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A Conversation with Abby of the Living Fearlessly Equestrian Blog



At Windhorse, we consider ourselves lucky to have such a rich community of industry experts to collaborate with on client care and community programming. Yet, knowledge about mental health is not limited to those whose day-to-day profession falls within this line of work. Rather, mental health is universally human, meaning we all have our own wisdom and stories to share based on our unique experiences.


We’re excited to unveil the first of (hopefully!) many in a new interview series featuring wisdom from those on their own mental health journeys. While everyone’s path is different, there is an innate camaraderie in hearing another’s perspective, lessons learned, and advice.


Today, we’re thrilled to introduce Abby Dubrawski of the Living Fearlessly Equestrian Blog. Abby is a former upper-level eventer, paramedic, and passionate advocate for mental health. Take a look at our conversation below!


Alannah: Abby, can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Abby: I'm Abby Dubrawski. I'm 25 and reside in Duxbury, MA. I've been riding horses my entire life and I recently started the Living Fearlessly Equestrian Blog.


When I was around 15, I started competing at the upper levels of an equestrian sport called eventing. As my competition level increased, so did my anxiety and depression, and I started down a path of mental health discovery. My blog is a way to foster communication around mental health in the equestrian community, break the stigma around mental health, and encourage others to share their stories.


Alannah: When you started experiencing anxiety and depression, did you know that it was anxiety and depression?

Abby: Not at all. It took a long time for me to realize what I was experiencing. It therefore took a while for me to realize that I needed help.


Alannah: What were the factors that you think made it hard to identify what you were experiencing?

Abby: No one around me at the time was talking about mental health because there was a stigma around it. I didn't really know much about anxiety and depression or really about anything about the mental health space. It took me a long time and a lot of growing up to figure out A) that I needed help and B) what I was actually experiencing.


Alannah: Do you think your journey into mental health was accelerated by being a horse person?

Abby: Yes, especially because of the level that I was competing at and the pressure that I experienced from competing at such a high level.


Even people who aren't horseback riders have an understanding that horseback riders, in general, are very stoic. People from all walks of life don't really talk about mental health, but horseback riders in general are so brave and so stoic and often have walls up regarding mental health.


Alannah: What role did therapy play in your journey to mental health activism?

Abby: I was in my late teens when I realized that I needed help and I was so terrified and so scared to start therapy. There was such a huge stigma around it. In my head, it was like, “Oh, if you have a therapist, you're crazy.”


Once I started and learned the therapeutic processes, I realized that many people have therapists and what an invaluable resource it is. Now, I think literally everyone should have a therapist - and before a crisis can occur. I think everyone should already have a therapist lined up, someone that they know that they're comfortable with (and that the therapist knows and is comfortable with), so that if and when they do have a major life crisis and they need someone to talk to, they know where to go.


Alannah: Your blog is called the “Living Fearlessly Equestrian Blog.” What does it mean to live fearlessly?

Abby: The word fearless means so much to me. I literally have a tattoo on my foot that says “fearless”! I got it after I finished my training to become a firefighter. This was also a time in my life when my mental health was at its worst. While fearlessly could mean literally running into burning buildings and other adrenaline junkie badass things, I also think it has a broader meaning.


Being fearless can mean living genuinely and authentically yourself. There are seemingly small things in life that make you brave and make you fearless - like starting therapy, starting medications, or admitting that you need help. Those things are all so fearless to me.


Alannah: What about starting this blog was in line with your definition of fearlessness?

Abby: On the blog, I’m writing what others may perceive as a sensitive topic and I figured I would receive some sort of backlash for that. I assumed I would have people who thought I was looking for attention by telling my story or thought I was wrong for sharing in the first place.


In reality, everyone who follows the blog has been so supportive and I haven’t experienced any negativity yet. Maybe in the future and I’m ready for that. But, so far, everyone has been so amazingly receptive to this work.


Alannah: For our younger readers who may be starting their own therapeutic journey in order to live fearlessly, what would you want them to know?

Abby: I recently wrote a blog post called The Young Rider Rat Race. It's targeted towards younger riders who are entering the sports rat race, but it’s really applicable to any athlete of any age. The post is essentially about how riders are constantly feeling like they need to perform harder or at a higher level. Yet, every time you reach that next level, the goalpost is moved again. This rat race kind of ruined me. I say ruined, but I came out of it stronger.


People in general always think they need to compare themselves to others, that they need to be doing what other people are doing. In reality, it doesn't matter at all what level you compete at. It doesn't matter if you're doing the same things as your peers. It’s important to define success beyond external validation or competition.


Alannah: My horse is probably never competing again and yet he has a regular vet, a sports medicine vet, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist. We think very carefully about his nutrition. He gets a whole training plan. And that’s all just for him!


When you are up and coming in a sport, the temptation is to push harder and neglect yourself. But you have to build your own team - and that includes building a team that supports your brain. How do you think younger athletes can do that?

Abby: Find a therapist! I literally think that anyone who's doing any type of sport should prioritize mental health just as seriously as physical health.


Alannah: What are your hopes for the future of the blog?

Abby: My primary goal right now is to inspire our readers by prioritizing quality over longevity. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue writing and I don’t want to push the blog past its limits. I love the community that we have now - everyone is so supportive of one another and readers aren’t afraid to reach out to me or the community as a whole. I don’t want to get to a point where it gets too big and readers aren't comfortable sharing anymore.


Alannah: That makes a lot of sense. Something we talk about within this space is how our world is so tech-enabled and it should make community and connection easier, but in a lot of ways it makes it harder. Protecting this space is paramount to bolstering people’s mental health.

Abby: I want others to feel comfortable to share their stories. Starting in the next couple of weeks, the blog will feature a guest speaker series where anyone in our community can share their story and their experience with mental health. My hope is that it encourages other people to speak up and hold space for others to be heard, understood, and supported.


Alannah: Are there any other resources that you would recommend for people who are starting their mental health journey?

Abby: For athletes specifically, I think sports psychologists are really great. At one point I was working with an equestrian sports psychologist, Andrea Waldo, while also seeing my own therapist. I would talk to my therapist who knows nothing about horses. And then I would go have a session with Andrea, who is an equestrian sports psychologist and fully understands this world. Having both perspectives was really helpful.


Alannah: Where can our readers find you?

Abby: The blog can be found at livingfearlesslyequestrianblog.com. As well as our Facebook and Instagram pages.


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