Build on your Strengths, Work on your Challenges.

Tag: Confident riders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tag: Confident riders

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tag: Confident riders

Developing the resilience to handle challenges, overcome disappointments and learn from both good and bad experiences will help all riders fulfil their goals and generally enjoy their riding more. Being resilient gives us the strength needed to be able to move forwards and not be defined by any setbacks. Resilience is empowering and helps us to grown in self belief.

Working on the seven “C’s” of resilience will help you to strengthen what you already have and what you have already learned from all the experiences which have brought to this point in your life.

COMPETENCE
The belief that you can and will handle a situation effectively. That you have the skills and experience necessary to do what you are asking yourself to do. Of course skills can always be improved and refined and this is why most riders who wish to progress in the sport continue to have coaching. Competence can also apply to mindset skills.

CONFIDENCE
Having confidence comes from that deep belief in your own abilities and is closely aligned with competence. Confidence isn’t a fixed attribute and there will be times when it’s stronger than others but developing an overall belief in yourself will help you to grow in confidence and to enjoy yourself more.

CONNECTION
Developing close ties with family, friends, coaches, equestrian professionals and “your team” will help you to develop a real sense of community and support. Surrounding yourself with people who care about you and have your best interests at heart helps you to have that support system in place which is so important for resilience.

CHARACTER
We are all different and learning to accept that is part of maturing as a person. Being true to your own values and set of moral principles is important for all of us, as is demonstrating a caring attitude towards others. I believe that we all have a responsibility to show kindness and care towards others and that this helps us to feel better about ourselves which, of course, is part of being resilient.

CONTRIBUTION
We all have a contribution to make in life, great or small. We are all important and have a role to play in whatever form that takes.

COPING
Learning to cope effectively with stress helps you to become better able to cope with life’s challenges. Learning to be able to tolerate the temporary discomfort of stressful situations will help us all to perform at our best, whatever “performance” means to each of us.

CONTROL
Realising that we have control over our decisions and taking full responsibility for them helps us to grow and develop as riders and as human beings. We can control what we learn from experiences and take the responsibility to apply that learning in the future. This builds and strengthens resilience.

WHICH “C” IS YOUR STRONGEST AND WHICH NEEDS SOME ATTENTION?

Stand tall and proud and you will bloom


Tag: Confident riders

Yesterday I took part in my first room chat on the Clubhouse Social Media platform, which I have just discovered and joined and which looks promising as a source of sharing, supporting and learning for the equestrian world. Have you seen it yet? I believe at the moment it’s only available on i-phone but you can find out more here .

As conversations generally do, the chat moved from topic to topic and some interesting questions were asked and answered by various different equestrian experts.

At this stage I was just listening and wondering how this new app worked and wondering how best to get involved.

The conversation quickly turned to having fun with horses, playing games with them and a few associated equine behaviour issues which were all very interesting.

Up to this point I had thought to add something to the previous topic which was more mindset related but there were quite a few people who wished to speak so by the time I was invited to add to the conversation we had moved on to having fun with horses.

So I rapidly re-thought about what I could add at this stage and simply changed my input to applauding these equestrians who wanted to play with horses to stimulate them and strengthen their bonds.

I was also reminded, and reminded the participants, just how important it is that we all do remember to have fun. As a mindset and confidence coach it’s easy to stay on the lines of goal setting, gaining focus, developing resilience, staying calm under pressure, managing success and challenges and many other topics BUT it’s really important as a confidence and mindset coach that I remind the people I work with about simply having fun on and around horses.

What are the fun things which you enjoy doing? They’ll be different for each of you but remember to do plenty of the fun stuff, whatever it is. There’s a time and a place for strengthening your mindset but always remember to KEEP THE FUN FLAG FLYING.

This was such a fun day and my friend and I were definitely flying the fun flag !

Tag: Confident riders

I often hear people bemoaning the fact that the people they come in contact with don’t communicate very well. Either they don’t listen, fail to say what they mean, just don’t tell you stuff or talk “at” you and hog the conversation! This can be very frustrating and lead to misunderstandings and disagreements.

I was reminded the other day about a talk I gave at a local business, many years ago, on communication and listening and after a trawl through some old files on my laptop I found that I still had the information. So I thought I’d share it….



So what is communication?

Communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages and information by speech, signals, writing and behaviour . In all communication there is a “transmitter” and a “receiver”.

Effective communication promotes self-confidence, intelligence and enhances relationships both personal and in social and work situations.

As a transmitter of communication it is your role to ensure that your message is given in a way which can be understood by the expected receiver and as the receiver it is your job to understand the meaning of the message


Non-Verbal Communication

Non -verbal communication is of equal importance to the words which are spoken. It regulates conversation, communicates emotions, modifies verbal messages, gives insights and can give clues to meanings.
NB remember that these things can vary between cultures.


.

In conversation there should be a dialogue which includes:

  • Turn Taking. Generally “You talk, then I talk” will be effective. In conversation monologues aren’t helpful.
  • Connecting. What each person says should in some way be connected to what the other person has said.
  • Mutual Influencing. Each person in a dialogue should be open to being influenced by what the other person has said, it’s best to be open-minded.
  • Co-creating Outcomes. Good dialogue leads to outcomes which benefit both parties.




    Therefore:
  • Say what you think, not what you think others want you to say.
  • Express your views clearly, positively and in a non-threatening manner.
  • Express you views in language which can be understood.
  • Listen actively.
  • If in doubt check the meaning of what you are hearing rather than assuming you understand what was said.
  • Give full attention (put down your phone during conversation!).
  • Give the speaker the respect of hearing what they want you to hear.
  • It is equally important to give respect as to receive it.





    Non-verbal communication includes:
  • Bodily behaviour – posture, movement, gestures
  • Eye behaviour – contact, staring, avoidance
  • Facial expressions – smiles, frowns, raised eyebrows
  • Physiological responses – blushing, breathing rate, pupil dilation
  • Physical characteristics – height, weight, fitness
  • Space – how close a person chooses to be during conversation
  • General appearance – grooming, dress.


    To check your skills at communication ask yourself the following questions.
  • What are my attitudes towards the other person?
  • How would I rate the quality of my “presence” in the dialogue?
  • What attitudes am I expressing in my verbal behaviour?
  • What attitudes am I expressing in my non-verbal behaviour?
  • Do the above two points agree?
  • Does the other person find my communication effective? If necessary, how can I be more effective?
  • In what ways am i distracted from being fully engaged in the conversation? How might I handle any distractions and emotional responses?
  • Am I truly hearing what is being said? How do I know?
  • Am I allowing my own interpretations of what is being said to distract me from the true meaning?
  • How can I learn from this dialogue so that I can improve future communications?




We won’t get it right all of the time but by learning to be more present, more aware of ourselves, more emotionally intelligent and more open then we can all improve our communication skills.

Next time, I’ll look at developing listening skills in more detail so keep your eyes open for that post.




Tag: Confident riders

I’ve been thinking about giving and receiving praise recently so decided to write down a few thoughts about this subject.

In today’s internet society everything is constantly rated and reviewed and there are many rating sites we can look at before making a holiday choice or picking a restaurant, for example.  The same goes for choosing a service or when we are looking for somebody to help us with an aspect of our lives where we naturally tend to choose the one who has received most praise.

Here at Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland I rarely ask for or publish client testimonials due to the importance of confidentiality. An unnamed testimonial saying ‘Show Jumper from Scotland says Jane is wonderful’ is unverifiable and meaningless and I want my clients to feel that it is entirely their choice whether or not they share that they have consulted me for help with confidence or mindset.

However, on a recent facebook post some riders were kind enough to make some very positive comments about how I had been able to help them and by choosing to say this publicly they were obviously happy to say that they had used my services.  Other riders prefer to keep quiet about needing help with confidence issues and choose not to share this and I am more than happy for them to do that.

I, like most people, love to receive praise and get a great boost when somebody gives me positive feedback.  I also enjoy giving praise to others for example, I like to praise my clients for the hard work and commitment they show towards overcoming the nervousness which interferes with their enjoyment of riding or for the hours of determined practice they put in before a competition.

Whilst enjoying receiving and giving praise what really gives me the most satisfaction is when I can praise myself.  When I can feel inside that I have done a good job.  When I can tell, by their body language, that audience members at a talk are listening and understanding what I say.  When the look on a client’s face changes from one of tension and worry to a big and genuine smile.  When I can look at my animals and know that I have done a good job with them and given them a good life.  When I can go to bed at night feeling that I have acheived something worthwhile during the day.

All these feelings come from within and I believe that is where our enjoyment of life truly comes from.  We should be wary of needing others to constantly praise us and work towards true self acceptance.

As always, thanks for reading this and any comments are very welcome.

Whether your session is face:face or online I want you to feel comfortable that I am there just for you.


Tag: Confident riders

A recent FaceBook post seemed to strike a chord with a few people, and It’s something I need to be aware of personally, so I thought I would expand on it a little.

Be proud of your achievements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever you choose to do, do it with a smile.