Getting Back to Regular Riding

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Here we are at the end of May 2020 and looking forward to the easing of lockdown restrictions whilst, at the same time, having to maintain safety and social distancing going forwards into the “new normal”.

A couple of quick surveys have shown that most riders seem to be getting pretty much back to normal riding and are making plans for resuming training and lessons as appropriate. No competitions or shows on the horizon yet but there is still lots we can do and enjoy.

However, I am aware that a few riders are experiencing a little bit too much “nervous excitement” at the thought of riding again after a couple of months off so what can be done about that?

A few simple changes will help you to give yourself the best re-start and get your mind in the right place to be able to enjoy riding again.

The best view…. from a couple of years ago by Chloe Petrie

The first thing is to be aware of what your internal chatter is telling you and to take charge of it! Make sure that you are focussed on what you DO want to happen when you’re riding as this is what you focus on and affects how you are feeling. So think about your horse going in the direction of your choice at the pace of your choice in the manner of your choice – if that is what your horse is doing at any moment in time then all is well 🙂

Remember to set yourself some short term achievable goals. Whether this includes the number of times per week you plan to ride or whether it includes schooling and training goals will differ from rider to rider. But setting achievable goals boosts your confidence and will help you to quickly get back on track and heading in the direction you wish to go.

When you’re feeling a bit rusty and out of practice it’s common to feel full of doubt and as though you’ve forgotten everything. Never fear….you haven’t. All of your skills and experience are still there and ready for you to tap into. Perhaps things might be a little bit hidden initially but once you’ve ridden again a few times I suspect that the past couple of months will be forgotten. You will know your own horse so it’s probably wise to be sensible and have someone with you or close by to give you some reassurance if that’s necessary.

It might be that you feel you need to stay within your comfort zone initially and that’s OK. Be wary of the temptation to stay in your comfort zone for too long though so I would suggest that each time you ride you make sure to stretch yourself a little bit and, very quickly, your comfort zone will grow without overwhelming you.

Using a calming breathing technique will help you to let go of any physical tension and will also help to calm your mind too. Breathing in calmness to the count of three and breathing out tension to the count of six is a simple ratio method to use when you are feeling tense. Practice it before you ride so that you can use it comfortably when you need it.

My guess is that once you’ve been back on your horse a couple of times then the last few months of enforced rest will fade away and you’ll be back having fun before you know it.

If however, you need a bit of extra help and support then I have an “ESCAPE FROM LOCKDOWN” OFFER of 20 minute online sessions for only £20. These will help you to get your mind where you want it to be, identify your strengths and set some short term goals.

Some Thoughts on Coping with Disappointment

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Next week I should have been heading off for an amazing adventure riding coast to coast across the North of Scotland. The trip had been planned and prepared for, for over a year and my excitement was starting to grow in March just as coronavirus reared its ugly head. My initial reaction was to email the organisers telling them, “If it’s still on then I’ll still come” but it quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the next few months and the trip is off.

2020 is an important year for us, I have celebrated my 60th birthday and we have just had our 30th wedding anniversary. As well as my riding trip we had a wonderful holiday booked, a party planned and also several other events and adventures with friends – all cancelled!

Naturally I am hugely disappointed but this is mixed with feelings of guilt. After all I am a highly trained therapist with many years of experience so surely I “shouldn’t” have negative emotions or I “should” have the tools to deal with them and immediately add a positive spin! The feeling of guilt is compounded by an awareness of how fortunate I am that this is the main downside of the worldwide pandemic for me personally and surely this is a very shallow feeling compared to the sufferings of many people who have lost so much!

At times like these there are two main things I remind myself of:
Firstly, I am a human being and, as such, it is absolutely normal to experience negative emotions. (Here’s a link to a post from a few months ago about learning to tolerate emotions) They are part of me and it is absolutely normal to feel upset and disappointment. Secondly, I DO have the emotional tools to deal with disappointment and that knowledge and confidence is something to celebrate. Getting over the disappointment I now know that I have plenty to look forward to once life returns to normal and this has been an interesting exercise in self reflection.

I have also found ways to use this period of lockdown effectively by embracing online client sessions wherever possible, doing some online learning which will greatly benefit my clients and setting up a FaceBook group which offers emotional support and guided imagery relaxation and “virtual” rides for followers.

Fellow mind-set expert Jenni Winter-Leach recognises this feeling of guilt too. She had the following to say when I asked her if she might contribute to this piece.

“As a mind-set expert, people often think I’ve got my own life absolutely sorted, never get upset, nervous or angry and I must always be on top form. Sadly it’s just not the case. I am actually human an even being an expert in something doesn’t make you perfect or indeed immune to the disappointment and angst that something like lockdown has caused. However, knowing and being skilled in lots of tools, techniques and awareness of my own thoughts, feelings and mind-set does mean I’m able to get through this with a positive spin and ultimately keep performing at my best in order to serve my clients. This has been one of my main focuses during lockdown – “what am I learning that I can help my clients to understand too?” So it’s been a huge journey of self-discovery. Perhaps the biggest difficulty for me has been 7 weeks without being able to see my horse. To some that seems like a 3rd world problem. To me it has been very hard. He is what helps me balance a very busy business with making sure I get out in the open, exercise and do something good for my soul. Over these 7 weeks I have just thrown myself into work and helping others, knowing I will soon get to see him again sometime soon and I do have to put it into perspective. It will be a huge relief when I do get to see him again.”

I hope you get to spend quality time again with your horse very soon Jenni

Of course, we all experience disappointment in normal times as well and it is important that we can learn how to deal with that so that we avoid magnifying any negative events and minimising the positives and the opportunities for learning.

Sophie Tunnah gives some useful examples of how she dealt with disappointment and how she has dealt with the pressures of perfectionism (here’s a link to a piece I wrote on perfectionism a while back).

Sophie and Louie

Sophie says “

Going back three years almost, I took a 5 year old Louie to a local unaffiliated dressage competition. During my first test, I became fixated on ‘perfection’ and had a tussle with him on a 20m circle. The next thing I knew, we’d left the arena and were cantering across the next one! Thankfully no one was doing their test…I came back and we finished the test sweet as anything. Annoying. 

There’s the first mistake – getting annoyed by finishing well.

I had a break between the two tests and during that time became for rutted about all of the mistakes that I didn’t take a single positive outtake. So much so, we had a horribly tense second test. I got ready to come home, picked up my test sheets, didn’t read them, and came home, full of frustration. 

Later, I read the test sheets, and of course, it was littered with all of the comments I knew around his tension, but it was also full of encouraging comments, even making a light-hearted remark about leaving the arena. That was a true light bulb moment. I saw everything for what it was, and suddenly the day wasn’t so bad. 

From the comments, I considered a plan to work on the areas that it highlighted, and it completely put into perspective the negatives. 

A very similar thing feeling happened to me just at the end of January this year during a showjumping training session. I made a few mistakes in my striding to fence, but Louie got me out of it and carried on as if there was no mistake there. We jumped around a 90-95cm course without an problems and came home. 

But I felt so flat and negative. Why? Because I pick myself apart on the few mistakes I did make. It totally ruined the feeling for my day, and it wasn’t until about 9pm I watched our videos back. I saw a horse enjoying his job, jumping well, and a rider having a great time. Even as the person who had been riding and knew where those mistakes happened, I could barely see them on the videos. 

Again, I had to find the perspective and positives to be able to move on and stay confident. I found three whopping great big perspectives:

1) less than four months ago, some days I’d still struggle with Louie going over a pole or basic tiny upright

2) I’ve been to ONE showjumping competition in about 3 years

3) this is all new to Louie, and a lot to me too. We’re both learning

And that last point is key…We are learning. We are not perfect and we have to make mistakes to improve ourselves.”

Well done Sophie on turning your thinking around and learning from your experiences.

Chesca Burrows describes the disappointment which comes from missing out due to a horse health emergency.

Chesca and Jay radiating happiness

Just over two years ago, I was due to go to one of the first endurance rides of the season with my horse Jay. We used to compete at endurance – albeit at a fairly low level – but since having my daughter it has become something I can only fit in sporadically. The rides themselves often involve a fair bit of travel and organisation, coupled with the amount of riding required to get fit enough when I have no local hacking and have to make the time to box out, it just became something we did for pleasure. Still, I looked forward to them immensely, perhaps all the more so knowing there was usually only a small handful of rides a year I could manage.

So when Jay came in with a swollen eye the night before the Cerne Giant ride, it was hard not to feel absolutely gutted, despite my over-riding feelings being that of concern for her! It was late at night – I generally don’t get my horses in until after my daughter has gone to bed at 7.30pm, so it was 9pm by the time I was speaking to a vet. Alone at the yard in the dark my mind was playing all sorts of worst case scenarios! I was totally convinced she was going to end up losing an eye.

The emergency vet was simply lovely, and Jay was the model patient. We’d discussed on the phone about whether the appointment could be delayed until Sunday morning instead to save me the emergency callout but whilst I try to be fairly pragmatic and sensible about whether something needs a vet or not, the one sound piece of advice I had always lived by was ‘don’t mess with eyes’! And when the vet came and looked, and said ‘it was definitely a good job I came tonight’ I felt sick with worry. I completely forgot about our upcoming endurance ride! It was a sleepless night for sure.

But Jay continued to be a model patient – I had to get up early to do her next dose of eye drops, and already it was starting to look a little better. Typically it was the most glorious morning – absolutely perfect for an endurance ride. And with Jay’s eye looking a little better I was able to feel a little bit of disappointment creeping in – this was one of only three dates I could get to for the whole year, and she loves the rides too, she’s always more ‘zen’ in herself when we’ve done the first one of the season. It’s kind of like ‘coming home’ for her. 

Although the disappointment was huge, the relief that Jay’s eye was healing well was even bigger. I’m not going to lie, I did feel sad we couldn’t go. But my horse was just such an angel to treat – she had to stay in out of the sunlight for a few days, with eye drops every 2-3 hours initially, and a cream at night. Although she can be a ‘typical arab’ in some ways, she was perfect for every application – the vet had warned they often get wise to it and can be really difficult to get the drops in, but every single time she got easier and easier – I could soon do them loose in the stable, and even loose in the field once she started going back out.

I love endurance rides because I love the feeling of one-ness with Jay – she is my heart horse through and through and every single ride she just wows me with her willingness and generosity. I missed out on a wonderful experience with her that day – but the few days I spent treating her eye were special in a different way – I was humbled, and still full of gratitude for just how wonderful she is! And it certainly made me appreciate the next ride we got to even more.

Ironically we’ve missed the same rides again this year due to the coronavirus – it’s definitely hard not to feel cheated this time! Jay’s getting older, and each ride seems more and more precious. But above all I am just always thankful that she allowed me to treat her so graciously with her eye (even the vet was amazed with how quickly and how well it healed) – each day she stays sound and happy is good enough for me. 

I hope you soon have another opportunity Chesca.

So what I hope you can take from this piece is a reminder that you are a human being with all sorts of experiences and emotions, it is normal to feel disappointed and fed up at times but to find a way to learn from any negative experiences as then they will help you to grow as a person and develop as a rider.

Many, many thanks to all the contributors to this piece: Jenni Winter-Leach, Sophie Tunnah and Chesca Burrows.

Small Incremental Improvements add up to Major Changes and Growth

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On Monday I posted about how making small incremental improvements leads to major changes and growth, then I chatted a bit about this in my group so I thought I’d add something here on the blog to back this up.

Earlier this week I watched a short BBC video about learning to recognise birdsong. In the video it talks about just starting by learning a few common and familiar garden birds and then building on that as a start. I’ve always had an amateur interest in birdwatching, inherited from my Mum who loved birds, I know most of the common British birds and a few others too but I don’t recognise many by their song. On the video it talks about just learning one at a time and before you know it you can build up a library of birdsong which you recognise – an example of small incremental improvements leading to major changes.

This week I have consciously set about adding to my birdsong library and by starting with the birds I see every day in the garden, it has already grown considerably.

We can apply this simple principle to learning and growth in any area of life or horse riding. By building on the riding skills which we already have and making small incremental improvements we can rapidly expand skills and before we know it we are doing things which we may never thought would be possible.

During the current lockdown period when you might not be riding at all, or much, then now is a good time to apply this idea to mindset strengthening so that when you return to riding regularly your mind will be in a better place to help you.

Start by thinking of a situation where you feel confident, comfortable and mentally in control. What is it about that situation which allows you to think, feel and ride confidently?

Once you recognise what it is which allows you to feel confident in that situation you can make small incremental improvements and begin to apply that confidence in situations which may previously have challenged you emotionally and you can build from there. This way, by the time Lockdown is over you will be mentally more prepared to get back out there on horseback for some fun!

If this is something which you would like some help with then just get in touch.

If you would like a free Five Steps to Riding Confidence programme which you can work through at your own pace then simply sign up .

Use That Wonderful Imagination

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Last weekend I read a wonderful article from the Financial Times by Alain de Botton “How to travel from your sofa”. It’s all about using the experiences we already have and our amazing imaginations to allow us to travel anywhere and to re-live past experiences.

I believe that this is a skill we can all use and develop during this period of confinement at home. I also believe that using this skill now will mean that it is more use to us once this crisis is over and life returns to normality.

Personally, just three days into lockdown, I’m feeling pretty relaxed and have been enjoying the things I’m filling my days with. I’m managing to continue with some work but inevitably this has slowed down considerably. However, I guess that over the coming weeks there will be times when I do resent the confinement and wish that I was out there experiencing the wider world. This is the time when I will really need my imagination to help me and I would suggest that you will all benefit from a helpful imagination too.

De Botton talks about re-living holidays right through from remembering what you had for your first breakfast to re-experiencing the sights and the sounds of your destination. He suggests that this imagined experience can be as real as you want it to be and that by “travelling from your sofa” will help you to be more comfortable with isolation.

Our 2019 summer holiday in Shetland

So how can YOU use your wonderful imagination to help you at this time of enforced isolation? I would like you all to spend some time regularly developing your technique of “How to ride from your sofa“.

The technique is really very simple. Just make yourself comfy where you won’t be disturbed for a while, close your eyes and take yourself back to a wonderful riding experience and then re-live it.

This will be most realistic if you involve ALL of your senses and because horse riding is such a physical activity you can really feel as though you are actually on horseback. You are activating all the elements of your nervous system and can really enjoy the ride.

Start right at the very beginning of the ride, for example bringing your horse in from the field and grooming him all the while allowing yourself to be aware of what you can see, hear, feel, smell and even taste. Allow yourself to look around and take in all the elements of your environment so that you are actually “there”.

Then work through to mounting up and heading off for your ride. So you can feel your seat in the saddle, your feet in the stirrups, the reins in your hands. You can see the horses neck stretching out in front of you and can hear the footfall of his movement. You can smell the wonderful scent of horse and perhaps the leather of your tack.

The actual ride will be different for all of you but IT’S A GOOD ONE! Perhaps you are out for a hack or you might be riding a cross country course. It really doesn’t matter.

Your mind is very clever at distorting time so your ride can be as long as you like whilst real time might be completely different. You can re-live an entire week long riding holiday in half an hour on the sofa!

Give it a try and see how real you can make it and notice how it helps you avoid the frustration of confinement.

I’m off to the sofa for a ride!

Sign up to receive your free Five Steps to Riding Confidence programme to help you to get ready to be the rider you want to be once life returns to normal.
Or get in touch to arrange some online 1:1 sessions.

I am also offering a limited number of 20 minute online sessions per week to help you to identify your strengths and challenges. Only four available per week and the cost is just £15.

Once I’ve finished my “ride from the sofa” I’m off to Italy!

Some Personal Thoughts on Grief

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My morning view always helps

This is a highly personal post which I think will help me and I hope might also help you.

In the last eighteen months my father, my mother-in-law and, most recently, my mother have all died. Each of them had lived a good, long and happy life and their deaths were anticipated and, although very sad, for each of them death was a release from a life of dependence, limitations and the associated indignities of old age. We miss them all but death of an elderly parent is a normal and expected part of life.

Over the years I have also experienced the death of friends, other family members and much loved animals too. I’m sure that each person reading this will have had their own losses.

My most significant loss, which is difficult to write about publicly but which is important to include in this piece, was the death of our only son Fergus in 1997. Fergus was stillborn at full term and was a precious and deeply loved part of our lives in the short time we had him with us. We remember him frequently and often wonder about the life we wish he could have lived.

Grief comes, not only from the death of a cherished person but also from many other experiences such as:

  • Loss of a relationship
  • Loss of a dream
  • Loss of a pet
  • Loss of identity
  • Loss of a job, home or security
  • Loss of health
  • Loss of independence

There are many emotions associated with grief and the experience is individual and personal.

In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published a model of the five stages of grief, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance and for many years this model was frequently quoted to those who were grieving as the “normal” process which had to be “got through”. Generally, this model has been discredited as there is very little evidence of moving through the process in an orderly fashion.

Instead, from my experience working in the NHS and subsequently in my current role and also from my own personal experiences, I believe that grief is far more complex than a defined process.

There can be a whole complex mix of emotions and they can come alone or they can arrive as a jumble all at the same time. Emotions can jump from overwhelming despair, through anger, to a sense of relief and back again to sadness all within one train of thought.

For me the overwhelming emotions initially occupied my every waking thought, and a lot of my sleep time as well. Then gradually over time feelings have settled and acceptance has come. Nothing has been “got over” but happiness has returned and life has continued whilst memories have been cherished. I distinctly remember a friend saying to me some months after Fergus had died that she was happy to see that “my smile had returned”. I think it was at that moment that I knew I was going to be happy again.

Eighteen months on from the death of my father it is now the memories of him as a younger man which I recall rather than those of him in his last months. My feelings about my Mum are still too raw and recent but with time I know it will be happier memories which rise to the surface rather than images of her being so frail and helpless.

From my own experiences of the death of much loved animals I know that the pain and emotions can be just as strong as they are for the death of a person. So if somebody tells you “it is just an animal”, in my opinion they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re just being clumsy with their words.

Grief is different to mourning. It is an internal set of feelings and emotions, thoughts and also sometimes includes physical pain. Mourning is the public side of grief. It includes the rituals of a funeral, sending and receiving cards and flowers, in days gone by the wearing of black clothes, time off work and away from socialising. With the loss of a pet it might include keeping mementoes such as a lock of hair or a horse shoe, having photographs framed and keeping a special item associated with that animal. The rituals of mourning all help with the internal grief and are an important aspect of our lives and society. If you have a religious faith then that can be a great help as can other expressions of spirituality.

Support from family and friends has been an enormous help for me over the years and I think I will share with you just a few of the things which I found of particular help and a few which actually had the opposite effect.

After Fergus died the outpouring of love and support we experienced was almost palpable. Friends who simply called round and talked about him were the absolute best. For me it didn’t really matter too much what they said it was just their being with me that helped. People who were prepared to listen to me without judgement and without chipping in with their own experiences were amazing. At a time of extreme grief I really didn’t want to hear about any comparable situations as I was so absorbed in my own.

I don’t want to be judgemental about the things which didn’t help me as I am sure that people were trying their best to be supportive. However being told that “you’ll get over it” isn’t helpful and especially unhelpful for me was people saying “You must be feeling …..” or “You will be feeling…..“. Personally speaking I don’t want to be told how I must be feeling…..

Overall, the least helpful thing was the one or two friends who simply said nothing as they didn’t want to upset me. For me, I would rather that someone made a clumsy or slightly thoughtless comment than said nothing at all. At a time of grief, saying nothing can be interpreted as simply not caring.

So if you are grieving in your own life, for any kind of loss, then I send you my love and support. If you have a friend or family member who is grieving then simply be kind and show support by getting in touch and listening to them.

If this is something you are struggling with then don’t hesitate to get in touch and I will listen to you and offer you some help and support. I consider myself to be fortunate in my attitude towards death and loss in my own life. I see it as part of the rich tapestry of life and even though life hasn’t necessarily turned out as I might have expected when I was younger I cherish each and everyone one of my life experiences.

Nature always helps me too.

Emotional Strength…..some thoughts.

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Emotional strength isn’t necessarily constant throughout life but having emotional resilience will certainly help when dealing with those challenges, disappointments and upsets which happen to each and every one of us.

What are the characteristics of an emotionally strong person?

  • An emotionally strong person will see opportunities for learning when they make mistakes or encounter disappointments.
  • An emotionally strong person will be adaptable and able to handle unexpected situations without seeing them as a “disaster”
  • An emotionally strong person is able to assertively express their needs without apology but with sensitivity to other’s feelings.
  • An emotionally strong person will focus on finding a solution to a problem, rather on the problem itself.
  • An emotionally strong person can accept advice and constructive criticism without personalising it.
  • An emotionally strong person will move on quickly from unwanted or negative situations rather than holding on to them.
  • An emotionally strong person will take pleasure in success, both their own success and that of other people.

If you’ve read the above list and felt that you have some work to do on developing your own emotional strength then never fear. A few simple changes and lots of practice will help you with your own development.

Ways to help yourself to become emotionally stronger

  • Take some time to become aware of what’s going on in your own life at the moment and write down what is helping you and what is not helping.
  • Make lists of your personal strengths and your personal challenges. If you find this difficult then try doing it with a trusted friend or simply make lists of what you enjoy doing and what you don’t enjoy. Chances are that if you enjoy something then it’s a strength!
  • Spend time with positive people who care about you and remove yourself from situations of negativity.
  • NB if you are in a situation where you feel trapped or you are unable to escape then seek professional help and support.
  • Include physical exercise as well as emotional exercise, it’s important to look after your body and your mind.
  • Think back to a time when you overcame a challenge in the past. What resources helped you then and how can you use that previous experience to help you now?
  • Break down any problems or issues into manageable chunks and deal with them one step at a time.
  • Learn from mistakes and avoid generalising them or labelling yourself by your mistakes.
  • Be aware of emotional pitfalls and develop ways to either avoid them or handle them.
  • Ask for help. Admitting that you need help is a sign of strength and often the first step towards getting things sorted out.

Would you like a simple programme to help you to move from where you are now to becoming the rider you would like to be?
Just sign up here to receive your free Five Steps to Riding Confidence Framework.

What is positivity and what is it not……some thoughts.

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I had planned to choose a few more of my favourites form my recent month of positivity posts but have changed my mind a little. I think it’s worth having a think about the real meaning of positivity, or at least my personal interpretation of positivity.

Sharing a positive day with friends

For me, positivity is a choice which means that I choose to focus more on the good things which happen in my life than on the bad things. A simple example might be to tell you about my horses. My younger girl, Luna who is the daughter of my first horse Judy, was going to be my show pony and I had lots planned for her. She was backed quite late and was showing a lot of promise however, she damaged tendons in her off hind when she was about 8 and hasn’t been ridden since. I was upset, disappointed and shed a lot of tears at the time but after the initial sadness I started to think more positively in that I had another horse to ride, Luna was paddock sound and could live a good life with me and I was in a position to adjust my plans and concentrate on different things.

I believe that a positive person will understand and accept that bad things do happen in life but will have a deep seated belief that they will take these events in their stride and work through them.

A positive person understands that it is absolutely normal to sometimes feel anxious, sad, lonely or angry and that these negative emotions are simply part of being a human being. A positive person won’t define themselves by the challenges in their lives, in contrast they will be prepared to learn from them and, in fact, almost welcome them as opportunities to learn and develop. A positive person will approach a new experience believing that they will enjoy it, learn from it and tackle it with energy and self belief.

A couple of years ago I was on a day out, a few things went wrong that day and I found myself listening to the conversations going on around me and the language people were using to describe the day. I wrote a blog post about it which you can find here “Was it Really a Disaster?
This short post shows how some people choose to focus on the few negative things which happen and to magnify them while others to focus on all of the many good things which happen.

I believe that it’s important to be careful about attaching labels to oneself as we do believe what we tell ourselves. So do take care to avoid describing yourself as a “nervous rider” or an “unlucky person” and instead, make a decision to work towards positively expanding your comfort zone so that you develop more and more situations where any nervousness you experience becomes manageable.

A truly positive rider will understand that they can learn from mistakes and again, will make a positive decision not to focus entirely on the errors which they make. This positive rider will be realistic in understanding that certain things will always be outside their control and will choose to focus on those things within their control and perform to the best of their ability according to their experience and that of their horse.

If someone has a significant mental health issue all of this can be a much greater challenge. Please do be aware of friends and family who may find it extra hard to live a positive life and offer to help if you can or encourage them to seek professional help if necessary.

In summary, I believe that positivity is a choice where we choose to focus on the good things in our lives, accept that unwanted things can happen, but know that when they do we have the inner resources to handle them or know that we can seek outside help when necessary.

Three Favourite Positivity Boosters

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I have recently completed a month of daily, social media, positivity boosting posts and promised to expand on a few of my favourites so here goes….

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?

We rode up and down these mountains, they were pretty steep but a lot of fun!

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.

Georgina’s Story

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I do enjoy a good collaboration with fellow equestrian professionals so when the chance came to invite Georgina Bull to share her story, I jumped at it, especially once I heard that she had worked hard to overcome confidence issues and regain her enjoyment of riding. Here is ‘GEORGINA’S STORY……’

Georgina is a registered Osteopath in the UK who, alongside treating horses and humans, takes a special interest in the relationship between how horse and rider move together. A rider herself, owning 2 horses and competing in Endurance riding, she has worked with the Team GBR Elite Endurance Squad travelling with the riders to European and World class competitions. Georgina runs her own clinic in Northamptonshire and regularly runs rider biomechanics workshops. You can find Georgina on FaceBook as well.

Georgina having fun on the water!

I remember being like every typical horse mad kid, I couldn’t wait to ride every time I got the opportunity and rode my bike dreaming it was a horse! At 15, I was doing routine chores for a private stable and being allowed to ride in return. They had beautiful horses, but one day things didn’t quite go to plan.

That fateful day saw me get on a huge, 17.1hh plus dark bay mare, who I was riding in a dressage saddle. Needless to say, I couldn’t reach her girth to do it up, and when her saddle slipped, she took off bucking and I landed on the floor. I remember thinking I was dead, until I realised thankfully, I wasn’t, I’d just badly broken my shoulder. 

Whilst I was in hospital, I said to my mother I wasn’t going to ride again. She insisted I got rid of all horse related stuff, and I couldn’t bear that thought, so I made sure I’d ride again when I could. After having my shoulder fixed in an operation, I then didn’t get a chance to ride for several months. When I was invited to ride a friend’s confidence giving gentle mare, I was an absolute wobbling, nervous wreck. 

My confidence took a huge beating and for many years I rode at home myself but never dared even consider hacking or competing, it was totally outside of my comfort zone. I regularly went out and helped various friends as a groom whilst secretly longing to actually be riding myself. That longing never went away and I visited a variety of confidence clinics and hypnotherapists to try and help myself.

I was so frustrated at myself for getting so stressed at something so simple as just hacking out but when I moved my mare to a different location 5 years ago, I realised I was making excuses for myself. I had no other facilities to ride other than a bridleway and initially hacked out on a lead rein with a foot soldier with me, after riding my whole life! I very quickly discovered that nothing went wrong and was supremely proud of my achievement of hacking for 20 minutes with a friend on her horse one day! 

I owe a lot to my mare, she taught me to trust her and she taught me that whatever happens, I can do it and she will look after me. She has been wonderful and with her quiet insistence that we go and investigate this clump of grass, or that tasty thing over there I began to start hacking confidently, even if only in walk and trot! When I found myself in the position of buying an Arab, I never believed I would be good enough for him, but the joy that he also brings me is humbling. 

With some key breathing techniques and the help of a wonderful group of friends who helped encourage me to stretch my comfort zone and test my limits I found myself riding further until they set me the challenge of actually entering an endurance ride. Back came ALL of those worries I thought I was overcoming. The day of the ride I literally couldn’t function thanks to nerves but again, they told me to breath and take it step by step, at my own pace. It may not have been fast, but I completed it against lots of odds and I’m still elated 4 months later! I know I still have a long way to go, and have to work at my confidence each time I ride but the smile it gives me to look at the ride pictures never goes away, and the love I have for my horses just gets more each time I ride.

Georgina is now able to enjoy her beautiful horse.

Review of the Year 2019

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2019 was a special year for Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland as we celebrated fifteen years of working with riders to help them with confidence and mindset issues.

The year began with some lovely coverage in the Scottish Farmer magazine and ended with being invited to contribute to the ‘Ask the Expert’ feature for three consecutive months in Horse and Rider magazine.

From The Scottish Farmer Magazine

I have continued to work mainly with individual riders on a 1:1 basis and this work has been steady right throughout the year. Clients have come with a variety of riding related issues. Client confidentiality means that I can’t tell you much about them but one client, in particular, was kind enough to go public with her story and this was published as a guest blog earlier in the year.
Here is a link to Jennifer’s Story

Each client is different with individual experiences and goals and I really do love meeting each and every one of them. Preparing for a first session with a new client is very exciting, wondering what will they have to say and what has been going on which has led to them contacting me.

I have continued to work alongside trainers and coaches, giving talks at camps and workshops. As well as continuing to deliver some talks at the Equiteam camps at Lindores, April brought a Spring Confidence Boost workshop at Muirmill Equestrian in Ayrshire with Julia Kerr from Coaching 4 Confidence a fun and successful evening .

The Summer months saw me venturing south of the border into Cumbria for a series of talks at the Dannii Little Confidence camps at Greenlands Equestrian. These are great fun, an easy drive from Dollar to near Carlisle and we already have a date in the diary to return in 2020.

Each year I have a commitment to continuing to learn and, amongst other things, I enjoyed attending the Scottish Hypnotherapy Foundation annual conference. This was an opportunity to network with other hypnotherapist and to learn from the presenters who gave interesting and stimulating talks. I have subsequently been accepted to join this organisation and look forward to learning more from them in 2020. There have also been regular meetings with my supervisor which give me an opportunity to discuss, in confidence, any concerns from a professional point of view.

With two retired ponies of my own I continue to find opportunities to ride when and where I can. Regular lessons at Kilgraston Equestrian keep me learning masses from the great coaches there. February brought a fab ride up in Kingussie and then there were lots of rides over the Summer, closer to home, on the Exmoor Ponies owned by the vet school from Edinburgh. I have booked a super exciting riding holiday for 2020, I’ll tell you more about that in the New Year.

On a personal note 2019 has been tinged with sadness as we said goodbye to my lovely mother-in-law in September. We miss her greatly but were privileged to have her in our lives for so long, she would have been 98 just a few weeks after she passed away. When she was fitter she regularly joined us in Dollar for Christmas, so her absence is felt especially at this time of year.

Nancy Wall my mother-in-law

So, as Christmas approaches and 2019 draws to a close I would just like to thank all of my clients and the coaches I have worked with this year. It means so much to me that you are prepared to put your trust in me and allow me to help you to fulfil your goals and overcome your fears. Thank you and MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY 2020.

Tiger the Therapy Cat