Some Reflections on the Past Year

Tag: Equestrian mindset

I have twin brothers and today, March 23rd, is their birthday so this is an easy date to remember in my family. It is of course a full year now since the start of the first lockdown period and a day when lots of people are making time to think and reflect on their experiences over the last year.

Thinking of my family, the first thing which comes to mind is that we have hardly seen each other. I saw one brother briefly last year when he called to visit en route to a mini break in NW Scotland – I made him camp in the garden as we weren’t supposed to be having guests in our homes at that stage! He did sneak in to use the loo and shower, which in theory was breaking the rules but hey, who hasn’t broken or bent the rules at some point? I haven’t seen my other brother since late February 2020 when our family was all together for our Mum’s funeral. Mum timed her passing perfectly in some ways, she was at the end of a long and happy life and we have said frequently over the last year that we are glad that she didn’t have to go through the loneliness and isolation that so many have experienced. We are a close family and can’t wait to get together again before too much more time has passed.

My husband’s family are mostly in Ireland so, of course, we haven’t seen them for over a year now either. Our experiences of missing our families are no different to those of our friends and everyone else throughout the country and beyond. We have been accepting of the situation, frustrated and saddened at times but made the best of other forms of communication and it has been fine.

I must admit I found the first couple of months really quite a relief. After the few weeks leading up to it, when we knew that there was a serious worldwide situation going on, it did feel good to me when things finally shut down and I felt safer in our own little part of the world. I think, in some ways, I needed that quiet time which came so soon after Mum’s death and followed on from losing my mother-in-law in 2019 and my father in 2018. Life had been very busy for the past few years lurching from one elderly parental crisis to the next and so a time to pause and be quiet felt good. Spring 2020 was beautiful and those early days of sunshine and fresh air walks, seeing virtually nobody were a special time here at home with our animals.

Long Summer evenings and this view helped us in the early lockdown days.



When things eased up a bit last Summer and early Autumn we managed to make the most of a couple of short break opportunities and enjoyed seeing a few of our local friends. Then it quickly became obvious that we would have to return to tighter restrictions and that is where we still find ourselves.

Like many others I’ve found the more recent period more challenging than the earlier days. There were times when I did feel afraid with new variants springing up and infection rates soaring. The more I learned about Covid the less I wanted to catch it. Now in March 2021 I feel optimistic about the future, grateful to have received my first vaccination, appreciative of the hard work and dedication of health and care professionals and other key workers and thankful that we have remained happy and healthy throughout.

I have learned an immense amount over the year in many different ways. I’ve done a couple of major online learning courses and will write about them separately. On a personal level I’d just like to mention a couple of things which I’ve learned.

I realised that I need to constantly challenge some of my own personal self limiting beliefs so that I don’t allow them to hold me back. For example, I tend to describe myself as a technophobe who is pretty clueless when it comes to using technology. This just simply isn’t true! I have embraced and learned all sorts of new things and new ways of working over the past year. I’ve either been able to work out for myself how to do things or I have found an expert who can help me where needed! No more technophobia for me…..!!

I also believed that I could only do my job well when working with clients face to face. Again, this has proved to be untrue and I have truly enjoyed all the encounters I’ve had with new and existing clients online over the past twelve months. This has allowed my work to develop in ways which I had never anticipated or particularly thought about and I am excited about continuing to grow these new ways of working and helping horse riders throughout scotland and far beyond.

So it isn’t just my clients who have self limiting beliefs which they allow to hold them back from reaching their goals! I have them too and that’s something I need to be aware of and keep on top of. We are ALL works in progress!

I’ve also learned that there are many others out there in the equestrian world who I can enjoy making connections with. I joined the wonderful Small and Supercharged mastermind group, run by Rhea Freeman, and through this have made many delightful online friendships and have benefitted from many opportunities which have come my way through this marvellous group of people. Just because we are all isolated in our own corners of the world it doesn’t mean that we can’t support and encourage each other and that is just exactly what this group does.

So as we can all hopefully start to look forward to doing more of the tings we enjoy and seeing more of the people we love and who are important to each other I know that I will always continue to learn and, for me, that is one of life’s great joys.

Photo credit: Joanne Boyle

Tag: Equestrian mindset

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: Equestrian mindset

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: Equestrian mindset

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: Equestrian mindset

Last week I went on a little adventure, heading all the way to Bath for a three day course to begin six months of training with Centre 10 doing their Advanced Performance Psychology course for equestrian coaches.

As you know, all my work is done “off horse” and I don’t teach riding skills as such, but focus on the mindset and rider psychology aspects of the sport, so this course is right up my street. I was delighted to be accepted onto it based on my experience working with riders at all levels.

As you probably also know I am a believer in lifelong learning and am always open to new ideas and new ways of looking at old ideas.

So the week was a real treat as well as an adventure. It felt like an adventure because in this year dominated by Covid-19 just simply having a few days away from home is a novelty and the treat was staying in a beautiful country house hotel on the edge of the City of Bath.

There were lots of highlights including meeting the other coaches on the course plus meeting Charlie, Sarah and Steffi from Centre 10 who are all inspirational people, athletes and coaches.

Today I would like to talk about two of the exercises we did last week which were great fun but both brought home important messages and helped me to look at things I already knew from a different and useful point of view.

The first exercise was that we were give a block of wood with a nail hammered into it plus 10 other identical nails. The task was to balance to 10 nails on the one in the block!! We were in a team of three….

It was fascinating to see the approaches of my team mates as well as my own. One person decided that this wasn’t for them and encouraged the remaining team mates from the sidelines. I had been allocated the job of handling the nails (Covid meant that only one person was to do this) and my other team mate was coming up with ideas.

Initially we didn’t actually know whether this was possible of not but after a short while we were told that it WAS possible so were trying with renewed vigour. Then we were given a simple clue to help us understand HOW it was actually possible.

Interestingly my team mate who has a biomechanics background found the next stage of the exercise easier than I did and under her guidance we managed to complete the task!

When you BELIEVE something is possible it BECOMES possible.

There were several learnings from this exercise including:

  • Once you believe that something is possible then it becomes possible.
  • Rather than being given a list of instructions we were given a clue which then allowed us to work out the answer for ourselves, a far more sustainable approach.
  • These seemingly simple ideas can be applied to any life area including helping people to find answers to their own challenges.

The second exercise, which was also hugely entertaining but also a great opportunity to learn, was target shooting!

This is something which I had never tried before so was keen to have a go at. Again we were in teams and we were delighted to be coached by the UK No. 1 modern pentathlete Kate French who trains at the amazing sports facilities at Bath University.

This exercise was all about looking at the process rather than the outcome. We were encouraged to break things down into a process such as our body angle, our breathing, lining up the sights and squeezing the trigger rather than focussing entirely on trying to hit the target.

I soon found that if I DID focus on my process then I COULD hit the target!

Then the exercise got more fun as we had a competition again in our teams so as well as demonstrating our new found skills we were adding the element of competition pressure.

We had a round of what we thought was the competition only to be told that it was a trial run and the teams were then handicapped according to their places in the trial run. This gave our team a 30 second advantage over the next team. We had a team talk, worked out a time saving hand over process and then were ready for competition.

I was the last to go and the next team was catching us up…….!

I had spent some time while the others were having their go breathing, visualising and focussing on my process so felt kind of “In the zone”.

My turn came and YES! I shot five out of five on target giving our team the WIN!! Great fun, not at all serious but again loads to learn and apply for other life areas including riding of course:

  • Focus on the process and the desired outcome will happen.
  • Find a method to focus which works for YOU.
  • In competition stick to your plan.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to other competitors.
  • Control what you CAN control.
  • Learn from mistakes.
  • HAVE FUN
Focus on the PROCESS and you will hit the TARGET.

I’m home again now and have enjoyed digesting all of my experiences from last week. These three days are just the beginning of six months of more learning online.

I’ll be posting regularly throughout the six months to share what I am leaning and I can’t wait for my clients to benefit from new ways of looking at things so that together we can work to help them to achieve their goals.


Tag: Equestrian mindset

Do you ever find yourself getting pretty nervous about trying new things?

Does your mind take you to some scary and uninviting places when you’re anticipating this new event?

Try these before, during and after mindset hacks and they really will make a difference to how you feel about the up and coming event and how much you enjoy yourself.

These ideas can be applied to horse riding, other sports, work or any other area of life.

So, last weekend, a couple of my oldest pals and I went on a two day kayaking course up on the west coast of Scotland. It was a beginner’s introduction course and there were going to be six in the group, the three of us and three others who we didn’t know.

Practicing in shallow water

I was certainly looking forward to the weekend but I must admit I was feeling a little bit nervous too. Those old familiar thoughts were creeping into my mind such as “Will they all be better at it than me?” ,”Will I fall in”, “Will I look stupid” etc etc. I’m sure many of you reading this will have experienced similar thoughts. It was these thoughts which were causing that sense of nervous anticipation!

SO! I quickly reminded myself to practice what I preach and to apply all the things I talk about with my clients and that’s just what I did and the result was that I had an amazing weekend!

BEFORE:

  • As soon as you recognise those unhelpful thoughts creeping into your mind you can say “STOP” to yourself to break that chain of thought and then challenge those unhelpful thoughts and replace them with something more encouraging and supportive.
  • Remind yourself that any feelings of nerves are simply feelings and NOT a predictor of something bad happening.
  • Practice visualising what you DO want to happen. So for my kayak course I visualised myself gliding through the water with a big smile on my face and enjoying the company of my friends and the amazing environment I was in.

DURING

  • Remind yourself that you are there to learn. Ask questions and enjoy trying out new skills. Have a laugh when you make a silly rookie error, we’ve all done it and it’s part of being a beginner in any new activity.
  • If you feel any physical tension use your breathing to help you to let go of that tension. So you can breathe in comfort and breathe out tension. Remembering to breathe helps to keep your stress hormones within their normal range and therefore lessens any feelings of nervousness. It can help to anchor feelings of comfort to a word. I like to use the word “drift”.
  • Focus on what’s going on “in the moment”. If at any moment in time your kayak (Or your horse!) is doing what you’ve asked it to do then all is OK. This is a useful way to avoid trying to predict what could happen in the future.
  • If you’re in a learning situation make sure to be honest with the instructor about your previous experience or lack of experience. Their job is to be supportive and to teach you new skills so allow them to do their job.
  • Make sure that you’re not comparing yourself unfavourably to those around you. Some people will find some things easier than you but they’ll also find other things more challenging. Everyone is different and there to learn as well.

AFTER

  • Be proud of yourself for what you have achieved and make sure to focus on all the good things which happened rather than being tempted to magnify any errors.
  • Think about what you have learned so that next time you do this activity you will be ready to take the next steps in the process of learning.
  • Enjoy the sense of achievement, the physical tiredness after working hard and look forward to an evening reminiscing about your day and feeling excited about doing it again.

My kayaking weekend was great fun. I didn’t fall in, kept up with the group, learned about a few different paddle strokes, when and how to use them. I saw some wonderful wildlife and views which will stay with me forever. I was really proud of myself when we had to work pretty hard into a strong headwind to reach the beach where we were planning our lunch stop, I was slow and it was hard work but I did it! It was definitely a weekend to remember.

The sun setting after a wonderful weekend.