Month: July 2021

Month: July 2021

I had a teacher at school who regularly gave this advice pre-exams. He said that when looking at a paper we should choose the questions first that we thought we could do best at and then to give them our very best efforts. That way, he suggested, we would gain our best marks for those questions. Then we could tackle the questions we were less certain of and do the best we could possibly do on those ones.

After the exam was over we were advised to look at the areas where we had received most marks and study those where we hadn’t done so well so that we could then learn from our mistakes and do better next time.

I guess this was my first experience of really building on my strengths and working on my challenges and I often thank that teacher for his useful advice which I still remember after all these years.

woman in red long sleeve writing on chalk board
In my school days we still used blackboards! (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com)

This little exercise is something which I often suggest to my clients. One of the most important things I can do with someone who comes to me for help with their riding, whether they are a nervous novice or an experienced competitor, is to help them to identify their strengths and their challenges.

They may perhaps have years of experience (strength) riding many different horses but still have a lack of self belief (challenge) that they can be successful in their chosen discipline. They may be new to riding (challenge)and about to set out on their first journey into horse ownership but have lots of support (strength). Or maybe they have a strong ability to stay focused when schooling at home (strength) but struggle to maintain this when under pressure (challenge).

Each of you reading this will have aspects of life and riding which you find more straightforward and others with which you struggle. Strengths and challenges can be both physical and mental and, of course, it’s the psychological side of riding where my expertise lies. I can relate to the physical challenges but I’m not a technical riding coach so would never claim to be an expert (I am happy to help you to find an appropriate coach though, as I have many contacts in the equestrian world who are amazing riding coaches).

A frequent response when we first start to look at this exercise is “Oh….I don’t think I have ANY strengths!”. My job, in this situation is to dig a bit deeper and to help you to identify the areas of your life where you do show mental strength and resilience and to then work out how you can apply these to your riding. For example, do you have aspects of your work life which help you and which you can bring over to your riding? Sometimes, a starting point is to think of the things which you enjoy doing most and it is quite likely that that is where your strengths lie.

For example you may be a rider who is struggling to feel confident enough to hack out on your own but you love simply spending time with your horse – you can consider that time as a strength and then look at ways to use that time effectively to seek out the help you need to fulfil your goal of hacking out happily.

Or maybe you absolutely love the cross country phase of eventing but see the show jumping as a major challenge (This is SO common amongst the riders I work with!). Perhaps you’re telling yourself that the XC is fun and enjoyable and then constantly repeating to yourself that you “always” mess up the SJ! Where can you make some changes in your self talk, and therefore your self belief, which will assist you in the phase you’re finding so much more difficult?

Those of you who’ve met me will know that I’m a great fan of a nice notebook. So after reading this why not get yourself a notebook (or whatever you like making notes on/in) and start by making some lists of your strengths and challenges. This simple exercise will help you to be able to build on those strengths and perhaps see those challenges change from something you worry about to something which you can work towards overcoming.

I have plenty of other exercises we can do together if you choose to seek my help so please do just shout if you’d like a chat about how we can work together.


Month: July 2021

Looking back at some of my older posts I came across one where I stated that one of my aims was to get riders to drop the “I only….” and “I just….” phrases when they are talking about the things they do with their horses. I think it’s worth re-visiting this as I am sadly still hearing this phrase a bit too often when I meet riders for the first time. Hopefully once I’ve worked with them, one of the things they learn is to stop justifying the things they choose to do on horseback and instead to celebrate their achievements whilst continuing to enjoy the process of learning.

When a new client comes to see me for their initial consultation session, or when I meet riders at talks and clinics, I ask them what they do, or wish to do, with their horses. I have lost count of the number of times riders have replied “Oh, I am JUST a happy hacker” or “I ONLY ride at home” or “I ONLY jump little fences”.

So my mission is to get people to drop the “I JUST….” and “I ONLY…..” When you qualify your achievements and the activities you enjoy doing, in this way, then you are telling yourself that what you choose to do is unworthy of celebrating and therefore you will come to believe that, as a rider, you don’t deserve praise or that you are “less” than other riders. This is simply not true.

Each of us makes choices about what we do with our horses depending on our lifestyles, other commitments, experience, the horse we ride, confidence levels and a host of other variables and we don’t need to justify that to anyone. The only thing which we must do is to look after the welfare of our horses, everything else is a choice.

Now, if you describe yourself as ‘Just a happy hacker” but actually you’re an “unhappy hacker” or you’re saying that you do one thing but actually wish you were doing something else, then that is another matter completely. It is part of my job to work out, or to help you to work out for yourself, how you can learn to expand your comfort zone, be happy and content with what you choose to do or to push yourself to compete at a more advanced level and I certainly enjoy the challenge of helping a rider to fulfil their goals.

You can apply this to all sorts of areas of life as well as riding. So no more “I ONLY have a small business” or “I JUST run a couple of kilometres” etc etc.

I’m a happy owner of two retired highland ponies.

Let’s all agree to DROP THE “I JUST….” AND “I ONLY…..”!!


Month: July 2021

I’ve had a lot of new followers recently so perhaps it’s time to share a bit more about myself and my background and what brought led me to starting Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland. 

I get asked fairly frequently about my own personal riding and horse owning experience so here we go. Here’s “My Horsey Life”.

My beautiful retired girls Luna and Gigha
Photo: Joanne Boyle Photography

I first started learning to ride when we lived in Germany and I was about 9 or 10. We were taught by the ever so slightly scary Herr Hase on what, I now realise, were dressage schoolmasters. We did all sorts with them but, I have to say, there wasn’t a lot of time for fun. No opportunities for charging around or heading out for hacks. It was all schooling in the indoor and, only very occasionally outdoor, arenas. I rode there for a few years but gave up after one too many experiences on Rex the Rearer.

I then rode occasionally on holidays and when opportunities arose but nothing regular.


I remember a conversation soon after my husband and I met. We were talking about what we would like to be in a position to own one day. He said he’d love a LandRover and I said I’d love a horse. I often think about the conversation and am so glad that both our dreams came true.

When we moved to Dollar in the early 90’s I decided to start riding regularly again and within a couple of years I bought my first Highland mare Judy. I was very inexperienced but we had a lot of fun together, hacking out and doing some showing.

Judy was the first of three Highland mares I’ve owned. I have her daughter Luna who was born here in millennium year plus another mare, Gigha, who I bought as a two year old from her breeder. Somehow I managed to produce two nicely mannered ponies with very little experience of riding and handling youngsters. I honestly think I got away with it because they both have inherently nice natures. Again I did some showing plus lots of hacking and fun rides with these two until they retired. Re-reading this paragraph I note that I’m doing something that I would pick up on in a client’s use of language – minimising my own skill! So I have to say that there MUST have been more than a little positive input from me to produce these two wonderful ponies!

Luna and Gigha are still with me. Neither of them is sound enough to be ridden now but they will spend the rest of their lives here simply enjoying each other’s company and living a good life.

Over the years I’ve been on some great riding adventures including up and down mountains in Italy, mountain exploring deep in the Andes and riding across the Rajasthan on very skinny Marwari horses on a fundraiser for The Brooke.


I was quite far out of my comfort zone riding such fast and skinny horses in India!
This was a lot of fun – riding deep in the Argentinian Andes. (NB I would normally wear a helmet but in this instance none were available and I REALLY wanted to ride!)


So now, whilst I own two horses, I don’t have anything of my own to ride. For a while I thought I might give up on the riding but then I started to miss it too much. I asked around and found a wonderful riding school with excellent horses and I now have regular lessons from great coaches.

If I’m very honest I feel like I’m finally learning to ride properly and I’m loving developing new skills and confidence on horseback. I plan to continue riding, and having fun on horseback indefinitely and look forward to many more adventures.

You can ALWAYS have fun on a Highland Pony.

Month: July 2021

Answering the “Why do I do it?” question isn’t always that straightforward but the answer is that I know what it’s like to want to do something really badly, but have my mind prevent me from doing it. To have doubts about my own abilities or about my ability to move out of my comfort zone. In the past I was a bit stuck and using all of the things I have learned over many years I no longer feel held back by my mindset. So, because of what I have learned about myself I want to be able to help other people to overcome their fears and worries and to be able to enjoy the things they choose to do, so much more than they perhaps thought was possible.

Enjoying a ride with our wasting energy on the “What If’s….” is a great joy


I love so many things about my job and meeting riders and getting to know them as whole people rather than a “riding issue” is one of my favourites. I enjoy that first session so very much, where a rider has the opportunity, perhaps for the first time, to talk openly about what’s going on and how it’s affecting their riding. Being told people’s personal “secrets” is a real privilege and having them trust me enough to tell me is an honour.

The next thing I really love is when a rider returns with a smile on their face and exclaims “Guess what I did!!” or they send me a message or a photo of themselves doing that very thing they used to be scared to even try. I’m smiling to myself as I write this and remember some of the people I’ve worked with over the years.

Some riders are relatively inexperienced and their fears may come from that lack of experience whilst others are very experienced and may be riding and competing at a level which demands a lot of skill, focus and mental strength. I love having a large tool box which allows me to adapt to the needs of the individual and my aim is always to help a rider to help themselves. I can’t do it for them and very often the riders I work with are doing things on horseback which I will probably never do but my wish is for them to develop their own mental skills which will allow them to fulfil their goals and to enjoy everything which goes towards being able to do that.

Then, of course, there are other practical things on a day to day basis which help me to enjoy my job. I work from home and am my own boss and can plan my own diary. I will always try my best to be flexible with appointment days and times but I do also make sure that I have times when I’m not available, plus plenty of time to do other things I enjoy as well.

I also enjoy being part of the equestrian community both here in Scotland and increasingly, thanks to social media, throughout the UK and beyond. We’re an interesting bunch united by our love for horses and all that goes along with that. Over the years, I have really loved making connections with other equestrian professionals and these have given me many opportunities to share my experience and knowledge. Just today, I’ve been chatting with a new connection and making a plan to do some exciting work together.

I keep thinking that I’ve finished writing this then I remember one more thing I want to tell you……..!!

I love that this job keeps giving me opportunities to learn more about myself, more about the human mind and more about what it takes to fulfil riding goals. Over the last year I have completed the Centre 10 course in Advanced Psychology for Equestrian Coaches which has introduced me to so many learning opportunities which I’m loving passing on to my clients. The Centre 10 community is amazing and full of hugely experienced, and interesting, equestrian coaches who are so supportive and encouraging of each other, I’m loving being a part of this group of people.

I have to say I’m very proud of this qualification !

I could go on but I think you’ll have got the idea by now that I really do love my job!

(This is an updated version of a post first published in August 2020)