Recently, a group of Nepali climbers have successfully scaled the mighty mountain K2, the first time this has been achieved in Winter and the first time without oxygen – an astonishing achievement. K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and is only 200m shorter than Everest. It is widely considered to be the World’s most challenging mountain.
The leader of the group, Nirmal Purja said “We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible,”
There aren’t many people who will ever accomplish such a phenomenal feat of skill, endurance and teamwork but in our own ways we each have mountains to climb.
I love the above quote about teamwork, collaboration and a positive mental attitude and all of these things are really applicable in the equestrian world aren’t they?
As riders, working towards achieving our goals and fulfilling our dreams, there is definitely an element of all of the above.
Without the positive mental attitude that Nirmal Purja talks about we are likely to get stuck at the first steep incline on our journey to our own mountain summit!
Sometimes things trundle along in the right direction without giving us too much of a challenge but frequently we will encounter obstacles which mean that we do need to dig deep into our skills of determination, endurance and positivity in order to be able to take the next step.
Each rider will have their own challenges so whether that’s having the confidence to hack out alone, coping with a tricky horse, qualifying for a championship or reaching the next level of competition remember the words of the brave Nepali mountaineer and you will reach your mountain top.
Last year I ran a Positive January campaign and here are a few of my favourites….
A rider who is anxious will frequently have a pretty small comfort zone and be fearful of all those things which they think might happen if they even put a toe over their comfort boundary.
Before I go any further with this, it’s useful to point out that there is no law which says you must ride outside of your comfort zone BUT, if you choose to limit yourself in this way then you will have to find a way to accept that nothing much will change.
You may well have already heard me saying how important it is to focus on the things which you DO want to happen rather than on those you are worried about and by learning to expand your comfort zone you can really put this into practice.
I’ll give you a personal example which shows this idea in practice….
Some years ago I had booked myself onto a riding holiday in a mountainous area of Italy, however at that time I was really worried about riding down hills and used to even jump off and lead my horse down hill if it was more than a slight incline! I knew that, if I was going to enjoy the trip, I would have to be a lot more comfortable riding down hills! So I set about expanding my down hill comfort zone rather than focussing on worrying about what I feared may happen.
Lo and behold, bit by bit, my comfort zone got a lot bigger and the holiday was a great success and involved some very steep hills – SUCCESS!
Can you think of an example of how you could apply this to your own riding?
My next favourite is about not being fearful of making mistakes.
This is another example of how many riders end up restricting themselves and avoiding growth and development.
So many people feel that they will be negatively judged for making mistakes or for being less than perfect. It’s perfectly understandable to want to get things right and avoid mistakes but it’s really important to learn that making a mistake is simply part of the learning process and it is not a reflection on you as a person or as a rider.
A confident rider will most certainly still make mistakes, right throughout their riding life, BUT they will see any errors as an opportunity to learn and will not define themselves by those mistakes but will see themselves as a “work in progress”.
If you find yourself making the same mistake again and again then it’s most definitely time to review your training and your techniques. And if you find yourself consistently making the same mindset mistakes, which aren’t helping you with the psychological side of your riding then it’s time to make some changes there too.
My third favourite for today is the one I posted at the very start of the positivity month and I love it.
It can be applied to any area of your life and if you follow through with it then you open yourself up to so many exciting possibilities.
In any year many opportunities will come your way and I’m sure you don’t want to miss out. Of course, there simply isn’t enough time to do absolutely everything but do say a big YES!
There is so much fun to be had and so many lovely place to visit and people to meet and to find yourself regularly saying no will just lead to regret. If you do find yourself saying “no” but wishing you had said “yes” then it’s time to ask yourself why you are doing this. It may be that you need a little bit of help so that you can stretch out of your comfort zone into that world of opportunity, so just get in touch if you would like that help.
A confident rider will sometimes say “no’”, but it will be for a valid reason and not because of fear of the unknown or of what might happen but probably won’t. If you have a friend who you notice is frequently saying ‘No” to suggestions then why not gently investigate their reasons and, if necessary, suggest they seek out some help?
So see where you end up this year by saying “YES” to all the wonderful opportunities which come your way. I’d love to hear about all the things you are saying “Yes” to throughout the year.
2020 has certainly been a challenging year hasn’t it? I don’t want to dwell on those challenges though because there have been many good things during this year and I choose to focus on these.
For Horse riding with Confidence Scotland the year began with some lovely new people getting in touch with a view to collaborating for talks, workshops and clinics and I hope that these ideas will be able to come to fruition in 2021, as lockdown has meant that they didn’t all happen this year. I always enjoy meeting and chatting with other equestrian professionals about how we can combine our skills and experience for the benefit of horse riders.
When lockdown kicked in I, like so many people, had to embrace online working and this has proved to be a great success for many clients. In fact, despite the pandemic, I have had more new clients this year than I had in 2019. I’ve enjoyed working with riders at all levels helping them to overcome confidence issues and develop a stronger mindset for performance and competition.
I have managed to get to a couple of camps with Equiteam Confidence Camps when we have been allowed to get together. These are always hugely enjoyable and the team are great fun to work with so I thank them for their continuing support of the work I do.
With life being a bit quieter during the first lockdown period I enrolled to do the Centre 10 APEC foundation course. This is a course in applied psychology for equestrian coaches and I was able to join because of my experience working with riders. I loved the 12 weeks of learning so much that as soon as it finished I signed up for the advanced course with them and I’m about half way through that as I write here today.
I have done many courses over the years in various aspects of psychology, psychotherapy and counselling but this is the first time I’ve found something specifically for the equestrian world. I have been hugely impressed with the ideas and the quality of teaching and materials so I am loving this new learning.
I have also used the extra time when things have been quiet socially to do some more writing of blogs and have been a regular contributor the the Horse & Rider magazine “Ask the Experts” column which has been fun.
My sponsored riders Jodie Neill (Eventing) and Jodie Campbell (Dressage and Showing) have done what they’ve been able throughout the year and both have continued to be a great support for the work I do. Towards the end of the Summer Natalia Mallon joined the team and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her and supporting her in re-finding her confidence and love of show jumping.
We have exciting plans for 2021 with a new online opportunity for riders to get their mindset boosted to set themselves up to make the most of 2021. This will run as a membership group on Facebook throughout February and if you would like to join in then just follow this link
In the Autumn I worked with Joanne Boyle Photography who took some lovely pictures for me to use on my website and social media. You will see her photos on many of my posts. Here is one of my favourites.
On a personal note, once again, there has been sadness in my family. My lovely Mum passed away at the start of the year. We had lost Dad in 2018 and then my mother-in-law in 2019 so we still do feel a bit raw. Mum had some happy times in her care home after Dad died but became increasingly frail and dependent until she slipped away in January. Mum was a teacher and therefore it seems fitting that in the year of her passing I have done so much learning. I dedicate all of this new learning to her.
Last time I wrote about general communication and how we can all try to be more open to improving our communication skills. This time I thought I’d delve a bit deeper into Effective Listening, which is quite probably the most important aspect of good communication.
The Art of Effective Listening
We listen to obtain information, to understand, to enjoy and to learn.
Good listening skills require a high level of self-awareness. It is important to practice ‘active listening’ i.e. to make a conscious effort to both hear the words being said and to understand the total message. It is also very important to let the other person know that you are listening; otherwise, it can feel like talking to a brick wall.
There are five key elements to active listening:
Give the speaker your undivided attention
Look directly at the speaker
Put aside distracting thoughts
Avoid being distracted by environmental factors
‘Listen’ to the speaker’s body language
Refrain from side conversations if you are in a group setting.
Show that you are listening.
Nod occasionally (NB this does not necessarily imply agreement)
Smile and use other facial expressions
Note your posture and show it to be open and inviting
Encourage the speaker with small verbal comments e.g. ‘yes’ and ‘uh huh’.
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgements and beliefs effect what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said.
Reflect and ask questions
Paraphrase e.g. ‘What I’m hearing is…….’, ‘Sounds like you’re saying…..’
Ask questions to clarify e.g. ‘ When you say……what do you mean?’
Periodically summarize the speaker’s points.
Interrupting wastes time and frustrates the speaker
Allow the speaker to finish
Don’t interrupt with counter – arguments.
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding
You are gaining information and perspective
You add nothing by attacking the speaker or putting them down
Be candid, open and honest in your response
Assert your opinions respectfully
Treat the other person as he/she would want to be treated.
If it is especially important to remember what has been said to you or if you are being given precise instructions then take notes
It takes practice and determination to be an active listener
Be deliberate and remember that your goal is to truly hear what is being said
Set aside all else while you listen
If you do not do these things then what the speaker says and what you hear can be very different.
I often hear people bemoaning the fact that the people they come in contact with don’t communicate very well. Either they don’t listen, fail to say what they mean, just don’t tell you stuff or talk “at” you and hog the conversation! This can be very frustrating and lead to misunderstandings and disagreements.
I was reminded the other day about a talk I gave at a local business, many years ago, on communication and listening and after a trawl through some old files on my laptop I found that I still had the information. So I thought I’d share it….
So what is communication?
Communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages and information by speech, signals, writing and behaviour . In all communication there is a “transmitter” and a “receiver”.
Effective communication promotes self-confidence, intelligence and enhances relationships both personal and in social and work situations.
As a transmitter of communication it is your role to ensure that your message is given in a way which can be understood by the expected receiver and as the receiver it is your job to understand the meaning of the message
Non -verbal communication is of equal importance to the words which are spoken. It regulates conversation, communicates emotions, modifies verbal messages, gives insights and can give clues to meanings. NB remember that these things can vary between cultures.
In conversation there should be a dialogue which includes:
Turn Taking. Generally “You talk, then I talk” will be effective. In conversation monologues aren’t helpful.
Connecting. What each person says should in some way be connected to what the other person has said.
Mutual Influencing. Each person in a dialogue should be open to being influenced by what the other person has said, it’s best to be open-minded.
Co-creating Outcomes. Good dialogue leads to outcomes which benefit both parties.
Say what you think, not what you think others want you to say.
Express your views clearly, positively and in a non-threatening manner.
Express you views in language which can be understood.
If in doubt check the meaning of what you are hearing rather than assuming you understand what was said.
Give full attention (put down your phone during conversation!).
Give the speaker the respect of hearing what they want you to hear.
It is equally important to give respect as to receive it.
I’ve been thinking about giving and receiving praise recently so decided to write down a few thoughts about this subject.
In today’s internet society everything is constantly rated and reviewed and there are many rating sites we can look at before making a holiday choice or picking a restaurant, for example. The same goes for choosing a service or when we are looking for somebody to help us with an aspect of our lives where we naturally tend to choose the one who has received most praise.
Here at Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland I rarely ask for or publish client testimonials due to the importance of confidentiality. An unnamed testimonial saying ‘Show Jumper from Scotland says Jane is wonderful’ is unverifiable and meaningless and I want my clients to feel that it is entirely their choice whether or not they share that they have consulted me for help with confidence or mindset.
However, on a recent facebook post some riders were kind enough to make some very positive comments about how I had been able to help them and by choosing to say this publicly they were obviously happy to say that they had used my services. Other riders prefer to keep quiet about needing help with confidence issues and choose not to share this and I am more than happy for them to do that.
I, like most people, love to receive praise and get a great boost when somebody gives me positive feedback. I also enjoy giving praise to others for example, I like to praise my clients for the hard work and commitment they show towards overcoming the nervousness which interferes with their enjoyment of riding or for the hours of determined practice they put in before a competition.
Whilst enjoying receiving and giving praise what really gives me the most satisfaction is when I can praise myself. When I can feel inside that I have done a good job. When I can tell, by their body language, that audience members at a talk are listening and understanding what I say. When the look on a client’s face changes from one of tension and worry to a big and genuine smile. When I can look at my animals and know that I have done a good job with them and given them a good life. When I can go to bed at night feeling that I have acheived something worthwhile during the day.
All these feelings come from within and I believe that is where our enjoyment of life truly comes from. We should be wary of needing others to constantly praise us and work towards true self acceptance.
As always, thanks for reading this and any comments are very welcome.
I’m sure you will have seen and read many posts about the importance of “Being Kind to Yourself”. This week is World Kindness Day, I have posted about kindness on my social media channels and we all could do with sharing some kindness at the moment.
I think most of you probably have a good idea what being kind to other people means and I sincerely hope you all have a good understanding of what being kind to horses means but, what does being kind to yourself mean?
It probably means something different to each of us but I think it’s worth spending a little time thinking about it.
Psychologist Albert Ellis, the founder of rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) talks about the importance of “Unconditional Self Acceptance” and this could be a good place to start. Ellis talks about each of us working towards accepting ourselves as unique individuals with unique strengths and unique challenges. He suggests that it can take many, many years to truly accept ourselves as we are but that it’s something to work towards being comfortable with.
As I see it, this means that we avoid comparing ourselves unfavourably to others. Whether that’s comparing ourselves unfavourably to other riders we encounter or whether it’s comparing ourselves to supermodels we see in magazines and feeling dissatisfied with our appearance. In both cases comparison usually leads to disappointment.
Unconditional self acceptance also means that we relieve ourselves of the pressure that we ‘should’ or ‘must’ ride at a certain level or jump a particular height. On the contrary, we push ourselves to do these things because we want to and we wish to develop and learn not because we feel under pressure.
Unconditionally accepting ourselves means that we don’t generalise our mistakes. So instead of telling yourself that you’re a “rubbish rider” because you’ve been eliminated at the first fence you tell yourself that you simply made a mistake and you’re going to work out why the heck you did that and avoid making the same mistake again!
Unconditionally accepting ourselves DOES NOT mean that we let ourselves off the hook for bad behaviour and it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to give up on learning and working hard to fulfil our goals.
Being kind to yourself might also mean sometimes being quite firm with yourself. For example you might like to be kind to yourself with a treat of a bar of chocolate but it might not be self kindness to have two bars!
Being kind to yourself might mean making sure that you programme your riding into your week to make sure that it happens and avoiding feeling guilty about other commitments and demands on your time. Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean that you are unkind to others but it might mean that you learn to say “no” more often.
Finally, it’s worth noting that along with working towards unconditional self acceptance we can also try to unconditionally accept other people for who they are. It’s not always easy by any means but I think it’s definitely worth trying.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you feel being kind to yourself means.
I am hearing from, and reading about, more and more people who are experiencing increased levels of anxiety at the moment and, of course, this is hardly surprising given the times we are living in. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused huge uncertainty for many people with fears about health, worries about employment and finance, a feeling of lack of control or a sense of isolation leading to increased stress levels accompanied by a feeling of being powerless and anxious.
None of the above is a surprise and knowing that we are all in this together may help some people but not everyone. We are all different in how much uncertainty we are able to tolerate with some seemingly gliding through in a relaxed manner and others feeling close to breaking point.
So for those of you who are struggling here are some simple tips which you can put into practice easily and which will help you through the coming Winter period.
FOCUS ON THE THINGS WHICH YOU CAN CONTROL You may well be hearing this from multiple sources at the moment but it really does make a huge difference. Start each day by noting down THREE things which you CAN DO today. This is know as “Setting your intentions” for the day. They might be big and important things or they might be small and seemingly insignificant but they are things which you CAN DO.
STAY CONNECTED Keep in touch with work colleagues, family and friends. If you are self employed think about checking in with your clients and customers to find out how they are getting on and to help them to know that you care about them even when you might not actually be able to work with them. Offer to help those who need it where you are able. This could be practical help for an elderly neighbour or being prepared to listen to a friend who needs some extra support. There is a lot of evidence which shows that helping others helps you to feel better about yourself.
DO THINGS WHICH YOU ENJOY Instead of worrying about the things which you aren’t able to do for fun such as go on holiday, eat out and have parties find other ways to enjoy yourself. If you’re stuck at home make sure that each day you plan to do a couple of nice things such as have a soak in the bath and light a scented candle, get out in the fresh air when you can or give yourself a home manicure. Make sure that each day includes something for fun or relaxation rather than simply completing tasks.
LOOK AFTER YOUR MIND AND BODY Make sure to eat well, exercise, stick to a bedtime routine and get up and dressed at a normal time for you each morning. Think about researching some simple meditation or breathing and relaxation techniques which will help to settle your mind and allow you to focus on the present rather than worrying about an uncertain future.
PRACTICE GRATITIDE At the end of each day look back at the intentions you wrote down in the morning. How did you get on? Did you do what you said you would do? How does this affect your feelings about your situation. Then end the day with noting three things you are grateful for. Again, they might be big and important things or they might be tiny. It doesn’t matter, write them down as you practice gratitude and note how you feel when you do this.
If you are struggling in any way then seek help. I am always happy to have a no obligation chat and am a very good listener so feel free to get in touch.
Last week I went on a little adventure, heading all the way to Bath for a three day course to begin six months of training with Centre 10 doing their Advanced Performance Psychology course for equestrian coaches.
As you know, all my work is done “off horse” and I don’t teach riding skills as such, but focus on the mindset and rider psychology aspects of the sport, so this course is right up my street. I was delighted to be accepted onto it based on my experience working with riders at all levels.
As you probably also know I am a believer in lifelong learning and am always open to new ideas and new ways of looking at old ideas.
So the week was a real treat as well as an adventure. It felt like an adventure because in this year dominated by Covid-19 just simply having a few days away from home is a novelty and the treat was staying in a beautiful country house hotel on the edge of the City of Bath.
There were lots of highlights including meeting the other coaches on the course plus meeting Charlie, Sarah and Steffi from Centre 10 who are all inspirational people, athletes and coaches.
Today I would like to talk about two of the exercises we did last week which were great fun but both brought home important messages and helped me to look at things I already knew from a different and useful point of view.
The first exercise was that we were give a block of wood with a nail hammered into it plus 10 other identical nails. The task was to balance to 10 nails on the one in the block!! We were in a team of three….
It was fascinating to see the approaches of my team mates as well as my own. One person decided that this wasn’t for them and encouraged the remaining team mates from the sidelines. I had been allocated the job of handling the nails (Covid meant that only one person was to do this) and my other team mate was coming up with ideas.
Initially we didn’t actually know whether this was possible of not but after a short while we were told that it WAS possible so were trying with renewed vigour. Then we were given a simple clue to help us understand HOW it was actually possible.
Interestingly my team mate who has a biomechanics background found the next stage of the exercise easier than I did and under her guidance we managed to complete the task!
There were several learnings from this exercise including:
Once you believe that something is possible then it becomes possible.
Rather than being given a list of instructions we were given a clue which then allowed us to work out the answer for ourselves, a far more sustainable approach.
These seemingly simple ideas can be applied to any life area including helping people to find answers to their own challenges.
The second exercise, which was also hugely entertaining but also a great opportunity to learn, was target shooting!
This is something which I had never tried before so was keen to have a go at. Again we were in teams and we were delighted to be coached by the UK No. 1 modern pentathlete Kate French who trains at the amazing sports facilities at Bath University.
This exercise was all about looking at the process rather than the outcome. We were encouraged to break things down into a process such as our body angle, our breathing, lining up the sights and squeezing the trigger rather than focussing entirely on trying to hit the target.
I soon found that if I DID focus on my process then I COULD hit the target!
Then the exercise got more fun as we had a competition again in our teams so as well as demonstrating our new found skills we were adding the element of competition pressure.
We had a round of what we thought was the competition only to be told that it was a trial run and the teams were then handicapped according to their places in the trial run. This gave our team a 30 second advantage over the next team. We had a team talk, worked out a time saving hand over process and then were ready for competition.
I was the last to go and the next team was catching us up…….!
I had spent some time while the others were having their go breathing, visualising and focussing on my process so felt kind of “In the zone”.
My turn came and YES! I shot five out of five on target giving our team the WIN!! Great fun, not at all serious but again loads to learn and apply for other life areas including riding of course:
Focus on the process and the desired outcome will happen.
Find a method to focus which works for YOU.
In competition stick to your plan.
Avoid comparing yourself to other competitors.
Control what you CAN control.
Learn from mistakes.
I’m home again now and have enjoyed digesting all of my experiences from last week. These three days are just the beginning of six months of more learning online.
I’ll be posting regularly throughout the six months to share what I am leaning and I can’t wait for my clients to benefit from new ways of looking at things so that together we can work to help them to achieve their goals.
Riding and being around horses is good for your mental health isn’t it?
Well, yes it is until you start worrying about riding more than you enjoy it and I know that there are a lot of you out there for whom this is the case.
What we want is for the time we spend around horses and riding them to be relaxing, fun-filled, exciting, great exercise, a source of friends and sharing experiences, a sense of achievement and success, “me time” away from work and family pressures….and so much more.
I can recall a several times when I was feeling especially stressed, but after a good ride in the sunshine, on a beautiful horse, in the company of lovely people my stress levels fell to a much more manageable level and I felt re-energised, calmer and more able to tackle the issues which were causing that stress.
However, sometimes due to a huge variety of reasons riding and working with horses can become the very source of stress which has the opposite effect to all of the above.
This could come from fear and anxiety, from the pressure of competition, from issues on the yard or from concern about the welfare or health of your horse. Or perhaps it might be due to pressures in other areas of your life such as work or relationships which prevent the time you spend with horses from being as relaxing as you would like.
This week brings World Mental Health Day on 10th October and I think it’s a day which is more important than ever given all of the enormous challenges which 2020 has brought. Please do know that if you feel you are struggling with low mood, anxiety, energy levels, feeling that you aren’t coping or feeling overwhelmed or just “not yourself” in any way that it is absolutely OK to ask for help.
Personally, I am always happy to chat or listen and I’d like to draw your attention to the amazing new resource for riders which is Rider’s Minds. “Riders Minds is an online bespoke resource dedicated to supporting the mental health and well-being of all horse riders.”
NB: If you ever feel as though you are in danger of harm because of your own personal mental health issues or if you are in psychological distress then please contact your GP or The Samaritans Tel:116 123 and try to make sure that you are in a safe place with the company of another person.
If riding is causing you excessive worry or distress then please do seek help. Rider anxiety is extremely common and there is a lot which can be done to help you deal with this and return to being able to enjoy riding again.
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