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“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces in her steps” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre.

Today the sun is shining brightly, it’s warm with that familiar Scottish chill in the air and a couple of layers of clothes are still needed. On my usual lunchtime dog walk I took a few pictures of tree buds ready to burst open and new leaves about to unfurl. Spring isn’t usually in too much of a rush to arrive in this part of the world.

Rowan leaves opening in the sunshine.

When we’re in full winter we often yearn for the longer days and warmer sunshine of spring to arrive and the same could be said for our longings when things aren’t going as we wish with our horse riding or any other area of our lives. In the winter we might wish that things were better or different and as spring arrives hope increases, positivity grows and, just like the leaves unfurling on the trees, opportunities begin to appear. Sometimes our, metaphorical, spring comes quickly and at other times it might feel as though it will never arrive.

My job at Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland is to help you to find your spring when you’re struggling to see it and feel that you’re stuck in your winter season. What a joy it is to help someone to open their eyes to the spring which wasn’t too far away but they were just unable to grasp it or it was just beyond their awareness.

My promise to you is to help you to find your very own spring, whatever that means to you, to assist you to find solutions which are sustainable and which can be used in all sorts of situations and to overcome all sorts of challenges. Working together we will work out what is going on and come up with a plan of how to move forward. Drawing from my training and fifteen years of experience of working with horse riders I have a varied and extensive tool box which I can share with you.

I don’t offer you a quick fix, magical solution which will make all your problems vanish in only one session. However, what does come quickly for you is a renewed sense of springlike optimism that things can and will change for the better. Over the last fifteen years clients have had an average of four 1:1 sessions and for every average number there are some who have needed just one or two and others who have had many more. My aim is always to help you to help yourself to regain your enjoyment of riding and be in a position to achieve your goals whatever level you are riding at or aiming towards. Some, but not all, clients will have hypnotherapy and this can often speed up the process by accessing the unconscious mind and helping you to use the inner strengths which you may have been unaware that you had.

So, as the spring always follows the winter, changes will come for you too. Perhaps your spring will arrive more quickly than you expected or perhaps it will take a little longer than you hoped but changes will occur and, working together, we will make sure that those changes are the one you are searching for.

The larch trees are greening up nicely and have these delicate pink flowers.

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I have been thinking of perfection quite a lot recently and wondering about the best approach in writing this piece. I do a lot of my thinking whilst dog walking and today decided it was the right time to sit down put together my thoughts and share them with you. So, I have decided to look at perfection from two points of view, firstly those perfect moments which we experience without consciously going looking for them and secondly consciously striving for perfection and how that might affect us.

This isn’t the place for a philosophical discussion on the meaning of perfection or even its existence, many Phd theses have probably been written on this subject and, I suspect, haven’t come to a definitive conclusion. Simple definitions of “perfection” are “The state or quality of being perfect” or “The action or process of improving something until it is faultless”. Each of us will have our own idea of what we find perfect, no doubt you have heard a friend describe a partner, or a horse, as being “perfect in every way” and you have (privately I hope!) thought “no thanks, not for me”!!

I know that I have experienced “perfect” days which have been memorable for many reasons. Could they have been different? Definitely. Could they have been better? Perhaps. Does that make those memories any less perfect? I don’t think so.

Two “perfect” riding memories spring to mind. One was quite a few years ago riding in a large group in Glen Tilt on my young Highland Pony. We were cantering along the river side and suddenly, for a moment, I felt like I was flying. I realised that Gigha had just effortlessly cleared a stream and for a moment I actually was flying. I was totally in the moment and therefore didn’t interfere with her in any way. A perfect memory which brings a smile every time I think of it. Another rider may have not enjoyed that moment, may have ridden it differently but for me it was perfect.


The above perfect moment was riding Gigha, the yellow dun on the right here.

My more recent memory of perfection was during a lesson on a youngish horse who can be a little bit bouncy and I find the canter transition a bit of a challenge. This one time, the coach was chatting to my friend and I asked my horse for canter and gave a loud “woop” as we executed the transition “perfectly”. Nobody else saw it but they knew from my reaction that it had been good. Could another rider have ridden it in a more balanced way, more accurately or “better”? Quite probably, but for me at that moment in time it felt perfect and at that moment, on that day I don’t think it could have been any better for me so therefore it was “perfect”.

The above moment was experienced through these ears.


These moments to treasure are, really simply that.  Memories of special occasions and experiences which in our subjective opinion were pretty well perfect.

,This is very different to the perfection which some people strive to achieve in their lives, whether as riders, in a different sport or any part of their life.  This type of perfection is actively sought after and worked towards.  For some time I have been encouraging clients to find a word other than “perfect’ to describe what they are looking for, believing that constantly looking for perfection isn’t helpful.  However, I have changed (or am changing) my opinion.  I think this change has been partly influenced by watching the film “Free Solo” where rock climber Alex Honnold tackles the 900m rock face of El Capitan without ropes or any other form of protection.  He works towards this feat meticulously with multiple rehearsals of the most challenging parts of the climb and many years of experience leading up to this.  He literally needs to be without error because the consequence of making a mistake is certain death and he achieves his goal saying that, for him, the risks on the day were minimal but the consequences of failure were ultimate.  But was it perfect?  Could he have done it differently?  I can’t answer those questions but I know that he did it as well as he possibly could have done on that day and survived to tell the tale.

Asking for people’s opinion on perfection via FaceBook I got some interesting answers.  Sari M said in answer to the question “Do you consider yourself to be a perfectionist?”  “Yes, or at least, I used to be. It was quite overwhelming to realise the amount of nuance available in horsemanship, how many tiny things there are to improve on, and as a perfectionist it felt like nothing I did could ever attain perfection. I’ve since come to realise that it’s more about the journey than the finished product!”

To the same question Nicola K said “I used to be… certainly striving for perfection with myself as a rider, which naturally resulted in ‘over trying’, tightness and tension … of course these passed onto the horse! These days I’m grateful for the brief rides I fit in, but the perfection days taught amazing control and I miss the precision”.

Susan C said “Totally relate to this sometimes striving for perfection gets in the way of actually doing what I should be doing and remembering what’s it’s all about ‘HAVING FUN’ “

If you are a rider who takes competition seriously and is aiming to be the very best that you can be then perfection needs to be thought about and carefully considered whilst at the same time asking yourself what “perfect” really means to you.  For example has your ride been perfect if you achieve a clear round?  Well, yes on the score board with zero faults but could it have been ridden differently?  Probably.  Were there aspects of the round which , if you could do it again, you would choose to ride differently?  Does it matter to you?

Thinking of dressage or showing where your result or your placing is down to the opinion of the judge rather than clearing fences then perfection is most definitely subjective.  In a competition with more than one judge then you will get more than one opinion or score for each part of the test.

So to strive for ‘perfection” can be a risky strategy as it could lead to dissatisfaction.  But, NOT to strive for perfection could lead to failing to continue to make progress, failing to get better and I doubt that you would want that.

I think that the key lies in being aware of what your goals are, recognising your strengths and acknowledging your challenges.  If you do that then you can constantly try to build on your strengths, work towards overcoming your challenges, develop your technique and your horse’s skills so that, as a partnership, you are always developing.

If you are striving to be the very best the you can be then I think that is something to be truly proud of.  If the very best you can be is considered by you, your coach, the judge and the course officials to be excellent then I really do hope that you can enjoy that and strive to experience it each time you compete.  Is that perfect?  Only you can decide whether the answer is yes or no. (In this context I think “excellence” is being as good, and correct, as you can possibly be given your levels of skill and experience).

I think ultimately the best way to look at perfectionism is to CONSTANTLY STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE AND ENJOY MOMENTS OF PERFECTION ALONG THE WAY.  In this short video we can see Horse riding with Confidence Scotland sponsored rider, Jodie Neill enjoying a moment of perfection whilst constantly striving for excellence.

I would love to hear any feedback on these thoughts and ideas and if you have any experiences of perfect moments or achieving excellence then please do share them if you feel comfortable doing so.

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I am delighted to be able to share with you a small collaboration with Katie Foulser of Yellow Cob Dressage  .Katie and I looked at how we could collaborate and decided to do a Q&A for each other and also invite a few questions from the public via social media pages which we could both answer. 


So this is what we came up with……


My questions for Katie and Katie’s replies were:

 Katie and Tess


1. I’d love to hear about your riding experience. Can you tell me a bit about what you enjoy doing?

I started riding when I was 5 years old and rode till I was about 17. I did pony club and unaffiliated local shows.

I got back into horses when I was about 29 and now I don’t know what I did with my time during that break !

I have owned Tess since 2016, my friend saw her at Goresbridge sales in Ireland – I fell in love and a few days later I tracked Tess down at a dealer in derby and bought her. Tess was green in her schooling and we have been focusing on dressage.

For the first time in my life at 35 – I have started affiliated dressage with Tess. This is something I thought I would never do and has been such a massive achievement for me.

2. You say that you’ve had some confidence issues. Can you tell me a bit about that and how it came about?

I had a bit of a run of bad luck with horses and after a few accidents on my previous horse I had just lost all my nerve.

Outside of horses, I am quite an introvert and don’t have the best self esteem so as soon as my horse confidence began to take knocks, I just found it really hard to get it all back in balance.

When I got Tess I was terrified to canter in the arena, it took me months to hack her in company only and I would cry before and during the hack and didn’t want to go faster than trot. I would get scared as soon as Tess got worried about anything and would freeze and become a passenger.

It was only in the last year I started hacking her alone. 

3. I’d love to hear about what you have done to help yourself with your confidence. How do you deal with this?

I have had supportive friends which has helped. I also had the biggest determination to want to overcome it.

Apart from work – riding is the only thing I do so I wanted so badly to be able to move past the fear and into a positive place.

I broke down everything into small steps, worked hard to not give myself a hard time if I had a bad day & to celebrate achievements however small.

I also found planning my riding each day or week helped. I would visualise positive rides and worked on a positive mindset. I read a lot about this and found Olivia Towers social media really helpful.

Last year my friends clubbed together and got me a rider confidence course voucher and this was the catalyst that pushed me strides forward.

I have worked for a mental health charity for 14 years and I took some of the tools and techniques from this to apply to my lack of confidence in riding.

4. I Know that you’re a blogger, can you tell me how you got into blogging?

I found I was posting lots of daily updates on my personal page and then when I got my first sponsored rider opportunity with Equimind online shows – I decided to create a Facebook page to blog our journey on.

I was determined that this would be completely honest, open account of our riding journey and although that can be hard to do, I’ve kept to that ever since.

I think people are very quick to always post social media content that portrays themselves / their lives as being perfect all the time and that isn’t reality so I wanted to avoid this and in turn help others who may have some of the same struggles.

We now have Instagram and Twitter as well and I try to do vlogs as well especially when we go to competitions.

5. What are your riding and blogging goals for 2019? I’d love to hear about them.

Unfortunately Tess went lame before Christmas so I’m not entirely sure what this year will bring. However our goals were:

1. Qualify for our first ever Pet Plan area festivals and attend with my best friend and her horse – this will be a first for us all.

2. Qualify for the TGCA cob championships and attend this.

3. Get into the top 15 leaderboard for MyQuest and go to the Myquest regionals.

4. Progress to novice level.

5. Enjoy Tess, learn new things and have fun


Katie’s questions for me and my replies:

 Jane riding Charlie at Kilgraston Equestrian

1. Tell me more about what you offer at Riding Confidence Scotland

Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland started in 2004 in response to an awareness that many riders had confidence issues which were spoiling their enjoyment of this wonderful sport.

I had been studying hypnotherapy and psychotherapy and realised that what I was learning could be applied to these riders.

The core of my business is 1:1 sessions with clients where we can work together to find out what is going on and how best to help the rider sort it out by using her mind in a helpful rather than an unhelpful way.

Hypnosis is often used to back up the things we talk about and help the rider make the changes needed at an unconscious level.

I help the rider to develop a “tool box” of ideas to use in different situations which will help them to achieve their goals and overcome anxiety. These riders may be novices or very experienced competitors. Anxiety can arise at any stage of life and experience.

I also do talks to all sorts of different groups: Pony Clubs, Riding Clubs, Yards and at camps etc. Working with riding coaches or trainers I run workshops and clinics where we can combine my psychological approach with ridden work and this is a growing area of my business.

Also on offer are phone or Skype/faceTime sessions for people who live too far away to travel and these are becoming increasingly popular.

2.What is your own riding experience ?

 I first learned to ride when I lived in Germany as a child. Riding, what I now realise, were dressage school masters though I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing at the time!! I gave up after too many experiences on “Rex the Rearer!”

Then I just rode occasionally for years until starting again as an adult.

I bought my first horse with some money I got unexpectedly, a Highland Pony mare and fell in love with this versatile breed, going on to breed a foal from her and buy another youngster. So I have owned and ridden Highlands now for over 20 years. The two I have now are both retired unsound and will spend the rest of their lives with me here at home.

After thinking I had given up riding I started to get the itch again and now ride regularly at an equestrian centre which offers great teaching on lovely well schooled horses. To be honest I feel like I am finally learning to ride properly and I am loving it.

3. What things / themes do you find at the most common fears in riders ?

All riders are different and come with their own experiences and challenges. However, the vast majority of them come with anxiety in one form or another.

Perhaps the most common fears are being affected by a previous negative experience and/or imagining that “something” bad will happen that they won’t be able to deal with. Both of these result in the rider often becoming stuck their comfort zone, perhaps even avoiding riding at all and definitely not enjoying themselves as much as they could.

I like nothing better than a rider telling me, with a huge smile on their face, that thy have done something on horseback that they thought they would never do again such as jumping over a certain height or going for a hack on their own.

4.If you could offer just 1 tip to riders to improve their confidence and mindset what would this be ?

I think my top tip is to learn to ride “in the moment”.

If you remember that if your horse is going in the direction of your choice at the pace of your choice at any moment in time then everything is OK then you have a great skill to help you in any situation.

This means that you aren’t focused on the past or on an imagined future but on what is happening right now.

5. How can riders manage competition fear ?

Competition fear can come from many directions such as the fear of being out of your comfort zone, the fear of being judged, the fear of not being perfect or the fear of getting hurt.

If a rider makes sure they are well prepared for what thy are asking themselves to do they will be more comfortable getting out and about.

Though perhaps the most important thing is to accept that being anxious sometimes is perfectly normal in a competitive situation. When a rider puts a lot of pressure on herself that she mustn’t be anxious then it can make the anxiety much worse. If she accepts it, learns to re-frame it as excitement and use it to prepare her to get out there and have some fun then things can seem much better pretty quickly.

After asking each other questions we both then gave separate replies to those we had received via social media.  So here are the questions followed by each of our answers.


1 – Ellie from Facebook “Heart going like the absolute clappers when getting on after my bad accident, improving but still get the shakes if I don’t do it regularly.”

Jane’s Answer:

Hi Ellie,

thanks for your question.

You tell us that you’ve had a bad accident and I’m glad that you have recovered and are riding again though you are continuing to struggle with some ongoing anxiety.

This isn’t surprising at all after an accident but there are definitely lots of ways to help you.

There is an excellent technique called a re-wind which I use frequently following trauma and it can be extremely useful. It is a way of separating emotion from memory and allowing you to learn what you need to from what happened but it no longer having a negative effect on you in the here and now. This is best done 1:1 so you would need to find someone who is qualified in this technique and close enough for you to see.

In the meantime accepting that it’s OK to feel some nervousness can lessen the power of the anxiety and help you begin to have some control over it. Remember that the symptoms of anxiety aren’t a predictor of anything bad happening they are simply sensations brought on by the normal reaction to perceived threat. So when you experience them try reminding yourself that it is only a feeling and perfectly understandable.

If you can learn to ride “in the moment” then this will help you to avoid thinking about the past and trying to predict the future and combine this with some breathing exercises and physical relaxation.

The most simple breathing technique is to make your out breath twice as long as your in breath – this is extremely easy to do and very calming. I like to breath in to the count of 3 and out to the count of 6 but it’s best to find your own rhythm.

Give it a try and see how you get on. Best wishes Jane.

Katie says – It can be extremely difficult to overcome confidence when it stems from a bad accident.  This is because the part of our brain called the “amygdala” senses perceived or actual danger, it makes a split second decision and begins flight response. This amygdala or primitive brain be triggered when you are about to do the same activity e.g riding that happened when you had an accident. When this primitive brain kicks in another part of you brain the cortex is shut down therefore making it hard for you to think clearly problem solve and concentrate.

Some tools that can help overcome this can be undertaking a thinking / speaking activity when your start to do something that may make you anxious e.g when getting on. The type of activity could be counting out-loud, reciting song lyrics. This will help prevent your primitive brain from taking over because your intellectual thinking brain is in control.

Other techniques that may help could be lessons, mindfulness, focussing on the fact that you rode many other times this week or month with no issue and celebrating your successes.

I also found it’s important to not focus on or give yourself a hard time about rides where it hasn’t gone so well and just move onto the next time without dwelling.

2 – Clare from Facebook “I still have confidence issues with Crown and avoid riding him as always picture him bolting off with me which stems from an accident I had riding him. I’m like a nervous wreck and would love to know if there is any way to over come this ? 

Jane’s Answer

Hi Clare

Thanks for your question. From what you tell us it sounds as though your imagination is definitely not helping you and there are some great ways that you can turn this around so that you can begin to think in a more helpful way.

Learning some visualisation techniques will help you to mentally rehearse riding in a more positive way. If you begin by using a word like “STOP” when you get these negative images and then imagining a bright white light then that will break the imagined scene of bolting. Then replace with images of riding as you would wish to ride. If you use all of your senses then this can be so real that you genuinely feel you are on horseback and is very powerful.

Combine this with calming breathing techniques as described to Ellie so that when you’re ready to ride you have a much more helpful mindset.

I would suggest it might be good to have someone with you to help and to just stretch out of your comfort zone in small steps as you regain comfort and confidence with your riding.

Let us know how you get on.

Katie says – it can be really difficult to get over fears when they come from a bad experience.

I would suggest getting some lessons with a really confidence giving instructor who is sympathetic who can boost you up.

It may also help to watch someone else ride Crown so you can see how he is being and made a plan about how to go from there.

Goal setting and breaking things down into steps can be extremely useful – set really small goals that are realistic and so that each time you feel you are achieving something. For example your first ride could involve simply getting on and riding a circle in walk only. The next ride could be two laps in walk etc.

Visualisation may also help you prepare for a ride thinking of positive thoughts and focussing on how you will feel during the ride and afterwards.

3. Dan from Twitter “Hey, confidence questions… I have a relatively green horse, and in the past we have had a couple of big moments and a very painful (but innocuous looking) fall. I want to progress but am crippled with self doubt. Any tips?

Jane’s Answer

Hi Dan

Thanks for your question.

Your doubts are understandable following your falls and now that you’re riding an inexperienced horse.

One difficult question I always ask people is whether they have the skills and experience to ride the horse they have at the moment.

Presuming that is the case then there are ways to help you to move forward.

Remember that you believe what you tell yourself and therefore you might begin by identifying what you are saying to yourself about your riding and start to look at how you can change that. So, perhaps you are telling yourself that you aren’t good enough and could change that to something like “I have the experience to ride this horse and am prepared to seek the help I need to regain my confidence and gradually regain comfort on horseback so that i can enjoy riding.”

Learning to ride “in the moment” is extremely useful so that you aren’t recalling the past or predicting the future but simple focussing on what your horse is doing at any moment in time. Just gradually stretch out of your comfort zone and avoid putting yourself in situations which you aren’t ready for yet.

An empathetic coach will be able to help you with this.

Let us know how things progress for you.

Katie says – Self doubt can be extremely difficult to deal with.

It may be useful to write down your doubts and then write a positive response to these to show yourself that these doubts are not founded in reality.

Are you having lessons with a sympathetic instructor you can relate to ? This can really help remove self doubt by having positive reinforcement about what you think you are not doing well. If this isn’t possible or as well as – could a friend watch you ride and help you counteract these thoughts as they pop up?

Reading about positive mindset may also be of use to you to help you train yourself to approach things with a positive viewpoint.

In addition goal setting to help you move towards constructive incremental small achievements – by accomplishing these each time this will counteract doubts you have about yourself.

4 – Rebecca from Facebook “ I always picture terrible things happening and it stops me from riding. I do have a horse that bucks but apart from that she has given me no reason for nerves. Very frustrating.”

Jane’s Answer

Hi Rebecca

Thanks for your question.

You might be able to see from Clare’s question that you aren’t alone in having an imagination which isn’t helpful. We call this “awfulising” or “catastrophising” where your imagination is thinking of a negative outcome where things go badly wrong. No wonder you are worried about riding.

If you check back to my answer to Clare then the visualisation exercise I described to her can apply to you.

I wonder if there is a reason why your horse is bucking? It’s always important to rule out any physical causes for unwanted behaviour and please do get this checked out if you haven’t already done that.

On a positive note it sounds as though you are coping with the bucking so I guess you have a strong seat and core which is helping you to do that?

A useful confidence building exercise is to do a short analysis at the end of a ride. Look at what went well and be pleased about that. Look at what challenged you and why so that you can learn from mistakes and finish on a reminder of what went well. I hazard a guess that in the majority of rides there is more good than bad?

In the meantime do think about some lessons or coaching from a suitably qualified person who will help you identify what’s going on and why.

Let us know how things progress.

Katie says – Having pictures in your mind of terrible things can be really debilitating.

You say that your horse has not given you any reason for this but she does buck. Is this a worry for you on some level ? Assuming you have ruled out all physical / tack issues for the bucking – do you know when she is likely to do this? Can you push her through this ?

I found that instead of allowing myself to picture bad things that could happen I thought about all the rides I’ve done where nothing bad happened, in fact good things happened. I then would visualise what the ride I was going to do that day would look like to help me turn my thoughts prior to riding into positive ones.

It may be useful to start with small steps / ride for a short period of time or do the thing you enjoy best when riding in order to help push those negative pictures out of the way.

5 – Paula from Facebook “I absolutely love XC but totally poo myself and feel sick because I don’t feel very good at jumping. My horse can jump but I don’t think I help him because I’m nervous. When I do actually do it I’m buzzing.”

Jane’s Answer:

Hi Paula

Thanks for your question.

The symptoms you describe are very common and a result of the hormone cocktail surging around your body as it perceives a potentially challenging situation. Recognising and understanding what’s going on can often help relieve the symptoms.

Make sure you give you self plenty of time to warm up so that you aren’t rushing at the last minute and adding to the stress. having someone with you to help can be useful too as long as they are a calming influence and aren’t winding you up!

You say that you get a huge buzz from eventing so when you are warming up do remind yourself of how amazing you’re going to feel afterwards and focus on that rather than convincing yourself that you’re terrified and something bad is going to happen.

I wonder why you feel that you aren’t good at jumping? What’s the evidence for that? Is it due to lack of experience or lack of technique or is it just something that you are telling yourself? Whatever the reason you can change this by practising until your technique improves or having some coaching. We all have to learn and progress at different rates and it’s important to make sure we aren’t comparing ourselves constantly to others who we perceive as being “better” than us.

So have a think about what’s actually going on with your jumping and find where the areas for improvement are, set some goals and work towards the coming season and look forward to experiencing that buzz again before too long.

Do let us know how you get on.

Katie says – Although you say you feel conflicting feelings about XC it sounds like overall the feelings are really positive.

It is normal to have some fear and anxiety when competing as this helps us have a competitive edge and its human nature to want to do well.

You say you feel you don’t help him – are you having lessons to help you with this ? Does your instructor agree with you ? It may be that you are being too hard on yourself ? Could you have some XC lessons to help build up your confidence and reiterate to yourself what you are doing well.

That feeling you get of buzzing at the end sounds amazing – can you focus on that feeling before you go round and this will help you change your mindset before hand into a positive one.

6 – Louise from Facebook “I feel sick every time I ride my big lad following a fall. I talk myself out of riding him x”

Jane’s Answer

Hi Louise,

Thanks for your question.

It’s perfectly understandable that you have concerns riding after having had an accident and as you will see from the answers to some of the other questions you definitely aren’t alone in this feeling.

If you look at my answer to Ellie’s question you will see that I talk about a technique which I frequently use called a re-wind. This might be something that you would also benefit from and you might like to investigate if there is anyone in your area who can help you with this.

Also the sickness you’re feeling is another common symptom and is simply a result of all those hormones in your body working on overdrive! If you’re interested to find out more about the Neuro-psychology of anxiety then I have a blog planned on the subject for later in the year.

If your anxiety is causing you to avoid riding your horse but you really want to ride then I suggest that you plan some easily achievable goals, recruit help from a coach or a trusted friend and work on a gradual desensitisation from where you are now to being able to enjoy riding once more.

Taking things at your own pace and starting with less challenging goals. Your comfort zone will expand and things you are worried about doing now will once again become enjoyable.

Let us know how you get on.

Katie says – It can be difficult when anxiety makes you feel sick but it is understandable that this can happen after a bad fall.

It may be helpful to plan your riding and set goals for yourself for a ride and keep the first few rides short and positive so you can replace the negative thoughts. This could involve literally getting on riding a lap and getting off again so it’s building positive reinforcement of good riding experiences and increase this a little every time.

Visualising a positive ride and how it will feel can help develop a more positive mindset.

When you get on your horse it may help to focus on the here and now and immediately give yourself a distraction from the fears.

Perhaps go for a hack with a friend and talk about a tv series or how your week has been to take your focus away from negative feelings.

When you have had a good ride no matter how small this may seem celebrate this achievement, think about how it made you feel during and afterwards and aim to create this same feeling and mindset each time you ride.


Katie and I hope you’ve enjoyed this Q&A post and would love to receive any feedback you may have. Thanks for taking the time to read this.


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As we approach Christmas and 2018 draws to a close I thought it was a good time to review the year for Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland.

I have enjoyed the work I’ve done in 2018 enormously, have met some wonderful and inspiring people, made connections in some new areas of Scotland and have attended several courses and workshops.

As always, the core of my business is 1:1 clients who I see here in Dollar.  The  majority of these clients come for help with a riding related issue with only about 18% of this year’s new clients having a non-riding issue.  I’ve seen a few school age riders and the age of clients has ranged from 10yrs up to well over 60yrs showing, once again, that anxiety can challenge us at any age and stage of our lives and riding careers.  Riding issues have generally been anxiety related and most of the clients have been pleasure riders or those wishing to compete for fun.

It has been gratifying that I am seeing an increasing number of people make 1:1 appointments after having been to one of the talks or workshops I have been involved with and word of mouth or social media have been the way clients have found out about the work I do and the service I offer.

Talks held this year have involved a few trips to the west of Scotland and I have enjoyed collaborating with both yard owners, riding clubs and other professionals in the equestrian business.  At the end of February I travelled to Wemyshill in Lanarkshire, in  April to Sunnyside Equestrian near East Kilbride and in June to Lochgilphead to talk to the members of Argyll RC. Wemyshill Equestrian

 Sunnyside Equestrian with Lauren Semple of Equestrian Fitness Scotland

I am thrilled to continue to be involved with the amazing work done by Equiteam Confidence Camps held at Lindores in Fife and have attended numerous camps and day experiences throughout the Summer months to talk to the riders and offer them help, advice and support with the mindset side of riding and confidence boosting motivation.  Plans are afoot to develop this work and bring in some new ideas and content for 2019 camps.

 Day Camp at Lindores with Equiteam

In October, together with Anne Currie Horsemanship, we held our fourth “Ride in Harmony with your Mind” day workshop.  These days offer the opportunity for riders to bring along their own horses, to hire a RDA horse for the day or to come as non-riding participants.  This year’s workshop went very well and will hopefully we will run another similar workshop together next year.  The facilities available at Sandyflat RDA are fantastic and the staff there are hugely supportive and helpful.

 Ride with Harmony in your Mind Workshop

 Ride with Harmony in your Mind Workshop


As always, I am committed to continuous professional development and have attended several workshops on sport psychology as well as an update on some hypnosis techniques and a major certificate in Timeline Therapy which I did in the Autumn.

I continue to work with some riders on a sponsorship basis and love this aspect of my work.  Eventer Jodie Neill has had a successful year moving up to 2* on her gorgeous horse Clover with lots to look forward to for 2019.   I have just recently taken on another sponsored rider, Jodie Campbell who competes in dressage and showing and we are both excited to see what 2019 brings for Jodie and her horses.   The sponsorship of the young riders of Team KA came to a natural end with riders moving and the yard developing a new focus but I enjoyed the work I had done with the team.

On a personal level 2018 has been a year of highs and lows.  I continue to enjoy the riding I do at Kilgraston equestrian now that my own horses are retired and we had a fantastic safari holiday to Botswana in July but we also said goodbye this year to my wonderful father who would have been 88 on Christmas Eve and have had to help my lovely mother to settle into a care home in Newcastle.  We all miss Dad enormously but are grateful for his long life and I dedicate the work I have done this year to him.



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Any of you who follow my social media pages, or know me well, will be aware that I am a great believer in CPD (Continuing Professional Development).  In fact both of the organisations I am registered with demand that I keep a CPD record and commit to attending courses, study days, reading and learning in order to continue my registration.

Each year I make sure that I attend study days and lectures where possible and find that doing this keeps me interested and stimulated and allows me to offer my clients the best possible care and therapy that I can.  It had been a while since I had completed any form of new certification or learned any specific new techniques to add to my tool box so this year I was on the lookout for something suitable.

Then I came across Tracey Cole, in a Facebook group I’m a member of, and I liked the look of what she does.  Tracey and I chatted a bit online and I realised that she most definitely could provide me with the training I was looking for.  We both offer a similar service to our clients which  I saw as a good thing, as the training would also give an opportunity to compare notes and chat about our approaches and experiences.  Fortunately the timing was good as Tracey was running a course which included Time Line Therapy ® and I was able to attend purely for this element of the full course.

So, last week I headed off to Staffordshire which is a new part of the country for me.  I did go to a 21st birthday party in deepest rural Staffs many years ago but that is another story and I can remember very little about it!!!  I decided to go by train and had a pleasant journey down even though it involved several changes.  I did have to do a little bit of therapy on myself en route when I realised that I had left my mobile behind and had no phone or internet access – EEK, DON’T PANIC!  It wasn’t a disaster and I just asked a couple of random people if I could borrow their phone and without exception they were kind and generous and I managed to get messages through to people who needed to know where I was and what was happening.

I spent a lovely couple of days studying, having fun, making friends and talking about horses and came away with a certification as a Practitioner of Time Line Therapy ®.

The course was held in a lovely cottage on a livery yard in rural Staffordshire, we also stayed in the cottage which was warm, homely and had beautiful views over the surrounding countryside.  Tracey is a wonderful teacher and delivered the coursework in a relaxed but stimulating manner.  There were lots of opportunities to practice the techniques on each other and we had a lot of fun and some interesting insights whilst doing so.

You’re probably still wondering what this new therapy is as you may not have heard of it before.  Time Line Therapy ® is a powerful therapeutic process derived from NLP and using aspects of hypnotherapy so right up my street in therapeutic terms.  I couldn’t wait to get started.   The process was developed by Tad James  

in the 1980’s and is based on the concept that the unconscious stores our memories in a linear way, like a metaphorical timeline.  Using a variety of techniques the therapist will help the client to let go of negative emotions and limiting beliefs leading to longstanding fundamental changes.  I think that it will be hugely applicable to my horse riding clients, particularly those with long standing anxiety and a difficulty in “letting go” of negative past experiences.  It allows the client to learn from past experiences and move on from them.  Sounds like a “win-win” to me and I can’t wait to start using it and to see the results for my clients.

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I recently did one of those ‘Ask me anything’ posts on FaceBook and one of the questions asked was ‘What is Hypno-psychotherapy?’  At the time, I gave a brief reply and promised to write something more detailed about it.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the person who asked the question but hopefully they will see this and see that I keep my promises and always try my very best to answer questions.

So, this blog post is kind of a shameless piece of advertising but hopefully it will make interesting reading for those of you who would like to know more about what I do and how I do it.

I trained with the well respected National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy in the early 2000’s qualifying in 2004 with a Diploma in Hypnosis and Psychotherapy and the colleges website explains very well what this actually means so I can do no better than to copy and paste from their site.  I am now registered with the college and also with the National Register of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy





What is the difference between Hypnotherapy and Hypno-Psychotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is the clinical application of hypnosis to assist clients to resolve problems arising from habits, maladaptive behaviours, pain (under medical supervision) and psychosomatic medical conditions. It can also be used to assist clients in maximising potential in settings such as work and sport. At the time of writing hypnotherapy has developed a system of Voluntary Self-Regulation through the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council and as such hypnotherapists will be trained to a minimum of a level 4 NVQ equivalent standard. Hypnotherapists are not trained to deal with deep psychological issues or psychiatric illness.

Psychotherapy is defined by UKCP (2009) as a process “to help clients gain insight into their difficulties or distress, establish a greater understanding of their motivation, and enable them to find more appropriate ways of coping or bring about changes in their thinking and behaviour. Psychotherapy involves exploring feelings, beliefs, thoughts and relevant events, sometimes from childhood and personal history, in a structured way.”

Hypno-psychotherapy is the clinical application of hypnosis to enhance psychotherapeutic interventions. Hypno-psychotherapists should be trained at master’s level and are trained to deal with deep psychological issues and psychiatric illness.

(The above definitions are credited to the National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy.)

As well as completing the training mentioned above I have gone on to complete further certificates such as the Practitioner in NLP cert and a Specialist certificate in Anxiety as well as attending numerous study days covering all sorts of related subjects. I consider myself to be an expert in helping clients with anxiety issues.  At the end of this month I will be doing some more additional training and will tell you about that in due course.

So the next question might be ‘How does Hypno-psychotherapy help horse riders?

Over the years I have developed a speciality in helping riders at all levels overcome anxiety and develop a strong mind-set to the extent that virtually all of my clients are riders.  My training allows me to see my clients as a whole person and help them to understand and overcome their fundamental anxiety issues, treating them as individuals who come with their own unique personalities, experiences and lifestyles.  Each rider is different and the beauty of the training I have done means that I have a large tool box of techniques and approaches to draw from depending on the rider’s individual needs.  A nervous novice who may be worried about even getting on their horse has very different needs to, for example, an eventer who is looking to step up a level in competition and may have concerns about that.

Using hypnosis is an option which enhances the psychotherapeutic processes and can hasten positive results by accessing the, sometimes hidden, strengths of the unconscious mind. It can be very powerful and help the client to make changes or it can be used to help the client simply to feel more calm, more relaxed and more confident.  We don’t always use hypnosis and only after full discussion and explanation of all techniques.  Hypnosis is a very safe therapeutic intervention and the vast majority of clients say that they love the feeling of being in a trance.

Sometimes people contact me with the question ‘Do you think that you can help me?’.  My answer to this is that to have got in touch with me they already have a belief that I can help them. In our training we are taught that hypnosis is effective to the extent that the client wants, expects and allows it and therefore all hypnosis is effectively self-hypnosis. In any psychotherapeutic approach there are never guarantees but my experience show me that the majority of riders who seek help can make significant and long lasting changes.

I am always happy to chat to anyone who wishes to contact me and any initial contact is completely free of charge and can be the first step towards regaining your enjoyment of this wonderful sport.

Any thoughts, comments or questions are very welcome and thank you for reading this.


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With my new website up and running it seems like the appropriate time to put more focus and energy into my THROUGH THE EARS blog.  So as part of the re-launch here is a very special blog for you.

You may have come across the How Very Horsey  blog written by the lovely Daisy Smith.  Daisy is a talented writer and horsewoman, comes from a long line of well known equestrians and has been very open and honest about her own struggles with riding confidence. Daisy has kindly agreed to write this piece for me to share with you.  When I first read it yesterday evening it brought a tear to my eye and made me think of so many of the riders I have been privileged to work with since 2004 who have similar stories to tell but prefer them to remain private.  The sharing Daisy’s story here is intended to give YOU hope and inspiration and if YOU need help then please do just get in touch and take the first step towards helping yourself to recover your enjoyment of this wonderful sport.  THANK YOU DAISY.


A year ago, I was a bit of a mess. The combination of a bad riding accident, a traumatic birth and associated PTSD and PND, and a few weird years of riding horses I didn’t know or trust, left me with zero confidence. Less than zero, actually. I was at the point that, for the first time in my 20 years of riding, I actually considered giving up. Not even because I wanted to. More because I thought I had to.

I got to the point that I was having such anxiety just driving to the stables that I had to frequently pull over just to breathe. If a horse so much as moved an ear unexpectedly, I would get off. To put this in perspective, a few years ago I was competing at 1.20m level and had previously ridden for England and won BSPS Rider of the Year. Last year, I couldn’t trot around an arena.

What helped me? Blogging. I started my blog when I was pregnant and unable to ride. It was a way I could stay involved in the horse world somehow. I said when I started it that if one person read it and enjoyed it then that was fine. I had no idea of the true impact my blog would have on me though.

Writing honestly about how I felt and what I was going through, firstly, helped me to see it more clearly but it also opened me up to a world full of advice. A world full of people in the same boat or people who had been there. And an amazing crowd of previous strangers who were suddenly invested in my story and cheering me on.

What I would like to share with you guys though is this: People will tell you it will get better, people will tell you that you will be fine, people will make lovely comments about how good you were and how they are sure it’s just a phase. As lovely as these people are trying to be, it will not help.

What will help is this: it can get better.

Last week, I jumped my young, sprightly 17.1hh horse at a county show and won. Tonight, I jumped round a course of fences at home with a smile on my face. I am looking forward to riding tomorrow. It can get better.

 Daisy enjoying riding the lovely Jack

What you need to find is what will help you. Real, practical advice of how to find that confidence. It will not be an instant fix. Confidence is built up through consistent, positive experiences over time. Set yourself up to have those experiences, surround yourself with people who understand and are sympathetic, but at the same time are cheering you on, actively work on changing your negative mindset if you can. I now walk the course and say to myself “This will be fun to jump. What a great feeling it will be!” I am still nervous but it helps me.

 Daisy and the famous American Pie, now a sprightly 23 yrs old.

I can get better.

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We all know that horse riding can be a risky sport and will, no doubt, have friends or acquaintances who may have been injured.  In my line of work I meet many people who wish to regain their enjoyment of.....

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Gosh it’s almost a month since I posted Part 1, time has flown recently!


Anyway, better late than never and here is Part 2 which completes the alphabet.


N is for NERVES.  Feeling nervous at times is an absolutely normal part of being human.  learning to accept and acknowledge the phusical and mental sensations of anxiety and then work with them instead of trying to deny them and force them away will help your confidence enormously.  It takes practice but it is so worth it.


O is for OMG!  Let’s face it we all have those moments when we ride.  Times when you get a fright, fall off or something unexpected happens.  What we need is the mental resilience to learn from any mistakes we’ve made, accept whatever has happened and then put the event behind us and move on.  This isn’t always easy but it is important to develop the mental skills necessary to be able to learn and move on.  If we don’t do this then the effects of an OMG moment can interfere with our enjoyment of riding.  Once these skills have been learned then confidence increases and therefore riding confidence soars.


P is for POSITIVITY  A huge part of my job is helping riders to understand the importance of focussing on the positives rather than the negatives.  learning to change your thinking really does change your life.  Identifying what you are saying to yourself, and therefore believing, is the first step towards making these important changes.  So why not spend some time noticing your thoughts and the things you are saying to yourself, then challenge them if you need to.  At the end of the day a useful exercise is to write down three positives fromyour day so that you can end your day feeling good about your achievements.  Try it and let me know how you get on.


Q is for QUESTION  if you need help, then ask.  If you don’t know how to do something then ask.  If something doesn’t make sense to you then ask again.  Find people who’s opinions you respect and who have your best interests at heart and ask away.  Can you help me?  Can you explain how?  I don’t understand, please can you explain?  Admitting that you need help isn’t a sign of weakness, it is simply an acknowledgement that you are prepared to learn.  Asking the question can be the first step to making changes which will help your confidence to grow.


R is for RESILIENCE  Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.  I can’t promise any rider that they will never fall of or find tehmselves in a tricky situatiion.  However, I can help you to develop techniques to learn from these situations, move on and put them in the past where they belong.  Developing resilience will help you in all areas of your life and once you discover that you have the capacity to quickly recover then your riding confidence will soar.


S is for SUCCESS  Success is the achievement of goals.  Be proud of every single success, great and small.  Every success is made up of thousands of small ones and is the result of many hours of hard work.  So be proud of all of your successes.


T is for TIME  It takes time to make changes.  Time is precious and we all have many different demands and commitments so sometimes we really need to plan out time effectively in order to make these changes.  A bit of time management planning will help any feelings of being overwhelmed and will help us be more efficient in the use of our precious time.  When we feel more in control and less overwhelmed then confidence will grow.


U is for UNDERSTANDING  Often the first step to making changes is to develop an understanding of what is going on and why.  If you need help with this then it is important to consult someone who can understand the issue and has the expertise to help you to work out the necessary strategies to deal with it.


V is for VICTORY  Victories may be tiny or they may be enormous, they may be achieving something for the very first time or winning a huge international event,  Behind each victory is a huge amount of hard work, detemination and ability to overcome setbacks.  So celebrate your victories large and small.  What victories have you had recently?


W is for WILLING  Are you willing to learn?   Are you willing to make changes?  Are you willing to work hard?  Are you willing to accept help?  Making changes can be very challenging and begins with an acceptance that in order to fulfil your riding goals it may be necessary to change the way you are doing things.  If you are having difficulty and are willing to learn then please do get in touch.


X is for X-FACTOR  We can all come up with our own interpretation of X-Factor but what I mean at this moment is the feeling we get when everything is going well whilst riding a horse.  That feeling when the boundary between horse and rider is blurred, giving harmony and total absorption in the moment.  Can you think back to a time when this has happened for you?  They are moments to treasure.  It doesn’t have to be spectacular, perhaps out on a hack, galloping along the beach or achieving a clear round.  treasure these moments and remember them when times are more challenging.


Y is for YET  Such a small but such a powerful word.  Instead of saying “I can’t do something” try adding the word YET onto the end of the sentence.  it immediately changes the meaning of what you have said and implies that youare moving towards being able to do it in the future.  try it and then see how you feel.


Z is for Zzzzz  We’ve come to the end of the alphabet so it’s time for a rest.  But this can be a metaphor for riding too, it doesn’t all have to be about goals, progress and making changes.  Sometimes it’s good just to simply rest, have a break, spend some time simply watching your horse in the field, have some fun with your friends.  Then after your rest you can pick up the reins agiain with renewed vigour.


So that’s the end of this list for the moment.  I could start again from A and come up with 26 different words related to riding confidence and I may well do that in the future as this list certainly isn’t definitive.


Thanks for reading and, as always, any comments are very welcome.

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I recently completed an Instagram challenge, which I had set myself, which was to come up with an A to Z of Riding Confidence.  I enjoyed the challenge and was pleased to get some lovely positive feedback and also that some other people joined in.  On finishing I promised to collate the A to Z into a blog so here goes….. I’ll do it in two posts so that hopefully you can enjoy reading each whilst having a coffee or a relax.




A is for ATTITUDE.  Your attitude towards something is the way you think and feel about it and it shows externally in your behaviour.  So what is your attitude towards riding?  Do you ride purely for fun or are you a serious competitor or, infact, somewhere in the middle?  Are you prepared to work hard to achieve your goals and do you accept personal responsibility for your progress?


B is for BELIEF.  If you believe that you can do something then you are most definitely well on the way to being able to do it.  Conversely, if you believe that you can’t do something then you will struggle to achieve.  Changing your thinking (belief) will help you to change your behaviour and this is something that you most definitely can do if you set your mind to it and ask for help if you need it.


C is for CALMNESS.  A calm mind and a calm body will help you to focus, ride in a confident manner and achieve your riding goals.  It will help you to get rid of unnecessary tension which, as we all know, your horse will pick up on.   Calmness doesn’t necessarily equate to relaxation it is simply an ability to be comfortable in your body and in your mind without excessive concern or worry.


D is for DETERMINATION.  Decide what you want to get from your riding and be determined about working towards getting there.  Derterminedly working towards achieving your goals will help to boost your confidence.  Determination is the quality you show when you have decided what you want and you won’t let anything stop you.


E is for ENERGY.  Spending time worrying will sap your energy, anxiety can be exhausting.  So when you are feeling more confident then you will have more energy to put into your riding.  When you give more energy to your riding your confidence will increase.  WIN WIN!


F is for FUN.  Fun is what it’s all about, or at least I hope it is.  What do you really enjoy doing with your horse?  What makes you smile?  What makes you laugh?  Can you have a laugh when things go wrong rather than taking it all very seriously?  Have a think about the times when you have had most fun with horses and make sure that you do them again.  Simply having fun will boost your confidence.


G is for GOALS.  Setting SMART goals will help you to move forwards and out of your comfort zone.  Ticking off short term goals and then re-setting is such a useful way of pushing yourself and measuring progress.  The by-product of goal setting is an increase in CONFIDENCE.


H is for HORSE.  Having the right horse for you and for the activities you like to do with your horse is so important.  You can feel as though you can conquer the world on one horse and on a different one may feel that a canter is too far out of your comfort zone.  If you are worrying about riding your horse then it’s important to ask yourself the difficult question “Is this horse right for me, given my current level of skill and experience?”  Being ‘over-horsed’ can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation.  if you are worried then seek advice from someone who’s opinion you respect and who has your bst interests at heart.  Then once you are riding a suitable horse your confidence will return and you can continue to make progress towards becoming the rider you wish to be.


I is for INSPIRATION.  Who are you inspired by?  What is it about them that you admire?  is it their horsemanship, their devotion to their craft or to their horses, thier mental strength?  Can you apply these ideas to your own riding and identify areas to work on?  Recognising your strengths and challenges will boost your confidence.


J is for JOY.  A bit like F is for FUN!  It’s not all about making progress and setting goals.  When did you last do something with your horse and experience pure joy?  Whether it’s simply watching him in the field, giving him a cuddle, going for a quiet hack or having a crazy gallop do whatever brings you pure JOY


K is for KINDNESS.  I urge you all to show kindness towards those around you.  We sadly often hear accounts of unkind behaviour in the horse world and surely this has to be unacceptable.  Differences of opinion can be resolved by good communication and compromise. if you see someone struggling with their confidence then why not kindly offer to lieten to them andassist them to find the appropriate help.  Kindness makes the world a better place for all of us.

Of course, kindness towards our horses is a must and there is never an excuse for ill treatment of these beautiful animals.


L is for LIFE.  How do you fit riding into your life?  Or is it how do you fit life into your riding?!  Do you plan your riding time into your other commitments or do you feel as though you are constantly chasing your tail and are never able to focus on one thing at a time because you have so many demands?  If life is chaotic then why not make some time to do a bit of planning?  mark off those times to ride and then get on and ride at those times without distraction.  Time management will help you to focus on what is really important to you, help you to be more mindful and ultimately help your confidence.  Give it a go!


M is for (riding in the) MOMENT. Being mindful and rising in the moment is enormously helpful for confident riding.  Avoiding trying to anticipate what could happen in the future and making sure that you aren’t unnecessarily holding on to past events is so important.  If your horse is moving in the direction of your choice at the pace of your choice at any moment in time then everything is OK.

it takes time and practice to fel comfortable riding in the moment but it really is worth the effort.


So there we have A to M and I will finish the alphabet in my next blog post.


Thanks for reading this and please do get in touch if I can help in any way or feel free to comment.