Hear Hannah Bown’s journey:
“I’m sure a couple of people might have seen that I have somewhat been avoiding the gym lately, I’ve been asked numerous times if I’m still balancing on the ball and honestly I’m probably at the furthest possible point from even attempting it.
Does that annoy me? Intensely
Am I going to do something about it? Definitely
Is it going to be easy? Nope!
So why after 18 months did my commitment to myself and my motivation to keep on track take a total nosedive?
I met Emma shortly after I had won a National title at the Winter Championships and then tragically lost my Mum, all within 3 weeks. The gym was an escape, all the time I was at the gym I had something positive to think about, something else to aim towards, weight to loose, strength to gain; I really loved it. I saw changes, my friends saw changes and my riding instructors saw changes too. The stronger I got, the better Stanley went and the more focussed I was to keep improving.
But…. Investing time in yourself is always difficult. Anyone who juggles competing horses (or any sport at a high level) with a full time job will know just how demanding it is. I began to drag my feet because I was exhausted. Emotionally, physically and mentally. Training at 6am, then an equally as demanding job, then riding, then a social life, it all took its toll.
I have always struggled with the highs and lows that life throws at us; many of you who know me know all about this, it’s also no secret that I have had my share of challenges over the last few years. With the help of a great team around me I have begun to understand myself and what I need to do to stay on top of everything and keep my negative emotions under control.
However in the lead up to the Nationals last April, my anxiety spiralled. I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to do well. I am sure this stems from all the fabulous results my lovely horse pulled out of the bag in the previous year, along with the surgery he pulled through, but also that I am a perfectionist and one with little patience. Despite negative self talk being totally unhelpful it became increasingly hard to turn off the switch in my head that convinces me that I am not good enough and should always do better.
At the nationals, Stanley was a star and came home with yet more placings to be super proud of. But for the first time, when we finished I felt totally deflated and was unable to enjoy the moment or appreciate what we had achieved.
I’m not saying this hasn’t been a good year, we have achieved things we could only dream of: our first 3 time changes, +70% at Advance Medium and becoming Bronze League National Champions. But alongside this I have been fighting a personal battle that I had buried deep with all the success stories and something had to give.
I was at the crossroads of working out my priorities and what was important to me. I needed to take the limited time I had, to get some space, to focus on sorting my emotions out, getting some sleep and reminding myself why I compete and why I ride horses.
What an eye opener it has been; conversations with friends have made me realise I am not the only person who has mentally ground to a halt due to the self-induced stress from being a ‘driven, over-thinking, hard working perfectionist’. I am not the only person to become hung up on the perceived expectations from other people. I am also not the only person to put all their dreams, desires and obligations first and themselves second.
This time has reminded me that life is about compromise; that we can’t physically do everything, achieve big things and attempt to keep others happy all of the time. I ride because I love the bond you can create with such a huge animal, the freedom it provides and the friendships that you build along the way. The rosettes are just an added bonus, at the end of the day rosettes really don’t matter, nor do other people opinions and I will always be climbing aboard, in my eyes, the best horse.
I am cross with how much my body has taken a step back for my brain to step forward but I realise this has been a learning curve and changed the way which I am thinking about the year to come. We are striving to meet our personal goals, not the ones we think people expect us to achieve and that means there’s only one thing for it….
I am back at the gym, back under Emma’s wing and we ready to show you how with a bit of motivation, persistence and a good routine your mental and physical health can be so much better.
I will find my stomach muscles again, sit up straighter in the dressage arena, give my pony the best chance to shine, stop worrying what people think but most of all I will stand on that damn ball again!”