When Kirsty Cyprus from East Sussex started the menopause at 42 years old, she found her horses kept her motivated and focused — not just on her riding, but in life generally.

“The menopause can feel like you have ended a chapter, but I like to think it’s more like you’re opening a new one,” she says. “Having horses definitely helped me cope mentally. They gave me a focus when I was suffering from insomnia as not sleeping can drive you crazy.

“It’s frustrating getting out of bed with no energy, but knowing I had horses to get up for and look after meant I had to stick to a routine and not get lost in the brain fog.”

The benefits of hacking

Hacking has been invaluable for Kirsty.

“I found as I started the menopause that I would become very emotional and sometimes not stop crying, but your horse doesn’t care. Hacking is the most amazing thing for clearing your head,” she says. “I find that hacking is the best thing for resetting my mindset. You don’t have to go out for hours and it can just be a plod; there is no pressure when you’re hacking.”

Clearing the brain fog associated with menopause is something Sharon Tomlinson — who started the menopause six years ago aged 48 — agrees that hacking does for her.

“For me it was more like brain fireworks. I would have a million random thoughts all at once so being able to go hacking and clear that did wonders,” says Sharon. “My thoughts would be so random — about things that weren’t even real like aliens, or about something that happened 20 years ago — nobody warns you about that.

“It can make you feel like you have been run over by a bus. On menopausal days I get slower and slower, then frustrated with myself when I’m doing yard jobs, but I know being outside and moving is good,” adds Sharon.

Confidence battles

Sharon found that her confidence nosedived when she started going through the menopause.

“I’m a confident rider and have ridden all my life. I’ve always had Thoroughbreds and favoured a sharp ex-racer, but I find now that I have a couple of days a month where I get nervous over silly little things. I start looking for monsters in bushes and thinking, ‘What if something goes wrong?’ As a rider I have never had those thoughts, but now they creep in,” she explains.

Despite suffering from an increase in nerves, Sharon still rides ex-racehorses, but finds her seven-year-old gelding Company has the perfect temperament.

Kirsty now rides out in a body protector

“I bought him without trying him and I never would have if I’d ridden him as he’s so laid-back. Younger me wouldn’t have enjoyed riding him, but he isn’t sensitive to me being nervous and isn’t affected by having a day off if I can’t ride. He’s the perfect horse at the perfect time.”

Kirsty now wears a body protector whenever she climbs on board due to developing brittle bones when she became menopausal.

“I think you have to change how you ride in some ways. I always put a body protector on now as taking a tumble without one isn’t worth the risk. I’m more cautious in what and how I ride as well as what I do. Sometimes I’ll do a lot of in-hand hacking as the doctor told me to walk as much as possible.”

Carrying on

Finding a way to keep doing what you love — riding — while going through all the physical and emotional changes triggered by the menopause has reaped big rewards for many riders — and it could do for you too. Bear in mind that everyone is different, though, so listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

“Even though I have had some accidents, I’ve always been advised to keep riding. For me the pros of doing so outweigh the cons,” says Kirsty. “Doctors told me to keep hacking but to be aware that my bones are brittle, so I won’t go racing around the countryside anymore but having fun is still important. You can’t give up on something you love just because you’re getting older. I don’t jump but I keep hacking because it is the best thing for my mind and body.

“My horses and I still have a lot of fun and taking part in challenges like #Hack1000Miles is brilliant as it gives us something to focus and aim for,” adds Kirsty.

A place for support

For Kirsty Cyprus, building a community for women to share the impact menopause has on their life was something she became passionate about when she started the menopause in her early 40s. She created her blog Charlie Cob Can to bring women together, and has been instrumental in creating hacking challenges specifically for women hacking through the menopause. You can do these as part of your #Hack1000Miles journey.

“I first started a challenge in April this year where women could sign up and share their stories of hacking while experiencing the menopause. The aim is to give women a place they can go to support each other while achieving their own goal,” says Kirsty. “I think it’s important to make women realise they aren’t alone when going through the menopause. My blog is mainly there to raise awareness of going through the menopause and how hacking has helped me personally, as well as bringing people together.”

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