness in the high-stakes realm of equestrian sports.

She tells us "Although you have the relationship with your horse, the drive to never put your horse's physical well being at risk, weighs heavily. I spent a great deal of time promising my four legged partner I would never jeopardize his safety. I couldn't stand the idea of giving him a bad ride. That anxiety frequently impaired my ability to perform. KAP helped me come to terms with the mistakes I had made, to find peace in myself, to smooth out the jagged edges of self criticism. To trust in myself and find a quiet place in my brain that allowed me to process better, more efficiently and with more focus on the present and not the what ifs. "

Coping with setbacks

Injuries, whether to the rider or the horse, can be a significant source of emotional distress for athlete equestrians. The recovery process is often long and arduous, leading to frustration and a sense of lost identity when the athlete is out of the saddle.

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Colalge of three equestrian athletes with horses, depicting the risk of injury and how such injuries can result in depression and anxiety

Two-tone blue circle graphic serves as a visual divider on the BTC in Mental Health website, delineating sections. BTC is a non-profit organization that specializes in Ketamine Therapy

Listen to Giana, an elite athlete equestrian, as she shares her firsthand account of the life-changing impact of Ketamine-assisted Therapy in her life

Two-tone blue circle graphic serves as a visual divider on the BTC in Mental Health website, delineating sections. BTC is a non-profit organization that specializes in Ketamine Therapy

Our non-profit organization, Be the Change in Mental Health offers innovative and top-tier therapy solutions tailored for elite equestrians and athletes looking to enhance their mental well-being. This improvement in mental health is poised to significantly elevate both the quality of their life and their performance in the sport.

Two-tone blue circle graphic serves as a visual divider on the BTC in Mental Health website, delineating sections. BTC is a non-profit organization that specializes in Ketamine Therapy

Strategies for mental wellness

Recognizing the importance of mental health in the equestrian arena, there are innovative treatment options that can help.

Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy

    Abstract graphi of a horse head to speak to equestrian elite athletes who needs mental health treatments
  • Approved by the FDA, known for its stringent regulations, Ketamine has been used in anesthesia since 1970.
  • Widely recognized in the medical community, Ketamine is a staple for physicians, emergency responders, and military medics, particularly for its dissociative properties.
  • The innovative combination of Ketamine and psychotherapy is gaining attention.
  • Early 2000s studies highlighted Ketamine's potential as an antidepressant, leading to its "off-label" use for various mental health conditions. While this use is "off-label," it remains fully legal under medical guidance.
  • Evidence-based medical research supports a remarkable 80% success rate of Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) in treating mental disorders like treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and others.
  • Utilizing Ketamine's impact on neuroplasticity can facilitate a harmonious integration of past traumas and present mental state, offering a path to healing and well-being.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

  • TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique. At our facility, we provide NeuroStar┬« TMS, an advanced therapy that employs focused magnetic pulses to activate specific brain regions typically underactive in individuals with depression.
  • NeuroStar Advanced Therapy for Mental Health is an FDA-approved, drug-free, and non-invasive treatment option, designed to offer sustained relief from depression symptoms.

At BTC, we are committed to supporting the mental health of athlete equestrians. Stay tuned for our upcoming workshops and support groups designed specifically for the equestrian community.

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