• Christine Keate

Why the outdoors saved me

Andrea's story

The first time I became aware of my own mental health issues was when I was doing my A levels at school so I was spending less time outside and less time riding.

I'm very fortunate that I did have a horse when I was young. It's a really privileged position to have been in, and I hadn't actually realised what that had meant to me until I spent less time doing it.

For me, riding as a teenager was not just a release of stress. It was self confidence, it was wrapped up in my self worth as well. I felt confident riding my horse and she was my best friend, I could tell her everything. No judgement. I didn't easily make friends at school, and am partially deaf and I used to struggle with that. I was quite shy, but on a horse I wasn't shy. I didn't struggle. It was like magic to me and magic to my soul. And then when it came towards the end of my A levels and I realised I was going to go to university, then my horse had to be sold.

That was a huge shock to me. It wasn't just the loss of my horse, it was my coping mechanism for life. With having a horse there was a routine. There was a daily goal setting activity and planning. Every day held a small achievement - even if it was as simple as sweeping the yard beautifully. And gradually I started to control my food and set daily goals as I didnt feel I could achieve anything else. I became very ill but back then in 1993, 1994 and 1995 there really were not many resources available. I had no therapy and had to find my own way through it.

Into my twenties

I owe being here now to some special people in the equestrian world who took an interest in me and a chance on me. My trainer at the time was Sheila Bryant and between her, Darrell Scaife and Jane Holderness-Roddam I started to gradually put my life back together. They showed me that I could find joy beyond having my own horse, through learning how to look after and train horses professionally. They took me to events and gave me some light in my darkness. Jane made a huge impact on my life and I felt cared for by her. From there I did a degree at Bristol University and another incredible mentor, Jeremy Naylor, came into my life. There I learned to speak in public, to put my ideas forward and many of the skills I need now I'm a business owner.

At this time I was still vulnerable but mending slowly. I worked in two dressage yards, for Tessa Thorne who gave me so much confidence and then for Jane Gregory (Bredin) who sadly died far too young. Jane was an incredible woman and at the time I worked for her and trained with her after, we often had a fiery relationship. I loved her with all my heart and couldn't ever quite tell her that. As I write this I hope she knew. Much of the way I've managed to carve out a career for myself comes from the mental toughness and skills of excellence, small daily improvements and attention to detail that Jane taught me.


Now I have three beautiful children myself and even though I am aware of my anorexic tendencies on a daily basis, I am very healthy and well. I spend time running outdoors on trails and riding when I can. Running has become another beautiful part of my life for the freedom it gives me and for my goal setting and accomplishment outlet too.

I set up my own agency after fourteen years as a freelance PR and consultant and it's two years into its journey. I absolutely adore the work we do and am proud of each member of my team. Every day is pure joy for me in business, we do some incredibly good quality work and it’s exciting and varied.

Andrea Sexton

Having had so many incredible mentors in my life I’m proud to be able to mentor and nurture those who work for me. I hope that by sharing my story I can help others know that there are many sides to mental health and eating disorder.

Humans are incredible and can overcome tremendous hardship, but it's easier with someone by your side.

It’s absolutely OK to ask for help so please do reach out.


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