A to Z of Riding Confidence

Tag: Horse riding

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: Horse riding

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: Horse riding

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: Horse riding

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: Horse riding

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: Horse riding

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: Horse riding

We all go through life accumulating experiences, memories and beliefs.

Mostly the effects of everything we have done and everything we have experienced are pretty much unconscious. We act in certain ways because that’s the way we’ve “always” acted. We believe certain things “just because we do” without giving it any, or much, thought.

On a more conscious level, we tell ourselves stories about the things we have done and the things which have happened to us and it is these stories which can have a profound effect on how we think, feel and behave in the present.

The stories we tell ourselves become our beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of achieving.

These stories can begin with seemingly minor comments from a teacher or another adult which we heard as a child, perhaps a comment from a friend, or just somebody we encountered, about our body/ability/appearance. We often take these onboard and they can unconsciously become our beliefs about ourselves.

Of course, some of these beliefs might be ones which help us and give us the confidence to achieve our goals and that is good. However, others can become what is know as “self-limiting beliefs” which aren’t nearly so helpful – in fact, they can be quite the opposite!

Some examples of self limiting beliefs might be:

  • I have to be perfect all the time
  • I’ll never be able to achieve my goals
  • I can’t do “X/Y or Z” because I’m not good enough
  • If I don’t control “everything” then something bad will happen
  • I’m “unlucky”
  • Everyone else is “better” than me
  • And many many more……

The trick is to become aware of the stories we tell ourselves and note the behaviours associated with them.

Where did these beliefs come from? You may or may not have an actual memory of this but you might well have an idea or feeling about it.

Have a think about times when these beliefs have actually been shown to be incorrect or false.

Spend some time challenging the beliefs and working out an alternative.

Practice and reinforce alternative, more helpful, behaviours. The more often you do this the more likely you are to succeed in changing your beliefs.

Remember that this process isn’t always easy and seek out some support if you need help along the way. My training in TimeLine Therapy ™ is a great way to help you to get rid of your self limiting beliefs. Just give me a shout if you’d like some help with this.

Make sure that your beliefs about yourself are ones which help you to fulfil your goals.


Tag: Horse riding

Recently, a group of Nepali climbers have successfully scaled the mighty mountain K2, the first time this has been achieved in Winter and the first time without oxygen – an astonishing achievement. K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and is only 200m shorter than Everest. It is widely considered to be the World’s most challenging mountain.

The leader of the group, Nirmal Purja said “We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible,”

You can read more here.

There aren’t many people who will ever accomplish such a phenomenal feat of skill, endurance and teamwork but in our own ways we each have mountains to climb.

I love the above quote about teamwork, collaboration and a positive mental attitude and all of these things are really applicable in the equestrian world aren’t they?

As riders, working towards achieving our goals and fulfilling our dreams, there is definitely an element of all of the above.

Without the positive mental attitude that Nirmal Purja talks about we are likely to get stuck at the first steep incline on our journey to our own mountain summit!

Sometimes things trundle along in the right direction without giving us too much of a challenge but frequently we will encounter obstacles which mean that we do need to dig deep into our skills of determination, endurance and positivity in order to be able to take the next step.

Each rider will have their own challenges so whether that’s having the confidence to hack out alone, coping with a tricky horse, qualifying for a championship or reaching the next level of competition remember the words of the brave Nepali mountaineer and you will reach your mountain top.

What’s YOUR mountain? I’d love to hear about it and if you need some help with climbing YOUR mountain then just get in touch.

The mighty Dolomites in Northern Italy

Tag: Horse riding

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.