A to Z of Riding Confidence

Tag: Equestrian mindset

Here’s a re-run of my A to Z of riding confidence, first published a few years ago but always worth re-visiting. I hope you enjoy it.

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 best 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, their 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 listen to them and assist 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 riding 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 feel comfortable riding in the moment but it really is worth the effort.

These beautiful flowers never question their self worth or doubt their abilities.


Tag: Equestrian mindset

Last week I went on a 738 mile round trip from Dollar to Stow-on-the-Wold to join my friends and colleagues at the Centre 10 Advanced Coaches meet up day. I didn’t hesitate about booking up for this because I knew from past experience that the journey would be worthwhile.

Those of you who have followed my blog posts and social media pages for any time will know that I am a fan of learning new things and so called “Lifelong Learning”.

Over the years, all the way back to school days, I have never stopped learning. It’s just part of who I am and always will be.

I’m a great believer in the idea that we learn something new every day. This might come from a formal learning or education effort or it might come from observing the world around us and situations that we find ourselves in. Each day brings new ideas and opportunities to learn.

From a horse riding point of view I am sure that you, like me, have often been asked about why you continue to have lessons or coaching often accompanied by a comment such as “surely you can ride by now after all these years”! All of us can benefit from ongoing coaching, whatever level we ride at, so that we can learn new skills and improve on existing ones.

From a professional point of view….yes I do have a huge amount of experience and knowledge about the minds and mindset beliefs of horse riders but I would never, ever claim that I have ALL the answers and I am always open to learning new ideas that I can share with my clients.

Once I completed my Advance Coaching course with Centre 10 the learning most definitely didn’t stop with the receipt of my certificate. Each month brings new opportunities to share ideas with colleagues, learn from other coaches whose backgrounds, training and situations are different to mine and also to take part in seminars, training days and coaches clinics during which I always pick up new ideas and deeper understanding.

At the meet up day last week we looked at two main things:

Firstly we looked at The Change House which is a model for looking at the psychology of change via the metaphor of different rooms in a house. Supporting and guiding clients through a change process is a large part of my work so this was a very interesting and useful learning opportunity for me.

The Change House Model




Secondly we had a fabulous session with Rider and Equine Soft Tissue Therapist Dee So’Oialo who demonstrated how she works with elite riders and their horses to help them achieve world class performance. On the day we observed Dee working with international dressage rider Lara Butler alongside Lara’s technical riding coach Carl Cuypers. It was fascinating to see the triangle of rider/horse, bodywork expert and riding coach working together as a team. There was also some psychology input from Centre 10’s Charlie Unwin who always has valuable insights to add.

The Coaching Team



The other highlight of the meet-up was the opportunity to spend time in the company of other fantastic coaches and to share stories, put faces to names and simply to have a lot of fun and some great laughter.

All in all my trip south was yet another wonderful learning opportunity and definitely well worth the long drive.

I look forward to being able to share my enthusiasm for learning new ideas with the horse riders I am already working with and those who I have yet to meet.


Tag: Equestrian mindset

Lots of equestrian venues are posting about their final events of the season and I’ve been loving seeing riders posting about how they have got on at their various shows and competitions.

Here in Scotland we’ve had a lovely summer and it’s been wonderful to see so many riders being able to get out and about again after their opportunities being so limited during the lockdown phases of the Covid pandemic.

Do you regularly check in and look at your progress to see if it aligns with your goals so that, at the end of a season, you can enjoy your successes and build on your learnings for going forwards to the next season?

As one season finishes and another begins this is a good time for some reflection.

Sponsored rider Natalia has had a fantastic Summer season with the beautiful Prinny.

One of the simplest, and most useful, methods to reflect and learn is to use a three step approach to analyse how things have been going for you. This analysis can be done after any ride where you’ve challenged yourself or have been challenged by events out-with your control. I don’t think it’s necessary to analyse every single ride, we don’t want to risk losing the opportunity to ride simply for fun, but it’s useful to have a think after a schooling session, a lesson, a competition, camp or training day or a season.

I’ve heard this three step analysis referred to as a “Sh*t sandwich” and the reason will become clear!! You can choose to give it that name or another on if you wish!

STEP ONE

What went well? What did you do that gave you pleasure? Which achievements are you proud of? Did you succeed with something new? Did you ride faster or harder and did you jump bigger? Did you feel more in tune with your horse? 
You will have your own definitions of success here and the aim of this step is to celebrate those successes and allow yourself to feel pleasure and pride.
It’s so easy to belittle successes and I really do feel that it’s important to allow ourselves to enjoy each and every success, great and small.

STEP TWO

This is the step where you have a think about those things which didn’t go well and work out why that may have happened.
So, have a think about any mistakes which have been made and work out why they happened in order to learn from them.
What else happened which, if you were given the opportunity to repeat that experience, you would like to do differently?
Looking at those things which didn’t go so well, why did they happen? Were they things over which you had some control or were they due to uncontrollable events? Had you set goals for yourself which were achievable?

I do talk a lot about being positive and learning but, don’t get me wrong, I totally get that sometimes you can feel upset, angry, “down” or just simply “rubbish” and I have those feeling too. However, the important thing is to acknowledge those emotions, understand them and then let them go, avoiding the risk of over generalising them and believing that because something has happened which you’re unhappy about it means that everything is rubbish!

STEP THREE

Step three is simple – just repeat STEP ONE!!



This means that you’re finishing the exercise on a positive note and, whilst making sure you take the learnings from step two on board you’re actually allowing yourself to enjoy the pleasure of your successes.

If you carry out this simple three step analysis then it will help your overall confidence as you see how it is possible to celebrate the good stuff and learn from the “sandwich filling”!

animal meadow leaves autumn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy Autumn to you all as the sun gets lower in the sky.


Tag: Equestrian mindset

Do you have a tendency to take on challenges or avoid them?

You may have a sense that there’s something going on with your riding that isn’t quite right and perhaps an awareness that this might be coming from your mindset rather than from any particular riding issue. Perhaps you struggle on for a while trying to sort things out for yourself. Maybe watching some online videos, reading some books, asking your friends but you find that nothing much is changing for you.

It can be a huge challenge for some riders to take that first step of asking for help but I know, from many years of working with riders, that once you take that first step you have already started working towards overcoming whatever it is that is concerning you.  Please note that I am deliberately using words like ‘challenge’ and ‘working’ in order to stress that making the necessary changes isn’t necessarily particularly easy.  However, once you do ask for help then you are no longer alone and you will have support whilst you are making those changes.

How about thinking back to something you have done in your life which you have found difficult.  Anything really, it doesn’t have to be horse riding related.  How did you tackle it?  Who helped you?  How long did it take you to overcome the difficulty?  Did you have any setbacks along the way and how did you deal with those?  Did you break the task down into smaller stages or did you try to tackle it in one go?  AND THEN …..How did you feel when you accomplished your goal and overcame the challenge?

Things which spring to mind  that you might apply this to are perhaps, learning to ride a bike aged about 6yrs, learning to play the piano, studying for school exams, learning a language, learning to play tennis, learning to ski and a horsey one….learning to reverse a trailer!!   For me, I can remember a huge sense of satisfaction and delight when I first worked out (with the help of my ever patient husband!) that I could reverse a trailer in a straight line using my wing mirrors and from then I built up to being able to reverse the trailer into it’s parking spot – what a thrill that gave me!

My old trailer nicely lined up in its parking spot!

My point, in talking about taking on challenges, is that we all have challenges right throughout our lives and we all develop ways of overcoming those challenges.  The same goes for having difficulties with our horse riding.  If those difficulties are coming from your thoughts and beliefs then how about looking at changing those thoughts and beliefs and relating making those changes to other challenges which you have already overcome in your life?  You might surprise yourself with just how much inner strength you do have when you dig a little deeper.  

Riders who are struggling with confidence, at any level, often have a tendency to look at other riders who are apparently full of confidence and achieving great things.  I would strongly advise you to avoid comparing yourself to others and I would also suggest that the vast majority of those other riders have had to overcome challenges of their own in one way or another.  There aren’t many people who ‘have it all easy’ throughout their lives.

So go on, take those steps, ask for help, take on the challenge and look forward to that sense of achievement when you overcome whatever it is which is challenging you.  You might even feel like commenting on this blog and sharing your stories of taking on the challenge so that we can all learn from them.


Tag: Equestrian mindset

Have you had a break from riding and are re-starting or looking to re-start soon?

There may be many reasons for your break. Perhaps you’ve recently had a baby or maybe you used to ride a lot in the past and life then took you down a different path for some time but now you have the urge to ride again. Perhaps you’ve had a break because you had no horse to ride for a while and there were no other opportunities available for you.

Whatever your reason I hope that you feel excited about re-starting this wonderful sport and are looking forwards to having many new experiences on horseback.

There will, undoubtedly, be some riders who simply get back on and ride away without giving it a second thought but, I suspect, there are many more who experience some feelings of anxiety and self doubt at this stage of their riding life and this is perfectly natural. So if that’s what you’re experiencing then you’re most definitely not alone.

There are two main things that I would like to focus on in this article. Firstly your past experience and secondly looking at where you are right now as you begin riding again.

When you’re thinking of riding again it’s common to think and feel that you’ve lost your previous skills both mental skills and technical riding skills. However, this really isn’t the case. All of your past riding experience is still there, much of what you do will be almost instinctive due to muscle memory and having developed an unconscious ability to know what to do on and with a horse. Of course you may feel pretty rusty and have lost some physical strength and balance but that will return pretty quickly once you get going. Do give yourself credit for all that you have done in the past, it may be a bit hidden at the moment but when you scratch the surface you’ll find that it’s still there.

One of the most useful things to do at this stage is to work out where you are now i.e. today or the day that you get back on a horse. Looking at your strengths and challenges is a useful exercise and I suggest that you write these down as this will help you to clarify where you are now and what you need to work on.

For example your strengths might be the you have many years of experience, a nice horse and a supportive family. Your challenges may be limited free time and a lack of physical fitness. So you can see what will help you and what you need to work on in the short to medium term.

Giving yourself credit for all of your previous riding and deciding where you are right now will help you to avoid the feeling of “I can’t do it any more” or “But I used to be able to do it”.

Our lives are dynamic and constantly changing and that is part of the fun of life. With a bit of hard work I’m sure that you’ll be enjoying your riding again very soon.




Tag: Equestrian mindset

I’m publishing this post on 1st September 2021 and it’s an absolutely beautiful day here at Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland HQ.

I am wondering how those of you reading this regard the changing seasons and the beginnings of a new month? I know how I think and feel about the new season but I’ve been working with people for a long time so I also know that not all of you will think or feel the same way that I do.

An important lesson learned early in the career of any professional who works with people, particularly in any kind of therapeutic role, is to never assume that you know what somebody else is thinking and how they are feeling.

One of the many things I love about my job is the detective work of discovering how a client thinks and feels about their riding and their life and how these thoughts and feelings then affect their behaviour and their enjoyment of all of the things which they choose to do in life.

I wonder how YOU think and feel about the transition from Summer to Autumn?

Personally speaking, I have always felt a huge sense of excitement at the beginning of September and this goes back to school days and the start of a new academic year. I see September as more of an important beginning than January in many ways, with its sense of anticipation for meeting new people and learning new things. How about YOU?

The change of a season can be a useful time to evaluate your progress in working towards your goals. How has your Summer been? Which aspects of your riding have gone well and what are you proud of? Perhaps things have exceeded your hopes and expectations and perhaps they haven’t.

Has the mental side of your riding experience matched the technical riding experience? Most riders are very much a “work in progress” regarding their mindset and mental resilience and perhaps this is something which you can plan to work on over the coming months?

No doubt there will have been many learning opportunities from everything you have experienced over the Summer months, some mistakes will have been made and how are you going to learn from those?

How are you going to put those learnings into practice gong forwards so that goals already achieved aren’t seen as an end point but rather as a stepping stone along your riding journey. EFFECTIVE goal setting is always a motivating exercise rather than the opposite.

So as we approach the Autumn season I wonder how YOU are feeling and what your plans are. I would love to hear from you and am here to help you with confidence and performance mindset so that you can make the most of the opportunities which come your way.

The first hints of Autumn on a beautiful day



Tag: Equestrian mindset

I watched, and enjoyed, the Tokyo Olympics for many reasons. I loved the excitement of the sport and, of course, the delight of seeing how well our GB equestrians performed but I think what will stay with me are the things I picked up from post competition interviews and the words of coaches and experts throughout the fortnight.

Since completing the APEC Advanced course with Centre 10 I have become far more aware of the mental training of serious competitors and was recently able to listen to reflections from Charlie Unwin who has coached many athletes at this level.

However, “Being like an Olympian” isn’t just for elite athletes, I think there are many things that we can all learn from the way they think, behave, perform and react which we can apply to ourselves in all areas of life. There is a lot to be learned from elite athletes which is applicable to horse riders competing at grass roots level and also to those who never go near a competition too!



So I will mention FIVE things which I think we can all learn from Olympians (and just for fun each will be in one of the colours of the Olympic rings!).

FOLLOW YOUR PROCESS

In just about every post performance interview I saw with the athletes they talked about having a process, or a plan, which they followed for their performance. They will have worked on this for a long time and tested it under all sorts of different conditions making adjustments as and where necessary.
The reason to follow the process is that it includes all of those things which are under your control and where it is most beneficial to expend mental and physical energy. The athletes will know how to return to their plan even when the unexpected happens so that they don’t “lose it” when something outside of their control happens.

Of course, it goes without saying that all Olympians are prepared to work extremely hard and to give up a lot in order to fulfil their goals. They may have to move abroad to train or live a long way from family and close friends and I can’t imagine there are too many nights out for pizza and a few drinks with their mates!! Not all of us mere mortals have to sacrifice quite so much but if we want to achieve then we do need to consider how our whole lifestyle affects our riding.

As everyday equestrian athletes we too can have plans and processes which we work on and which will help us to make progress towards fulfilling long term goals and dreams.

LEARN TO COPE WITH PRESSURE

The pressure experienced by Olympic athletes is something that few of us will experience BUT we can all benefit from learning to cope under the pressures which occur in our day to day lives and when we find ourselves out of our comfort zones.

Learning to be able to handle the heightened level of emotion and all the physical symptoms of our natural stress response is a game changer. Instead of being frightened of this level of emotion we can learn to embrace it and use it effectively.

This means that as a rider you are less likely to panic and “freeze” ie to “stop riding”! Instead you can learn to use your body’s stress response to help you to achieve what you have set out to achieve at that time.

SEEK OUT EXPERT HELP AND SUPPORT

Our Olympians have a whole team behind them and live in a different world to most of us. Increased funding to support athletes in their training has led to the fantastic results over many different types of sport from BMX cycling and skateboarding through to our wonderful equestrians.

As a grass roots rider, a serious amateur, a leisure rider and also as a professional rider we all need expert help and support.

Whatever your riding experience and your riding goals it is important to get help when you need it. That might be with care for your horse, it could be to develop your riding skills or to strengthen your mindset.

Rather than struggling on your own, my advice would always be to consult an expert in whatever sphere you need help.


BE AWARE OF WHERE YOUR MOTIVATION COMES FROM

This comes down to the question “WHY?”. Why do you do what you do?

Most of the athletes I saw being interviewed during the Olympics appeared to be very much internally motivated. They were there for the love of the sport, for the desire to do their absolute best.

Some athletes did appear to be working on the expectations of others with all the accompanying concerns of “Should and Musts” and these athletes were the ones I saw who appeared to be struggling to accept their results the most.

This doesn’t mean that the internally motivated athletes weren’t hugely disappointed if things didn’t go well for them. They feel that disappointment because they care so much and it is completely natural.

I saw many athletes talking about how happy they were with their performances even when they didn’t end up on the medal podium. Charlotte Dujardin talked about being absolutely thrilled with her bronze medal this year, and perhaps even more delighted with it than previous gold medal performances. I believe that this was because she knew that she and Pumpkin had done their absolute best given the circumstances and their level of training and experience.

At the end of the day I believe the greatest satisfaction comes from living according to our own internal narrative rather than according to external pressures and expectations.


LOOK AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

This was the Olympics where the mental health of athletes was spoken about more than ever before and the challenges of performing at this level were finally acknowledged.

There were well publicised mental health difficulties during the games and plenty has been said about those elsewhere.

For all of you reading this, I hope that mental health is something that you are aware of. Are your riding experiences helping you with this aspect of life or vice versa?

For many riders “horse time” is “down time” away from the pressures of work, family and life so it is important that this goes well. If the time you spend with your horse and the things you wish to do with your horse are causing you to worry and become anxious then please do reach out for help.

People like me, trained in helping riders with anxiety issues, can help and there is also the wonderful new initiative that is Rider’s Minds.

Remember that you don’t have to be alone and please do reach out if you feel the need.





Tag: Equestrian mindset

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: Equestrian mindset

Looking back at some of my older posts I came across one where I stated that one of my aims was to get riders to drop the “I only….” and “I just….” phrases when they are talking about the things they do with their horses. I think it’s worth re-visiting this as I am sadly still hearing this phrase a bit too often when I meet riders for the first time. Hopefully once I’ve worked with them, one of the things they learn is to stop justifying the things they choose to do on horseback and instead to celebrate their achievements whilst continuing to enjoy the process of learning.

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.

I’m a happy owner of two retired highland ponies.

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


Tag: Equestrian mindset

I’ve had a lot of new followers recently so perhaps it’s time to share a bit more about myself and my background and what brought led me to starting Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland. 

I get asked fairly frequently about my own personal riding and horse owning experience so here we go. Here’s “My Horsey Life”.

My beautiful retired girls Luna and Gigha
Photo: Joanne Boyle Photography

I first started learning to ride when we lived in Germany and I was about 9 or 10. We were taught by the ever so slightly scary Herr Hase on what, I now realise, were dressage schoolmasters. We did all sorts with them but, I have to say, there wasn’t a lot of time for fun. No opportunities for charging around or heading out for hacks. It was all schooling in the indoor and, only very occasionally outdoor, arenas. I rode there for a few years but gave up after one too many experiences on Rex the Rearer.

I then rode occasionally on holidays and when opportunities arose but nothing regular.


I remember a conversation soon after my husband and I met. We were talking about what we would like to be in a position to own one day. He said he’d love a LandRover and I said I’d love a horse. I often think about the conversation and am so glad that both our dreams came true.

When we moved to Dollar in the early 90’s I decided to start riding regularly again and within a couple of years I bought my first Highland mare Judy. I was very inexperienced but we had a lot of fun together, hacking out and doing some showing.

Judy was the first of three Highland mares I’ve owned. I have her daughter Luna who was born here in millennium year plus another mare, Gigha, who I bought as a two year old from her breeder. Somehow I managed to produce two nicely mannered ponies with very little experience of riding and handling youngsters. I honestly think I got away with it because they both have inherently nice natures. Again I did some showing plus lots of hacking and fun rides with these two until they retired. Re-reading this paragraph I note that I’m doing something that I would pick up on in a client’s use of language – minimising my own skill! So I have to say that there MUST have been more than a little positive input from me to produce these two wonderful ponies!

Luna and Gigha are still with me. Neither of them is sound enough to be ridden now but they will spend the rest of their lives here simply enjoying each other’s company and living a good life.

Over the years I’ve been on some great riding adventures including up and down mountains in Italy, mountain exploring deep in the Andes and riding across the Rajasthan on very skinny Marwari horses on a fundraiser for The Brooke.


I was quite far out of my comfort zone riding such fast and skinny horses in India!
This was a lot of fun – riding deep in the Argentinian Andes. (NB I would normally wear a helmet but in this instance none were available and I REALLY wanted to ride!)


So now, whilst I own two horses, I don’t have anything of my own to ride. For a while I thought I might give up on the riding but then I started to miss it too much. I asked around and found a wonderful riding school with excellent horses and I now have regular lessons from great coaches.

If I’m very honest I feel like I’m finally learning to ride properly and I’m loving developing new skills and confidence on horseback. I plan to continue riding, and having fun on horseback indefinitely and look forward to many more adventures.

You can ALWAYS have fun on a Highland Pony.