Zoe MH for News
Let’s talk about mental health

With the continual presence of Covid-19 and the severe impact on businesses and the people working in them, we have become so aware of how this can directly affect the mental health of our learners and others in a similar situation.

We wanted to be able to make the support for those on programmes with us much clearer, and with this in mind, we have added tailored information on mental health support to the learner page on our website.

We also wanted to remind others that they are not alone, and so we spoke with one of our amazing apprentice learners, Zoe Chapman, who kindly agreed to talk about her own experience of anxiety, confidence, and depression, and how she has handled Covid-19 and lockdown so far.

“As a nervous person with anxiety and depression, I understand the mental block of certain things, which is really why I began working with horses; they calm me and provide relief, no matter how stressful a situation is. I currently work at a riding school, which is now closed again due to the second lockdown.

Zoe’s thoughts

When Covid-19 caused the first lockdown in March, I found it very difficult; I really struggled to stay in the house. I love being outdoors so I spent a lot of time in my back garden, which I know we are very lucky to have! I found it particularly challenging not seeing my partner, colleagues or friends. My mum was also quite ill during lockdown with bronchitis, so I was under some pressure to look after her and the family, whilst my Dad continued to work.

I managed to find ways to cope; I even developed an exercise routine, so that I could burn off some energy to allow me to sleep better at night! I also volunteered for my local RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) group because they were searching for knowledgeable volunteers to keep their horses looked after. I also passed a lot of time online, whether that be studying for my apprenticeship, reading or just enjoying some downtime.

Covid-19 has greatly impacted my life as an apprentice; at work, my hours have varied to accommodate lesson times in the riding school, we have to use a one-way system for customers, and we need to sanitise tack after each use, to name just a few things that have had to change. We also haven’t been able to have all our students back; we can’t take lead rein lessons, or work with complete beginners because they need more assistance with mounting, girth, and stirrups. This is such a shame for everyone involved because it was so rewarding to see our younger students getting comfortable with the ponies and starting to learn the basics of riding. I also really miss having our older beginner riders because I found them very inspiring, and a reminder that you’re never too young or too old to learn!

I totally appreciate the seriousness of Covid-19 and why we have to adhere to the measures in place, but I’m also quite sad that the new lockdown has to happen because I love my job and all of the horses, so I’ll really miss being with them.

Working at a riding school in the second lockdown means that we’ve had to close again now and the staff all have been put back on furlough. I’ve been working hard on managing my anxiety and confidence to cope with the current situation and I’ve regularly practised my riding too because I’m so worried that my skills might deteriorate after more time off.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months developing ways to cope with all this so that I don’t go backwards with my mental health. The key thing I know is that if I start to feel anxious, I am lucky to have amazing support available; I have my family, my doctor and so many online resources to help me through! I think it is so important for people to be aware of the resources that are available because they really can help.

My advice to other learners who feel like me would be to take some time to yourself; use it to recharge and check out all the resources available to you if you need them. Don’t give up on your learning – keep studying and practising at home, even if it means putting bandages on your chair legs to practice! Finding time to study is a great way to keep occupied and focused, and it so rewarding when you see how your knowledge is growing!

We would like to thank Zoe for sharing her feelings on Covid-19 with everyone and being confident enough to share this for others to read. If you have been feeling anxious or uncertain with the current situation, please visit our learner page available on our website now, which is available to use by everyone.  It includes a section on mental health, which is full of useful links to resources that have been designed to help with the ongoing situation.

If you are a trainee or apprentice with us please also remember that you can talk to your Trainer-Coach and if you need it, we have a 24-hour safeguarding hotline in place for you. Simply click here for details on how to contact us.