Jan Tucker began to notice her confidence waning in January 2022, and it was impacting her rides with 13-year-old Andalusian PRE cross cob mare, Rosie.

“I was quite concerned about everything – if anything happened I just wanted to jump off,” says Jan, who is based in Berkshire. “It happened quite gradually. Rosie can have a bit of a look at things on hacks but I was getting really tense and stiff when it happened. I wasn’t my normal, laugh-it-off self. We normally do le trec and love going off on hacks on our own to explore, but suddenly I wasn’t able to ride around the school.”

Jan’s instructor brought up that she’d noticed a change in Jan’s riding, which sparked the conversation.

“I just asked myself ‘why am I not enjoying it?’ I’ve got the most sane and sensible horse I’ve ever ridden in my life and I completely trust her. She really looks after me, so it didn’t make any sense.

“I’ve never been an anxious person or suffered from anxiety, and it wasn’t for anything specific like before riding around a cross-country course, it was just a general feeling,” explains Jan.

Rosie had also start to pick up on the differences in her owner.

“She is a really sensitive mare, she knew something was different about me,” says Jan, who works at an IT company. “I’d gone from happy-go-lucky to really tense and scared. It definitely impacted her.”

‘If you spook, I’m going to laugh’

Jan continued to ride and push through her anxiety – until she read an article about riding through menopause.

“It was like the penny dropped,” says Jan. “It dawned on me that anxiety is a symptom of menopause, and then I realised I had a lot of other symptoms too. I didn’t feel like I was going mad anymore.”

Jan went to her doctor for help with the symptoms, but found that understanding where her anxiety was coming from was a big help.

“Just being able to rationalise my anxiety make a difference for me,” explains Jan, 46.

To start to make riding more enjoyable again, Jan had a mantra: ‘if you spook, I’m going to laugh’.

“At first I had to make myself laugh, but it was a conscious thing that stopped me from freezing and got me through the anxiety and panic,” she explains. “Then it became more natural and helped me to relax. It put me back in control, and stopped me from getting really tense or not breathing.”

Jan knew she wanted to continue to ride, so put a plan together to make it happen.

The pair are now competing at le trec again

“I would get on, and the first thing I would do is take a deep breathe and say my mantra out loud,” says Jan. “To start with I had to push myself to take risks – even being in the school was difficult to begin with, but once I’d cracked that then I went out across the field, and then once I could do that I started hacking again.”

This made all the difference, and Jan is now schooling, hacking and competing in le trec.

“We went to the le trec grassroots championships this summer and came sixth, and we did a competition on our own for the first time – normally we compete as a pair,” says Jan. “Every time something happened and I dealt with it, it built our relationship and our confidence back up. I’ve definitely got my confidence back – if anything, I’d say it’s higher than before.”

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