July 2019 - The Gallop

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Steffen Peters shares anxiety issues while endorsing CBD as part of the solution.

by Kim F. Miller

Seeing “Steffen Peters” and the word “anxiety” in the same sentence jumped off the page while reviewing a recent press release. It was sent on behalf of Trove LLC, a new line of CBD  -- cannabidiol -- products that the four-time Olympic dressage rider is endorsing while pursuing a fifth Olympic appearance in Tokyo next summer.

Due to my lack of knowledge about the complicated realities of “cannabinoids” when the news arrived, I was intrigued that Steffen was aligning himself with anything in the cannabis realm. But my first shock was the revelation that someone so accomplished and a seemingly cool customer would have severe anxiety.

“I know people may be a bit surprised or even shocked,” Steffen shared. “We are supposed to be so composed and cool, and that’s how I was for most of my life.”

Steffen and Mopsie displayed the opposite of anxiety during Arroyo Del Mar’s Open House, June 15. Photo: Kim F. Miller

While endorsing Trove’s CBD, Steffen told me his biggest reason for sharing his experience is to help others. For more on the Trove products and cannabidiol as a substance permitted for human athletes by the World Anti-Doping Association, see story, here.

Kim: When did the anxiety start?
Steffen:
Right after the World Equestrian Games last fall. The team with Laura Graves, Adrienne Lyle and Kasey Perry-Glass earned the silver medal, but things did not go so well for me in Tyron. Right after the Grand Prix Special, I got off Mopsie (Suppenkasper) and I told (owner) Akiko Yamazaki that I’m not sure I am good enough to ride this horse. She told me to think about the silver medal and what we did the day before, but I just had so much self-doubt.
(The pair’s Grand Prix score was a respectable 73.494%, which wound up as the US team’s drop score: their GP Special score was a 69.073%)
Helen Langehanenberg, who rode Mopsie before me, got higher scores than I did with him and things weren’t going so well with Rosie (Rosamunde) either. I had a lot of questions. Am I too old? Am I still the right rider for an amazing horse like this?

Kim: How did the anxiety manifest?
Steffen:
It’s one thing to be nervous and under pressure, and the anxiety is a next step. It’s something I’d never experienced in my whole life. When things didn’t go well at home, I took on this identify of self-doubt. I didn’t have panic attacks, but my nerves were on fire and my mind got foggy as I rode. My sub-conscious mind took over and I stopped believing that I can do this anymore, even though I made a conscious effort to change that.

Kim: What steps did you take?
Steffen:
I visited eight doctors, all of whom said I was healthy. I was getting a bit desperate. My doctor at home suggested anxiety medication, but it never had a chance of succeeding. I believe in the placebo effect and in the non-placebo effect, in that I didn’t believe it would work, so it didn’t. Also, the side effects of those medications are terrible.
Then I talked to Deborah (Carter, Trove co-founder) about CBD oil. I was on a five-hour drive and she talked to me about it for two hours. The most intriguing thing to me was that there were no side effects. It doesn’t make you feel drowsy, dull or like you are hung-over.
(CBD may affect the function of prescription medications. Users are advised to consult with their physicians first.)

Kim: How does the CBD affect you?
Steffen:
If you have severe anxiety, you don’t just take Trove and it fixes you. But you can calm down and organize your thoughts and truly process your awareness of negative thoughts. Not just the negative sentence or word, but the first letter of that negative sentence. It calms your nerves enough that you get ahold of yourself – you don’t get so desperate.
With Trove, I go into the warm-up ring knowing that the horse and I are a little excited going into the main ring. I can tell myself, this is what I do, what I love to do, what I’m meant to do. That’s instead of worrying about how bad the anxiety symptoms are going to be. Will my nerves be on fire and will I be so nervous that it affects my decision making in the arena, because you always have to improvise a little.
The goal has been to come back to my old me, full of confidence and always having a good vision of the future. Between September and Christmas, I was constantly living in the past and not able to enjoy my life or any of my hobbies.

Kim: You said that CBD isn’t a fix by itself. What else did you do to address anxiety?
Steffen:
Knowledge of how the mind works has been huge. I learned that the body has to work in unison and without any friction between the subconscious and conscious mind. With anxiety, the braking mechanism that allows you to analyze those things in the moment becomes a lot more difficult. Making use of that knowledge was not possible until I could calm myself down enough to apply it to a solution. A lot of it is shutting down the chatter in your mind, and that was another wonderful effect of the CBD.
The best way I can describe what I learned is that our brain is like a computer the size of a city block. Ninety-five percent of that is the subconscious mind, and it’s controlled by the other five-percent, the conscious mind. That tells you how hard it is to control anxiety.   
It helped to gain an understanding of what happened in the past. Thinking of the brain as a computer, there are some files that needed to be brought up and stored. For me, I had some feelings of guilt, especially with my dad because I wasn’t able to be with him the whole time.  
I saw that I have constantly lived under pressure. I made my first Young Rider team at 16 and have been trying to make a team every year since then.
If I had the knowledge of how the brain works when the anxiety first came on, I don’t think I would have suffered as long as I did.

Kim: Are you cured now of anxiety?
Steffen:
No. It’s not gone, but I truly believe it can be. I have to be very careful, especially when I’m riding Mopsie. You have to be so aware of every negative word, be in the present and catch it. You need a little help to be able to do that.

Kim: When did things turn for the better?
Steffen:
I started taking Trove in late January, and by February at the West Coast Dressage Festival, Mopsie was getting 75, 76, 77, and even a 79. All those things started finally coming back together.

Kim: Do you have any reservations about going public with your struggles?
Steffen:
The day I started to feel better, I knew I didn’t want to be quiet about it. Other athletes, including Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, have been open about anxiety issues. With the improvements in being able to gather my thoughts, then why should I be quiet and secretive about it? This is not about endorsing a product: I would love to make a difference.

Kim: The World Anti-Doping Association removed CBD (cannabidiol) from its list of prohibited substances last year. (other Cannabinoids remain banned: ie., cannabis, hashish and marijuana.) As an Olympic candidate, how does this compliance issue play out for you?
Steffen:
I needed a trusted company, one that doesn’t just test their product here and there. Trove very specifically tests every single batch. Being in the pool of athletes for the 2020 Games, I file my whereabouts and I can be tested any time. It’s random. We can’t take any risks.

Kim: Thank you, Steffen!

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .