Skip to content

Other Resources

Ep. 077: How Horses Help Break Down the Stigma of Mental Health with Jodie Morton of Green, Gold and Blues

Co-host Katy Starr has a candid conversation with long distance horse rider and worldly trailblazer for mental health in rural communities, Jodie Morton of Green, Gold and Blues.

Episode Notes

On this part one episode, co-host Katy Starr has a candid conversation with corporate life employee turned long distance horse rider and trailblazer for mental health, Jodie Morton of Green, Gold and Blues about:

  • How the loss of those close to her inspired her journey to start Green, Gold and Blues, riding horses to break down the stigma with mental health in rural communities
  • Leaving a relationship that threatened her own mental health, her bond with her horses and muted her voice, blindsiding her as an advocate for this cause
  • How her horses, Thelma and Saké, have played a pivotal role in her trauma healing to help rebuild her confidence to ride and speak on mental health again

Through storytelling and sharing personal experiences, Jodie aims to raise awareness and create a safe space for others to open up about their own mental health journeys.

Upcoming, in episode 78, part two of our discussion with Jodie, we’ll continue our conversation more about her extensive trail riding experiences 1,800+ miles on the Bicentennial National Trail in Australia and the Continental Divide in the United States, her must-have gear for long distance rides and practical tips for a safe and successful trip, along with overcoming challenges.


Have a topic idea or feedback to share? We want to connect with you! Email



Are you struggling and need help? Please reach out now:

Beyond Blue in Australia

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the United States



Connect with Jodie on social platforms and her website – 



*Episode art image credit – Bon Miller

Katy Starr (00:01):

Hi, I'm Katy.

Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:02):

And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond the Barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths, and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.

Katy Starr (00:15):

We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here.

Katy Starr (00:28):

Before we begin today's episode, please know that we will be discussing some difficult topics surrounding mental health, suicide, and abuse, which may trigger trauma responses. We're diving into this conversation to help support our rural communities and to help others know they are not alone. If you are struggling and need help, please reach out. We've included some helpful resources in our show notes. 


Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn. Our next guest is a native Australian with a profound love for the outdoors and an unbridled passion for horses. She traded in corporate life and founded Green, Gold and Blues, riding horseback to pursue a worthy cause of raising awareness for depression and mental health. Her epic horseback adventures are enough to leave you breathless and inspired, sparking life-changing conversations to make a difference. I'd like to welcome Jodie Morton to the Beyond the Barn podcast. Thanks for joining us today, Jodie.

Jodie Morton (01:30):

Thanks for having me.

Katy Starr (01:32):

We are so excited to have you on today. There's so much we have to talk about, but to kind of get us started, can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up and your background with horses?

Jodie Morton (01:46):

Yeah, so I am actually Australian, so I grew up in Australia, in Melbourne so it's like a city of, I think it's 5 million, so not exactly the, you know, wide open plains farmland that you might expect, . But yeah, I grew up in Melbourne and there's this little patch of kind of like acreage and flood lands, which is like Parks Victoria land. And my parents made this horrible mistake, which worked out great for me, but they moved into a house which was opposite this boarding facility. And so that land there couldn't be developed because every couple of years, it floods. And so it was used as acreage for horses. And so I don't even remember when it started. I think I was two when we moved into that house, but I was always that annoying kid that was just begging, like, can we go see the horses? Can we go pet the horses? And then, gosh, when I was five, I think it was, my grandpa took me for my first riding lesson and I was hooked after that. And I am pretty sure dad thought that it was just a phase and then that phase just kind of like kept going and kept going and kept going. And yeah, here we are today. And that phase is still in full swing .

Katy Starr (03:06):

That's so funny. I feel like a lot of people that happens to like their parents are like, oh, this is, this is just a phase. We talked to a professor, a gal last fall and she was the same situation. She actually went through, got her PhD and everything and horses and her parents are still thinking maybe this is just a, and she's like, at this point, no, it's, it's not a phase. This is like real life. This is what's happening.

Jodie Morton (03:29):

Mm-Hmm . And I am like the only person in my family that has a remote interest in horses. Like I don't know where I got it from. My parents don’t know where I got it from, but yet no one else in my family is interested at all. It is just me.

Katy Starr (03:42):

Oh, and you're so involved in horses too. What did you start out doing? Did you, you said riding lessons, so did you start out Western? English? How did that all go for you?

Jodie Morton (03:51):

Yeah, I started out, gosh, I've got photos of me somewhere being like, you know, a tiny little mini version of me that's like grinning holding the reins of this buckskin horse in like a little death grip. But gosh, I must have been seven or eight in that photo. So I did do the, you know, those like kick go pull stop style lessons. I grew up riding English and I also did the local pony clubs, Riders without Horses program for a little while. So yeah, just did those riding lessons growing up on and off. I did take a break for a little while when I was getting a little more into ballet. But yeah, aside from that it was just kind of like sporadic lessons. And then when I was 12 years old at that boarding facility across the road, someone had just dumped an old horse and he was pulling on my heartstrings.

Jodie Morton (04:40):

And so one day I decided that I was going to start brushing him and giving him some love and I don't think I missed a day of seeing him in about three years. And mom and dad were like, oh no, it really isn't a phase. . And then a spot came up because somebody left when I was 15 and I got this free lease who was not exactly as described. I did learn to sit a good buck on that horse. And then when I was 16 we decided it was time for me to actually get my own horse. And then I got my first horse named Buddy and he was actually a neglect case. Like we went out to see him, he was not as described at all and 16-year-old me was like, but we can't leave him. He was just like, skin and bones, his hips were popping out and he was advertised as like a highly educated 8-year-old, been there, done that. And I was like perfect. Brought him home, got the dentist out, got everyone out and found out that he was a barely green broke 4-year-old. So again, not quite what I was expecting, but gosh, he turned into the best horse he taught me so, so much.

Katy Starr (05:45):

Did you end up having to have somebody work with him and train him then? Or was that something that you just put the work in yourself?

Jodie Morton (05:52):

I think this is one of those rare times where it was like, oh, it's a green horse and a green rider. Like they can learn together and that's never a good idea. But in, in this case it kind of ended up working out. I just went super slowly and the other people that had their horses at that boarding facility were like there to give me a little bit of support. But yeah, I mean I guess he was, he had the basics like walk, trot, canter and I had the basics like walk trot, canter. I'd been riding for a little while by the time I was 16, but by no means would I have called myself a really, really great rider at that time. I think I had the confidence and not the competence . And yeah, and then he just, he taught me so much over the years. I will forever be thankful for him for giving me kind of like my foundation.

Katy Starr (06:44):

I bet. That's so awesome. So if you kind of started off in English and I guess I would say that you've moved more Western with the trail riding and what you do now, where did that happen? At what point did that shift for you?

Jodie Morton (06:59):

So I actually went and worked at a ranch over in Colorado and I was running the teen, like the teenagers, the teen program and guiding rides. And I think when I was 16 we went to Jackson Hole in Wyoming for a ski trip or whatnot. And I saw some of the horses just sitting there and I was like, I'm going to come back and I'm going to work on a ranch one day. And so then you know, life happens and I was in Australia, I did my bachelor's and I was working at IBM and also finishing my master's at that time. And yeah, I got offered a job at IBM, like a decent job. And then I also had been looking into going and doing that ranch work that I said I was always going to do and decided that ranch work was going to be where it was at and turned down the IBM job and went and did that. And it was supposed to be one summer and then one summer turned into like three summers, three falls and a winter. And I was, I just absolutely fell in love with it. And so that's where I started riding western. I still remember like hopping on one of the ranch horses for the first time and feeling like it was just my first ever day on a horse because everything was so different.

Katy Starr (08:14):

Yeah. So was there somebody there that you kind of like looked to as like a mentor or did you prep in advance like with research on doing the whole trail riding routine and all of that?

Jodie Morton (08:27):

So I had recently before going to the ranch, discovered Buck Brannaman and had been looking into like that style of horsemanship and I had done one western lesson in Australia before coming over, which was it was like an hour and a half each way. It's so hard to find Western riding lessons where I was situated at the time. And yeah, Western pleasure again is very, very different. So no I wasn't really prepared at all. I just kind of started learning the Buck Brannaman style and everything kind of went from there.

Katy Starr (09:01):

Nice. What are some notable differences that you would say between riding or having horses in Australia versus the United States that have kind of surprised you the most?

Jodie Morton (09:12):

That's a good one. I guess it's not so much Australia versus the United States as much as it is. When I was in Australia I had a very specific circle that was more English based and had a very set way in which they cared for their horses. And then going to the states where initially I was on a ranch and we had a herd of about 200, like it's very, very different. And so I think going from one little bubble to a different bubble, both of which of vastly different in the way that they get about things was actually really good for me because I've been able to see things from multiple different perspectives and ways of doing things and I've been able to pick and choose what I feel I really like the best. So yeah, not as much Australia versus USA, but just I guess if you want to just be really black and white with it, it would be more just like English to like the ranch type Western. 

Katy Starr (10:15):

Yeah. There's definitely, it might just be more of a general aspect there between, because ranch horses are managed and raised in a completely different way than a setting where, you know, you might stall horses consistently just due to like competition and shows and things like that. So there's probably that management style in general that's just pretty different. That's so interesting though. So do you have a heart horse? Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Jodie Morton (10:45):

I have many. I wish I could say that there is just like absolutely one and they are the be all and end all. But I mean Buddy, my first horse, I had him for gosh, I think 15 years, so almost half my life before I ended up finding the absolute perfect home for him because I was coming over to the states more permanently and he was obviously in Australia. So I managed to somehow stumble across the most perfect human. She still gives me monthly updates on him and she's had him for three years now. And so he was definitely just key to my entire like, horsey journey. And then I also have Sage who was my ranch horse at the second year that I was at that ranch in Colorado to the point that when I did come across to the United States and I was going to ride the Continental Divide, I called one of my own, my older friends who are still working there and I don't think we even got to hellos before she's like, you cannot have Sage. And I was like, okay, , thank you.

Katy Starr (11:48):


Jodie Morton (11:50):

Oh gosh ,

Katy Starr (11:51):

Breaking my heart

Jodie Morton (11:52):

Oh, he was something else. And then of course I've got, you know, Thelma, who I've done the Continental Divide on, she is phenomenal. She's another horse that's really, really shaped me. And then I also have Saké who is like my kind of up and coming horse. She's still only had around about 30 rides on her at the moment, but she has helped me overcome a lot and she has also taught me a lot. I think every horse that you're ever around for any significant period of time is going to help shape you as a rider and teach you more and more. The more experienced you get, the more open you are to them teaching you something instead of you thinking that you are the one that's going to be teaching them all the time. So it's going to be a cool new era. I'm really excited to get Saké going as well.

Katy Starr (12:43):

Yeah, well and I think that tells a lot about you as a horsewoman because if you can have that many horses that really impact your life in that way, it just kind of shows the relationship that you have with them and that you choose to have with them. And I think that's really, really neat. 

Jodie Morton (13:00):

Thank you. I think I'm the lucky one to have been able to have them come into my life. It's, yeah, it's funny the way that things work. Like just the smallest decision, I swear I've had the butterfly effect happen so many times now where it is just meeting one person has all of a sudden like led to having like this particular horse who has changed me or just, you know, at one point it'd be the campsite that I chose to stay at, at an event in 2013, I think ultimately is what led to starting Green, Gold and Blues. So it's kind of crazy how life works out .

Katy Starr (13:36):

Yeah, it is. And so what horses do you currently have now? You have Thelma and Saké?

Jodie Morton (13:42):

Yeah, I've got Thelma and Saké and I've got a little gelding named Avero. He is just the sweetest cherub to ever walk this earth, but unfortunately when I got him he did have an old back injury, so he is kind of in semi-retirement now and he just does his thing. He unfortunately can't come in up into the mountains with us like I would love to. So he kind of like rounds out my little trio and just sits there and knickers at you wherever you, whenever you even like look in his direction. He is just the absolute sweetest

Katy Starr (14:15):

. That's awesome. Well you’ve got to have one of those right? So you've talked, you've mentioned it kind of briefly, but you are an avid trail rider and you have ridden over, and I don't know if this has changed, but over 3000 kilometers, which would be about over 1800 miles, is that right? Across Australia and the US.

Jodie Morton (14:36):

Mm-Hmm. So, I think, gosh, I would have no idea what our official mileage would be by now, but it would definitely be in the thousands. I did a little over 600 miles in Australia on one trip, then came over and did 900 miles on the Continental Divide. So oh my math's not great. That's around about 1500 and that was just in, you know, a 12 month period back in 2018 to 2019. And we've done a, a fair few miles since then, so I would have absolutely no idea. It's a couple

Katy Starr (15:10):

Yeah, a few there. , you set your sights on riding the Bicentennial National Trail in Australia. That was your initial trip that you had done and then the Continental Divide that you mentioned in the United States. Can you tell us just a little bit about those trails and kind of where they span? 

Jodie Morton (15:26):

So the Bicentennial National Trail has since been just renamed the National Trail in Australia and I still call it the BNT because that's what it was called when, when I rode it. But, so that goes from Healesville to Cooktown in Australia. So, and right pretty much, right down the southern end of Australia to almost the top of like northern Queensland. So I think the entire trail from memory is about 3,300 miles, so it's a, it's a fair whack. And so that goes through Victoria. What do we got, Victoria, new South Wales, Canberra and Queensland, all along the east coast of Australia. And so initially I had wanted to do all of that, but the drought ended up cutting me off after about 600 miles. Like my water sources weren't reliable anymore and so my Plan B ended up going over and riding the Continental Divide. And the Continental Divide Trail again is a really long one. It runs from Mexico to Canada and goes through New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming and Montana. And that one is also absolutely phenomenal and I would've liked to do a couple of more miles. I mean I will again in the future, but we did about 900 of that. And I think again, from memory, don't quote me, I need to look this up again. I've looked at so many different trail stats now that they're all kind of merge to one, but I think and

Katy Starr (16:47):

It just runs together. .

Jodie Morton (16:48):

Yeah, . I think that one is about 3,100 miles from start to finish.

Katy Starr (16:54):

And what states did you ride in on the Continental Divide?

Jodie Morton (16:57):

I started off in Wyoming and did the Great Basin, I think it was from Rawlins up to Lander and then switched over to Montana and did some sections in Montana and then finished in Colorado. So the year that I was riding was 2019 and that was a record snow year and so everyone was flipping, so usually you have like northbound and southbound and we, and so you kind of go NOBO (northbound) or SOBO (southbound) and everyone that year for a lot of people were doing NOBOs , so they were just like flipping around to try and figure out the best route to do with all of that snow. So I think was..

Katy Starr (17:36):

That in like the June timeframe? So it should have been like early summer? Was that when you started?

Jodie Morton (17:43):

I started on May 22nd, yeah,

Katy Starr (17:50):

May 22. Okay. So, but because of where you were and they had so much snowfall, there was like a lot of snow on a lot of those trails.

Jodie Morton (17:58):

Yeah, so I thought I was doing like a really, really good job by starting out in Wyoming. It was at the lowest elevation area for pretty much the entire trail and going through that way and we started out that day and it was, you know, a little cloudy, a little windy and then the rain came in and then the sleet came in and then the snow came in and I have this video of all of us and the horses have snow crowns. I was freezing because I'd gotten wet before I'd gotten snowed on. And so yeah, that was, that was the very first day and then the following day got snowed on a little bit as well, . And so it was a great start. ,

Katy Starr (18:39):

Who would've thought, you're like, I thought I had this planned out, but Mother Nature was like, no. 

Jodie Morton (18:44):

. Yeah. And then 21st of June that year which is the first day of summer, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year I was in Montana and I got snowed on so hard that day that I couldn't even see where I was going. I couldn't see the trail, I was just tucking my chin into my chest and letting Thelma pick her way through the trail. And every, so now and then I would look at my phone and make sure that my little blue dot was on the little red line that I was supposed to be in on my on my maps app. And then every now and then I have to backtrack and be like, oh, we went off somewhere and we'd swing back around. So yeah, I got my fair share of snow and as an Australian I'm allergic to snow and the cold, so that was something.

Katy Starr (19:26):

. That's funny. Well it's so important to have a good horse that can help you through situations like that when you're not expecting it. And I thought it was so amazing how you connected so well with her because when you came over to do the Continental Divide you had to get a truck, a trailer, horses, like you were starting from scratch to do that.

Jodie Morton (19:51):

Yeah, that was terrifying and I would not recommend it to anyone. but yeah, came over like you said, bought truck, trailer, horses and I did all of my route planning. I have an Excel spreadsheet of death where I went through all of the different miles of the trail and I looked at maps, I looked at the trail maps, I looked at the trail notes to see where all of the water sources were on it. And then from there I would look at daily mileage and be like, all right, well if I start here, I think around about here is where I'm going to want to camp for the night. And so I had my camping options for every night like A, B, C, and I would look, make sure that there was water there and I would switch over to satellite to see what the forage looked like, make sure that it was green.

Jodie Morton (20:37):

I would look at the topo to make sure that it was flat. So every campsite I would look at on pretty much three different maps to make sure everything was good and I would look at the roadmaps, see where I might be able to camp for the night, see where I could resupply. I had, you know, numbers for friends in the area, vets in the area, farriers in the area, places that I would be able to go and buy hay. It was a lot of planning and it was overkill and ultimately I got out on trail and didn't listen to any of what I'd planned except for the resupply area. But yeah, it was a lot and I had a lot of help from one of my friends. So Gillian Larson, she is @thru_rider on Instagram, so she's done the Pacific Crest Trail three times on horseback and the Continental Divide Trail once. So she actually did that in 2018 and she had a completely different year to me because she was up and in Colorado it was a really low snow year, so she was in there quite early, whereas I think she had videos of her kind of like walking through the flowers and on the same date that she'd taken that the year before, there was still like nine feet of snow in that area or something. So 

Katy Starr (21:47):

Wow, that's wild.

Jodie Morton (21:48):

Uhhuh we did have very, very different years. I was stalking the snow reports on a daily basis for all the different areas and that ultimately dictated where I was going to go, the weather. But yeah, started from scratch and was able to find Thelma. That's kind of like one of those serendipity type stories and I am just forever grateful for meeting the person that was then like, oh, I have a friend of a friend that has this. And then that's how I got introduced to Thelm.

Katy Starr (22:19):

And you've been with her ever since and she is kind of been your ride or die.

Jodie Morton (22:23):

Literally , yeah. 

Katy Starr (22:26):

Yeah, and some of the videos that I've seen. Yep. . So we're going to talk a little bit more about your specific experiences with trail riding and planning and doing all of that. But I'd love to be able to talk with you now kind of about almost the why behind all of this, because there was something specific that happened in your life that kind of drove this. And so you had some life altering experiences that occurred in 2016 and 17 that was kind of a catalyst for these rides. Can you talk to us about this journey of starting Green, Gold and Blues and where it actually stemmed from?

Jodie Morton (23:08):

So in 2016 I was working on that ranch in Colorado, that we had spoken about just before and when I was there in my last year, so that was my third summer, we actually lost one of my friends and coworkers to depression. And so that hit all of us pretty hard. And then after that summer I ended up going back to Australia, decided that I needed to be an adult and start adulting properly, whatever that means. But I was working at Hewlett Packard and had come back to the states to pick up a saddle that I'd ordered and I ended up actually losing my grandma to depression as well. So both of them took their own lives and unfortunately I wasn't told about it when I was overseas until like the day before I got back. So that was a bit of a shock.

Jodie Morton (24:04):

But I took especially my grandma's one really, really hard. And so after that I kind of did that whole thing where you do like the what if and play that game over and over again. And then I was having, you know, hypothetical conversations in my head about, well what would’ve happened if I'd said this? Because I kept going over like the last time I saw her before I went on that trip and I was like, well what if I'd said this? What if I'd said this? Like what if she'd said this? And I was going through so many hypothetical scenarios in my brain and going through so much of the what if that I was kind of like living more inside my head than I was in the real world. And after a couple of weeks of this, because it was really affecting my job as well, but after a couple of weeks of this at one point I kind of was like, all right, so rather than sitting here and feeling sorry for yourself, which isn't achieving anything at all, if you are going to be this wrapped up in it, then why don't you actually do something about it?

Jodie Morton (25:06):

And I was thinking about my friend and my grandma and just quickly for the record, like my grandma is not a blood relation, but that was the role she held in my life. So that was the title that she got. But I was kind of thinking about the connection between the two of them and the main connection was that they, we both lived in rural areas and they both were really passionate about horses. And so as kind of like a tribute to them, what I really wanted to do was take some horses and go and ride through rural areas while talking about mental health awareness and fundraising for mental health. And so that's what I decided to do and that's when the Bicentennial National Trail comes into it because I was like, well why don't I go and do this trail and that'll take me through a bunch of those rural communities.

Jodie Morton (25:52):

I'll be able to talk about this, raise awareness and just get the conversation going. Because I think things have definitely gotten better in the last couple of years, especially since I first had this crazy hair brain idea that I was going to start doing lung rights. But especially back then, like mental health and depression, they are such taboo topics, especially in rural areas and they've got such a stigma attached to them that I just really, really wanted to get people starting to talk about it. And even if they weren't comfortable like sharing their own stories at that point, I just wanted to get it to be more of a topic of conversation that was just brought up more. Because I think the more you start talking about something like this, the more comfortable you become with the topic and therefore the more comfortable people will become to share their own stories.

Jodie Morton (26:42):

And one of the things that I've noticed in this time is that sharing your own personal stories and journeys can be just so healing for others as well. So when I started this, I had a couple of people reach out and share their own stories and I was therefore able to anonymously re-share them with a bit of a larger audience. And the response to it was just absolutely phenomenal because I had so many people saying, well, I thought I was completely alone, this is how I've been feeling as well. And it's just, it feels so good to know that there's someone else out there that understands the way that I'm feeling right now. And the more we talk about it, the more we realize that we all have so much in common and a lot of people might be trying to hide what they're going through or just try and put on like, you know, a face and convince everyone else that everything's completely fine and just keeping everything into themselves.

Jodie Morton (27:41):

And the more that I was able to share other people's stories, the more other people were able to get inspired by that. And there are multiple messages that I got saying because of this particular story, be it like, you know, my own or someone else's that I was sharing there like that inspired me to go and take these steps for myself. So that's initially where it stemmed from. And that's also where the name Green, Gold and Blues stems from is this, because initially I was planning on trying to do the Bicentennial National Trail that 3,300 miles across Australia, Australia's synonymous with green and gold and depression is also known as the blues. And so that's how it became Green, Gold and Blues.

Katy Starr (28:23):

That's really such a great name for what you're riding for, very fitting.

Jodie Morton (28:27):

Yeah. When you have the context, it's very fitting, but when you have no idea what the background behind it is, it just seems kind of random. 

Katy Starr (28:33):

Well, when I first came across your page, it's been a few years now, I didn't understand what Green, Gold and Blues was, but I also, you know, was somewhat familiar with Australia, not totally. But then obviously following you and seeing, oh she's not just riding horses, like there's a reason behind why she's riding horses. And you have a very good way of storytelling through your experiences and the people that you meet. And just like you said, being able to share some of other people's experiences with others. I think that's the really great thing about social media. There's some bad things, but there's some really good things. And being that it's a way to connect us and make us feel like hopefully that we're not comparing each other and doing that, but more in a sense of I'm human and I experience this too, and you're not alone.

Katy Starr (29:24):

And so I think that's what's so fascinating about what you're doing and the message that you're sharing because mental health is really hard. And like you said, and especially in rural areas. You know, growing up with a rural lifestyle, you have this feeling that you're independent, you can do this, you don't need other people's help. And sometimes things can become so difficult and so hard. And I think from where we, you know, just those values and the lifestyle that we live, we feel like we have to do it alone. And you know, some people have the long-term experiences, but then there's some people that kind of go through those valleys and those mountains and it just kind of comes and goes. But I think especially in, in agriculture and like rural living it's so great that you chose to do that and focus on that because people in those areas need to know that it's okay to reach out, it's okay to talk to somebody, you know, whoever it is that you might be able to feel comfortable with doing that with. And so I think that's so amazing. So in addition to, you know, obviously your devastating personal losses that you've experienced, you've gone through some of your own trials over the last couple of years. Can you share a little bit about that, you know, as you're comfortable with sharing?

Jodie Morton (30:43):

Yeah, after finishing the CDT it's, the irony is like really not lost on me in like the next period of my life. So after finishing a ride where I was advocating so strongly for mental health and getting the conversation going, I myself actually fell into a really, really dark place. So I actually ended up in a really emotionally destructive relationship for a couple of years following the Continental Divide and the BNT rides. And it was a place that I honestly, especially given the subject matter, never thought that I myself would get in, which is also, it's kind of funny saying that because it sounds like my ego speaking, but I guess when you're talking about it so much, you never expect to truly get in there yourself because you are already so well versed in ways to combat this. But this was really, really different because it was a series of emotionally manipulative tactics, which I have now read up about and I understand all of these patterns now, but back then I had never experienced a relationship in any way.

Jodie Morton (31:54):

Like be it, you know, romantic or workplace, friendship, anything. I hadn't experienced a relationship with these type of manipulative tendencies before. So I kind of kept going through it whenever I kind of had those like eyebrow raising moments of like, hmm, what was that? And I would just justify it in the way that I understood and coming from a place where I personally wouldn't try and do that to anyone else. So I'd be like, well, maybe this is the way that they were feeling and this is the way that we were feeling. But the years following the Continental Divide, I actually stopped talking about mental health as much. And it wasn't because I didn't want to, it was because I felt like I couldn't, I was with someone at that time that would go through those patterns that we're now really familiar with that.

Jodie Morton (32:46):

I think again, social media has done a really good job of educating people on and there are podcasts just like the ‘Something Was Wrong’ podcast, which talks about gaslighting and narcissistic relationships and really educates on that. It tells people's stories, but it also goes into like the behavioral science behind it. I was with someone that did a really, really good job of breaking down not only my confidence but my sense of self. So there was a couple of times at the start where when I did try and talk about mental health, he would kind of make me feel as though I had no right to be speaking about that or what do you even know? And it was kind of just like in this ever increasing sense of just belittling me. So at the first it was kind of just like a little blip on the radar being like, oh, that was weird, maybe it didn't mean it like that.

Jodie Morton (33:40):

And then as we got further and further, everything kind of just got more and more amplified. And then it was definitely to a point where I didn't feel comfortable speaking about anything, let alone mental health and what I was passionate about. I was so concerned with everything that came out of my mouth because I had no idea what I was going to be doing wrong next. So that really, really took a toll on my advocacy as well because I mean, at the end of the day, how could I possibly advocate for others to go and get help and to do something about their mental health where I couldn't even advocate for myself. And I knew that something was very, very wrong, but I just couldn't understand what was going on because I was still trying to see it from my own perspective. And I lean really heavily into more of the empathetic side of things.

Jodie Morton (34:34):

And so I guess I was a little naive as well in this situation because I couldn't comprehend that someone else would deliberately go out of their way to say things like that. And so there were always excuses and times when I was like, I can't do this anymore, I need to leave. But then the entire cycle would start again and all of a sudden everything would go back to like perfect and rosy. And it's so hard when you're in it to get out of that because over time I'd just been broken down like little bit by little bit until I was relying on him to tell me how I should be feeling and what I remembered. And so it's, it was so hard to even just get out of that fog and thinking clearly when I had been told that my memories that had happened had never happened and I was making things up.

Jodie Morton (35:25):

So then I'd get more and more confused about everything that was going on in my brain, because we could have a very deliberate conversation where we would explicitly say A, B, C and then maybe the next day, the next week I would come back and bring that up and he'd be like, we never said that you're making that up or you're exaggerating or, I never said that. That's just what you wanted me to say. And so it is so hard to navigate your own feelings and emotions and just like your life in general when you can't even trust the memories that are kind of coming out. You can't trust yourself and you can't trust your emotions because if I reacted a certain way in a situation, then I was being overly emotional, making a big thing out of nothing. And like I was embarrassing .

Jodie Morton (36:13):

And I remember at one point like we were out to dinner and he did something and I flinched, he's like, you already act like I half beat you. And it, like never laid a finger on me, but mentally that's what was happening. I was just like a mental punching bag. It was a good year of being out of that before I started to feel like my old self. It's funny, two weeks after I had gotten out of there, I saw photos of myself. So this is 2022. I saw photos of myself from 2018 and I physically did not recognize the person that was in that photo because the 2018 photo, I was just so happy, genuinely happy. And I could not recognize myself in that person. That was a huge part of why I kind of went a lot quieter and focused on other things, which I think is kind of how I ended up moving almost towards like a lifestyle kind of brand for a little while.

Jodie Morton (37:13):

And away from like the main motivations behind why I started it in the meantime was because I felt like I couldn't talk about it. And even after I managed to get out of that situation, which took a long time to be able to do, I still could not get myself to be able to speak about this topic. And it was like just this huge mental block was there. It's been really, really good to actually start talking about it again and kind of just like gaining a little bit more momentum again. Yeah, that was kind of like the period in my life where I kind of did take a step back from the advocacy, not because I wanted to, but because I just couldn't figure out how to continue on that path at that time. There was a time not too long after I'd gotten out where I was with Thelma and I owe so much to my horses and my cat because those have been the constants that have been with me like before, during and after all of this.

Jodie Morton (38:16):

But one of the things that I really, really wanted to do that I had been wanting to do since 2019 since I finished the Continental Divide was to go and ride the Grand Canyon with Thelma and I, I didn't manage to go all the way down, but I did end up doing a day ride and I went down South Kaibab with Thelma. I got down to one of the rest areas with the hitching rails and then, you know, kind of had a little bit of a rest and went back up. I had a chiropractor's appointment later that day. So , I was kind of rushing a little bit, but I remember getting to the top and just with Thelma, was standing there and I was just looking out over the Grand Canyon and remember this is something that I had been wanting to do for years.

Jodie Morton (39:02):

Like it had been a goal and I had been working towards it for a really, really long time. And I was just looking out through her ears over the Grand Canyon after achieving something that had been literal years in the making. And I felt nothing. Like no happiness, no joy, no disappointment. I was just completely empty. And I was really proud of Thelm, really happy because she'd done a really, really good job. She's just Thelma. And I just remember just being empty and looking out over the Grand Canyon and then I started doing what I'd been taught to do and just berate myself. And so then I started talking to myself like that and caught it. But it was really being able to have the time with my horses that was starting to bring that perspective back over time because the more I went out with Thelma afterwards and since Saké, the more I'm like, no, you're more than capable of this.

Jodie Morton (40:07):

Someone told you that you were not capable, but you are. And just having them there and just having them be so patient, and this is going to sound really crazy, but Saké was so patient waiting for me to feel like I could try with her again. And she's so cute if I have Thelma out and she'd be at like, you know, at the gate, like she'd be whinnying and whatnot and I'd be like, oh, you're so buddy sour, so you're such a dork, . And I would bring, I would bring Thelma back and let her out and Thelma would be like, all right, cool. Like had a great day. See you later. And she would take off and Saké would still be like sitting at the gate kind of being like, hey, hey, hey, what's up? I'm here. It's funny how after all of this, yeah, she was just kind of like waiting in as soon as I let everything go and was able to start riding with her how much it feels like, and I could be putting human emotions onto horses.

Jodie Morton (41:05):

I know there's going to be people listening that are going to be like, this is so ridiculous. But it's almost like she was just waiting for me to be ready and after that she's like, all right, let's get after it. Let's go. Because she has been so enthusiastic and so eager every time that we've gone out on trail, it's like she's come alive as well during this time. The thing that got me like, or the catalyst that really started me back on feeling all right again was something that we've spoken about in this podcast already and that is storytelling. And so I had been trained to think in a certain way, I guess you could say, or I'd been taught so many things about myself that again, I felt like everything was my fault. However, there's this podcast called ‘Something was Wrong’ and it talks about narcissistic and gaslighting elements in relationships.

Jodie Morton (41:59):

And it's not just talking about like, you know, romantic relationships. because I think that when we're talking about emotional abuse, that's usually where people go to immediately is in a romantic partner. But it talks about it in all different facets. So I think season one is a romantic relationship. Season two was the dynamic between friends. Season three was the dynamic between two different couples. I know that there's a season that talks about, you know, the workplace and so they go through all of these different behavioral aspects of these relationships and hearing other people talk about their own experiences in this was what made me finally see that it's not my fault. Because some of the things that he used to say to me were literally almost verbatim, word for word, the things that I was hearing on this podcast. And I was like, oh my gosh, that's not me.

Jodie Morton (42:53):

This happens to other people as well. Like maybe this truly isn't my fault. And then I was able to see that something's wrong. Yeah. Yes, exactly. And I, when I was in it, I knew that there was something that wasn't right, but there was like, it was always followed by the love bombing and I'd be like, oh, we finally made it like we're going to do this. We're going to get through it, we're going to do it. And then, but I was always just on edge and walking on eggshells all the time, waiting for the next thing that I was going to do wrong that would cause like the next big blow up. But listening to all of those other people's stories was what really helped me come back and find the person that I was. And it's kind of crazy when I look at it from the outside again.

Jodie Morton (43:38):

And looking back over like those couple of years, because I was someone that was confident and independent enough to fly to the other side of the world and ride the continental divide by myself with horses, it didn't take long at all for one person to make me so scared to try anything. I didn't even want to ride my horses. I'd done the Continental divide on Thelma, and it got to the point where I did not want to even get on Thelma when I was around him because inevitably I would be doing something wrong. And same with Saké. So I've had Saké for a couple of years now and she still only has 30 odd rides on her. And that is directly because of the dynamic that I was in. One of the things that was said when I was first getting her started, because when I got her, she didn't have much on her at all.

Jodie Morton (44:38):

I don't think she'd really been handled in the year prior and she'd only had one, one ride on her ever. And so, gosh, I think it took me like two days to catch her. When I first got her, she was brought over, put in the pasture, I couldn't even catch her. But then once I started working with her again, I got told every time you touch that horse, you make her worse and you are going to ruin her. And coming from a place where I had already lost my confidence with horses, and I was starting to learn that it was going to be easier for me if I got in trouble for not trying than it was trying and getting it wrong. So I was terrified to do anything with this horse. And I, after I left, I had a friend that is a colt starter, like helped me out a little bit.

Jodie Morton (45:24):

She put a couple of rides on her and she was the person that was there and had ridden her in the arena for a little bit. She's like, now it's your turn. Oh my gosh. Katy. I was so scared to get on my own horse, like I was shaking. And I think I remember doing a couple of circles of trot like each way and my friend Amanda was like, yeah, see like you're doing it. You are totally fine. Just do this. Just do this. See it's so easy. And this horse has been nothing short of perfect, like ever since I started riding her again. I think she's as close to the definition of born broke as you can get. So I just started riding her again this last summer and I had two rides with her. One was really short and I was like, oh, that wasn't that bad.

Jodie Morton (46:14):

The second one we went out on a longer ride and I was like, okay, this is good. And then took her into the Bob Marshall and ended up riding her bridleless that day because she was just so phenomenal. And it was, it was amazing. It was like I finally relaxed and enough that I could trust her and then trust in myself that I wasn't going to ruin her with everything that I did. And it was kind of like everything kind of came together and she is walking out like an absolute champion. I'm finally able to relax and yeah, she took care of me all day. Got to ride a bridleless in Utah as well and like, oh, she's going to be the coolest horse. But it's amazing how much I let somebody else's words affect my relationship with my horse.

Katy Starr (47:03):

Yeah. And just to see like how far you've come and where you guys are right now, how have horses kind of helped you through that healing process? Because that also was impacted, your relationship with your horses and what you did with your horses was impacted by that, right?

Jodie Morton (47:22):

Yeah. And it just, it seems so ridiculous to think back now that Thelma, the horse that I had done the Continental Divide on, I was too scared to even ride her in his presence. So I took a big step back from riding in general. So going from, yeah, riding the CDT to not even wanting to ride at all was a huge step. But knowing that I had Thelma there as well, and especially after I was able to leave and just being able to get back on rides with her and her kind of reminding me that we were the same was a really, really big deal because I was so tense because I was so used to being told that I was wrong. Like something as simple as picking up a horse's foot. 

Jodie Morton (48:18):

I went to pick up a horse's foot to pick it out because I was told to one day and I just got berated about how I couldn't even do that right. And so my confidence was at an all time low and it's like I just had to build that up from scratch and Thelma was a huge part of getting my confidence back because she was just there the exact same as she always had been. And it was really me that was having a really, really hard time with our relationship and she was just there and steady and solid as a rock. And I think that's yeah, a huge part of what helped me kind of like get back into the flow.

Katy Starr (48:55):

Yeah, that's amazing. I love that horses can be very healing in a lot of different aspects. And in the past we've done some episodes on breast cancer and it's something that is really close to our hearts here at Standlee and we've done some episodes where we've gotten to talk to people who have gone through breast cancer and used horses to kind of heal them through that trauma that they experienced. And even people that had never been around horses You know, first being kind of scared and intimidated, but then being brave enough to try just almost like becoming one with a horse. Like taking their calm demeanor and letting it just like cover them. I think horses in a lot of ways can be so helpful for us if we just give them the chance to and trust them to be there for us. Because like in your situation it's like you said, a lot of things were changing for you and you were, your, everything about you was kind of changing due to your environment and through that whole process she was still there for you.

Jodie Morton (50:03):

Yeah. It's, it's also just incredible how patient they are. Like she was just like, all right, I'm here. And when I needed to be with her then she was just there. Yeah. Even because it's incredible how you can go from being so confident and then turning into someone that was just, gosh, I remember even just like stepping up into the saddle on this horse that I've done so much with already. I was physically shaking at some points because I just had so much going on and all of that external input of telling me why that I am not worthy and I shouldn't be doing this. Unfortunately, I've since learned that I'm not the only person that has received this type of feedback. There's been a number of people that have reached out that have had similar experiences with this person, but I think it's also very different when they're your romantic partner and they're supposed to be the person that lifts you up and is there through thick and thin. I think it would've been a lot easier to walk away if it was a business type of relationship or a friendship type of relationship. You just kind of have that added layer on it where I’d take those things and that feedback so much more personally because it's someone whose input I and whose thoughts I really respected at the time. And I put a lot more weight into what was said than I would have from any other source. 

Katy Starr (51:38):

Right, absolutely. When you're not able to get out on a ride and you're having a hard day, what do you do? Just kind of, you know, if you have some tips or strategies that might be able to help others if they're in a similar situation. Because I know some people, I mean, we've talked about how they probably live a little bit vicariously through you because they don't have the opportunity to get out and do what you do. And so, you know, what do you do when you can't get out and ride?

Jodie Morton (52:03):

Well gosh, when I can't get out and ride, I will either just go out to the pasture and hang out with my horses. The other day, oh, I can't say the other day, a couple of weeks back, it was just like a sunny day I couldn't ride. I'd hurt my back pretty badly at that point and I just went out and just hung out and I had Saké on my left. She was lying down making all sorts of little snore noises and just groaning and being like, this is glorious. And I had Thelma on my right hand side and she was laying down as well just with her nose on the ground, like napping. And I had a Avero just in front of me and he was just standing having his own little nap. And so just spending time with the horses or Kit my cat, just kind of spending time with them.

Jodie Morton (52:54):

And I think the hardest thing for me is that I always feel like I should be doing something because I had, I was taught that relaxation or rest is laziness. And so that's been a really hard thing that I've had to unlearn because if you're constantly going and going and going and going and going and never giving yourself time to rest, then that's when I start to personally feel really, really just deep, that deep exhaustion. Not just like physically, but like mentally as well. And so taking the time out to spend time with the animals is something that I really do. Yeah, I think that's my number one. If I can't ride for whatever reason, is just making sure I spend time with them.

Katy Starr (53:39):

Animals are your key to healing…

Jodie Morton (53:42):

Well, yeah, and there's like, there's another aspect to that as well because my family is back in Australia and so half the time, you know, the time difference means that I can't call and I certainly can't just be like, oh, I'm just feeling off. I'm just going to go and swing by mum and dad's place and just hang out with them for a little bit. Like that's off the table right now. And when I was younger and I wasn't living at home anymore, but I would still go and visit my parents and have dinner with them every night. So I think that social aspect is really, really important because a lot of the time I know for me personally, what I want to do when I'm feeling really, really down is just isolate myself from everyone. And as much as that's what I want to do and I don't want to talk or see anyone else, that isolation I have found is what makes things like worse. Yeah. Hang out with my animals or call one of my friends or sometimes my and family if that works out. I think just being able to keep up on that social side as well is personally really important for me.

Katy Starr (54:53):

Yeah, that's good. That's so good. So what advice would you give to any of our listeners who are, you know, struggling with their mental health? And this could be somebody who's, you know, well experienced in, unfortunately in this situation. Or maybe even somebody that doesn't even know exactly what they're going through. Maybe they don't recognize the signs and symptoms but they, you know, might discover through listening to this that, you know, it is something that they might be struggling with and learning how they can maybe help themselves.

Jodie Morton (55:28):

Yeah, so quick disclaimer, like I'm not a doctor or licensed therapist, however, in saying that I think the best thing that you can do in that situation is to first of all believe that you're worthy of getting better. Because I think when you're kind of sitting in that it's so easy to tell yourself or speak to yourself in a way where you're like, I deserve this or I don't deserve to feel better. There are other people that have it so much worse. Like I know that that's kind of the mentality that I was in when I was just really in a dark place. But, so first of all, just believing that you deserve more is key because you do. And I think a lot of the time it's so easy to treat yourself in a way that you would never treat your friends and family that were going through a similar situation.

Jodie Morton (56:18):

So recognizing that is a great first step. And then just going out and finding some resources or speaking to someone. So if you have a friend or confidant that you feel comfortable sharing this with, talking about it is a great first step. And I think some people might find that they're surprised at how much others can relate to you, even your friends that you think there's nothing is ever wrong. They're just like the happiest, happy go lucky, never a care in the world, right, often you might find that there's a lot more behind that smile that they use as a mask. And also finding or just looking for resources. So when I was in Australia, I was fundraising for an organization called Beyond Blue. They are phenomenal and they do so much work back home and here NAMI is also somewhere that would be really, really great to look at resources.

Jodie Morton (57:13):

I know that they have resources that you can look at that are more local as well as national. So just really taking some steps to look for that and see what is going to work for you because everyone's different. Just like physical health, mental health is going to be very individual and one thing might not fit everyone. I know that I mentioned before that I've had some problems with like, you know, back pain recently. And so if you are looking at chronic back pain, I mean, some people might find that surgery is the only route. Some people might do really well with physical therapy, some people might do really well with medication. So it's definitely going to be individual for each person and what's going to make them feel better. So just find some resources and start taking some steps to see what might work best for you.

Katy Starr (58:04):

Thank you for sharing your story on this. I know being vulnerable is something that's very difficult and you know, for you to feel brave enough to do so, especially for a while when you didn't feel that way. I admire you for that and I thank you for coming on and talking about this subject because like you said, it is kind of taboo. A lot of people feel like, you know, they just want to hide it away, which can be so unhealthy. And so that's why we wanted to be able to share this today. And somebody who might be listening, maybe they will hear your story and be inspired to do something to make a change in their life. And so we appreciate you being able to be vulnerable with us and share your story and your journey on this.

Jodie Morton (58:47):

Oh, well, I appreciate you having a chat to me about it.

Katy Starr (58:50):

Thanks for joining us for today's difficult topic. If you are struggling and need help, please don't hesitate to reach out. I want to share a quick reminder that we've included some helpful resources in our show notes. In our next episode, episode 78, part two of our discussion with Jodie. We will continue our conversation more about her extensive trail riding experiences, her must have gear for long rides and practical tips for a safe and successful trip, along with overcoming challenges. You won't want to miss this episode. 


Thanks for listening to the Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform. Until next time, keep your cinch tight and don't forget to turn off the water.


If you enjoy the Beyond the Barn Podcast, please consider taking a minute to rate and review the podcast on these popular platforms.