The HAY Campaign – A Mental Health Campaign for Equestrians.

The HAY campaign. How we will completely change the industry forever.

Oh I can see all of you now! Opening this article with puzzled heads and checking my sanity. I can hear you all now “Rooney, Hay has been made and fed to horses the longest day. How in the name of God are you going to change the industry with something so simple as hay?” Who said hay only had one meaning?

The HAY campaign is a new campaign I have decided to take on board together with the Grassroots Movement to launch to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in the equine industry. As a Racing advocate, 80% of race workers either are suffering or have suffered with poor mental health. I’d presume the number is in or around the same for other disciplines as well, but I know for a fact that 80% in racing have suffered from poor mental health while feeling they have nobody to turn to for that all important TLC.

It all focuses around three simple words, How Are Ya. I have specifically spelt the last of the three the way I have because I feel it makes things easier. Easier to approach the talk, easier to initiate the talk and easier to open up and start talking. The informal approach makes it seem like more of a personal friend and caring approach as opposed to being approached by the daunting aspect of professional help that we all fear to open up to. And simplifying it to HAY, something so readily available to us and we see every single day makes it easily recognisable to check in on others and look after our own mental health on a regular basis.

All this began to fester in my mind on the night of Stephen’s Day and the following morning. I was cornered in my local pub by a couple of people who took a dislike to me not because of the person I am, but they are against the industry I am involved with. I’ve no problem with their beliefs, each to their own at the end of the day. But comments were made that completely knocked me back down to ground zero, wishing my life would just end on the spot and ended up with me taking it out on someone I care massively about who didn’t deserve it.

I’m not that type of person, I don’t send my horses for meat, any horse I buy or breed gets their passport stamped to prevent them from being part of that culture. I don’t shoot my foals, for the simple fact that I’ve yet to actually be lucky enough to witness my first live foaling. Hopefully March will change all that. And I certainly don’t intentionally kill my horses, the only one to die on my watch was Cheerio Sweetie who got colic and died in my arms in the floods of tears after two vet visits in an attempt to save her. Its probably not the way to go about owning horses but that’s just me. They’re more than a commodity, they’re a therapeutic escape for me. And the horses in my care get treated better than I treat myself. There’s not too much that really rattles me. But being accused of being part of a minority in the industry that I have never and will never be in is going the right way to sending me into a deep depression.

As you all know, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I never shy away from life’s problems because we only get to do this once. I spent enough of time being miserable in my life and I certainly don’t intend to start 2023 on that path. So while I took the day of being miserable I had a plan to convert it to something positive before the day had finished. I love a good chat as you all know and so the idea for the HAY Campaign was born. 

With every idea, plan or whatever you want to call it, the idea becomes successful once goals are met. My goals are as follows:

  1. Become the Grain of Rice that tips the scales: Just like I wrote in my article on Oisin Murphy. We as a community have an opportunity to do something small to us, through having a chat with someone in need that potentially tips the scales and shifts their poor outlook on life into something more positive. A simple chat can go a long way for someone who is going through tough times. One chat with a friend a week, meaning four or five weeks over the month of January for the 100k people goal I have set out is going to change the lives of half a million people. Something so simple as a grain of rice, ie. Meeting one friend or family member for a chat on mental wellbeing is going to tip the scales and be a part of helping half a million people, at the very least.
  2. Create a recognisable brand promoting the campaign: This is already almost complete. The Instagram page has been created @hay.campaign and the hashtag we are using is #howareya. Facebook, Twitter and Tiktok are in the process of being created too in the next couple of days. Each social media platform will be flooded with impactful and positive messages that are designed to encourage a change of mindset about speaking about mental wellbeing in the equine industry. 
  3. January Campaign: Positive mental wellbeing begins today in the equine community. We have set a task for everyone willing to get behind the campaign. We have kept it simple, so it does not impact your own mental health, but we wish to ask everyone taking part in the campaign to make time for one person every week for the month of January to spend time with them and make them feel appreciated. Whether its a simple phone call, house visit or cup of tea. We need to do our part in encouraging a change in the system. It has been broken for far too long and there is no better time for change than now. This is the start of us changing the world for the better. 
  4. Reach 100,000 people with #howareya by 31st January 2023: It may seem massive but this is really just a small number when it comes into perspective of all the people who are suffering mentally at this time of year. We are on all social media platforms and when you take it into perspective the amount of people who use social media every day it equates to only around 1% if even that. 1% may sound small and insignificant but, if 100k jump on board and check in with their friends and family in the format we are suggesting we will have changed the perception of half a million people at the very least.
  5. From Grass to HAY podcast: Once the month of January is over the change does not stop there. We are in the process of setting up a mental health and wellbeing podcast designed for the whole equine and agricultural industries. We will be promoting mental positivity and strength and outlining the baby steps needed to take to help yourselves and others to start loving themselves again. That will be launched in February once we have everything finalised but once we do, our goal is to turn the 1% we have helped already into 10%. That 10% turns to 15% and the curve continues moving in the direction it should have been years ago. Change starts here, and change begins now!

There is no point in thinking anything else. This is a large campaign. The equine industry and in particular the racing industry is Ireland largest contributor to the economic sector in Ireland, and 80% suffer with poor mental health and wellbeing. It’s not large, this is massive. It is going to take a lot of work but we are going to get there.

The campaign is aimed at everyone, but mainly men and women between the ages of 25-40. Anyone can have poor mental wellbeing but men and women between these ages feel a responsibility to show no weakness and not ask for help when needed. Now the opportunity is there for them to finally let whatever they are holding onto off their chest and feel the sense of freedom they’ve been craving. I will be posting a Tiktok very soon and being as open and honest as I possibly can. I will be highlighting the targets and goals we are going to set out and achieve in the timeframes and introduce this magical and wonderful campaign to brighten up the doom and gloom of January.

I’m hoping to get a number of big profiles involved to help collaborate and getting involved in the promotional aspect of this to help get the ball rolling and drive this forward. I know there is a large number that will be happy to help and see no reason why they won’t. The podcast is in the pipeline, the hashtag is made already and there is going to be plenty of creative content created all throughout the month of January and forward throughout the year to come. 

The Grassroots Gazette helped me build this following to allow me to realistically start this campaign now. So I will be using the platform here to promote all the content as I come up with it. The podcast will be the Grassroots Howareya podcast, all my diaries will be recorded on here like how you are reading this today. I feel it’s only right to included the people who have made me what I am today as I go about trying to change the mental wellbeing of an entire industry, because that is exactly what we will do.

So come on, time to get the show on the road! It’s been far too long coming but I’m excited to turn what was one awfully strenuous night on my mental health into an extremely positive and life changing year for thousands. Who ever said the power of hay can only go as far as equine digestion? You ain’t seen nothing yet!


The HAY Campaign – A Mental Health Campaign for Equestrians.

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