The Confidence Wheel

Here it is.  THE complete way to examine your confidence

And the basis of the future blog….  each post will be linked to the relevant parts of the wheel (sometimes more than one)  to make it easy for you to find what will make the biggest difference for you


The Confidence Wheel: how to help yourself

One of the biggest challenges in an organisation, especially when looking at capabilities, is the issue of confidence.  Personal confidence, team confidence, organisational confidence.

There are times we know we are full of ability but we don’t have the confidence to act on it…

I also see people full of confidence, but without the capability to do what they want or need to do…


How can you make sure that you have the realistic confidence needed to achieve your goals?


You can use the Confidence Wheel


Here it is, Complete Confidence in one image…..Confidence Wheel


At the heart of this is you.  Then your mental, emotional and physical states and their interactions.  How you are in yourself is a key aspect of confidence.

Then we start looking outside you.  And yes, knowledge and skills are outside you – because they can be learned from others, through others and so can be brought in from the outside to support you in your confidence journey


To feel confident about something, you need KNOWLEDGE.  You need to know What you are doing, Why you are doing it and How to do it.


To be confident you need to have the SKILLS to act on that knowledge.  You need to be able to do it, be able to do it well – and be able to practise so you can get better at doing it


And to be confident your ENVIRONMENT needs to support you.  The places need to be right, the processes need to work with you rather than against you and the people need to be there for you too….


Think about how this applies to your performance, your capabilities – and your confidence at work.

One of the biggest mistakes is mis-identifying the issue.  Using this wheel can help you make sure you are working on the real concerns that have an impact on confidence


Think about how you can use this wheel to achieve your goals…  where are the blocks?  Where are the opportunities?


As yourself, think about how you can use this wheel to accelerate your own development.  When you can accurately identify where an issue lies, you are much more likely to identify a matching appropriate solution that will make a real difference to you.


And each section of the wheel has different solutions….


More on those in other articles….


But here it is — The Confidence Wheel….


What do you think?



yours, in confidence


















Confidence Wheel


The Blog is getting a REVAMP!!!

It’s exciting — and it’s been a long time coming


Up to now this blog has been where I post regular thoughts and isnights into confidence and how to build and sustain it — which is great  BUT — there are over 150 articles on here now, and it is hard for visitors to find articles they want


So, we are REDESIGNING the blog to make it easier to use…


I will be posting an article this week showing that we now have a way of thinking about confidence that will really help you identify where you need support and help which will then be a new way to categorise the articles to make them easy to find and use as a resource…


Even more exciting — if this revamp goes well, it could be the path to another book that will make a real difference to anyone looking for more and better confidence!


Exciting Times indeed….


off to work on it all…


yours, in confidence





Hello everyone!


Well it’s been rather an extended winter break for me — my horses are all enjoying the holiday!


The good news is that the blog will start up again very soon — with posts every couple of weeks.


If you have missed me or the blog, I apologise — but we are now back in action!





As a thank you to all Blog followers – and because so many of you wanted to take advantage of offers that had run out….


All offers are available until
Midnight dec 31st

Email me letting me know which offer you want and then we will make plans!

Make 2014 the year you become
Confident and/or classical!!!!



The Attitude of Gratitude


The Attitude of Gratitude

Something as simple as saying “Thank You” can radically change your relationships with your horse, your friends – and yourself.

Interesting, isn’t it?   Just saying those two words can lead to totally different dynamics between us, and yet many of us don’t realise this.


This post was brought to mind this month as many of my American friends are posting their “daily thanks” posts on facebook in the build up to their Thanksgiving day at the end of the month.

I know some people find this inspiring, others find the daily posts irritating – how we respond to gratitude varies widely, but one thing is known:  saying “thank you” to someone changes how that person perceives you, and how they feel about you.

There is even an article in the Wall Street Journal citing evidence for how people who have an attitude of gratitude are “better off” in many ways :


Let’s take a look at this, and how it works with our horses, our friends, and ourselves.


With our horses:

Most of us like to be nice to our horses.  When we are with them we often say “good boy” or “good girl” – and pat or stroke them when things go well.

So here’s a question for you:  “What is the difference for you and your horse when you say “Thank you” and when you say “Good boy”?


If you think about that, or even take a moment to go to your horse and try this – you will notice there are some rather large differences.

When we say “Good boy”  (or girl) —  we say it as praise, as a congratulations for doing something well or right – which immediately means some form of judgement is involved.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is still a judgement, an assessment – and can be heard as such.

“Good boy” can mean “you did that right”,  “you accomplished the task”,  “I am pleased with you” “you have pleased me”.  It is a more direct line, outcome related upward energy….


When we say “Thank-you”, we say it as a release, a softening.  An acknowledgement that we have received a gift or offering.

Thank you can mean very different things to “good boy” – it is a being-related, downward energy


Try this with your horse:  when he offers you something great, or something you appreciate – say “thank you” .  You will notice your energy is different, your emotional state is different – and you will also notice your HORSE will be different.


With our friends:

Sometimes it’s hard to say “thank you”.  But it makes a huge difference.

How many times have you stopped at a zebra crossing (for those of you not in the UK these are road crossings for pedestrians which are not controlled by lights, so rely on the drivers “agreeing” to follow the road rules and stop to let people cross) – and  watched people cross and they haven’t even acknowledged you?  How did you feel?

And how do you feel when they DO give you a little nod or wave to say “thank you”?

There’s a big difference….


When someone says “thank you” it creates a positive emotional state in BOTH the thanker, and the thankee – and that changes how people view each other.  Research shows that people thanked for their behaviours are more inclined to offer more supportive and altruistic behaviours, and become more positive in how they view others; whereas those who are not thanked tend to reduce their offerings, and also become more negative about the people they interact with.

Two words that can make such massive changes in how people respond to you, and how eager they are to help you.


Interestingly though – there were differences in the people who were DOING the thanking:  people who say thank you more often are generally happier, more relaxed, more positive in their outlook – and the simple act of saying “thank you” triggers a positive emotional state in us.

This can be VERY useful


One of the things about working with confidence is that often, there are loads of people who suddenly know what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it.  In fact, this is true of most of the horsey world!

This can get annoying – and I know it is easy to end up in a very negative state about all this advice.  We often get to the stage where we avoid people, or end up arguing with them – which takes an awful lot of energy and isn’t pleasant for us OR them

So – what if we just said “thank you”….?


I was on a yard where I was the only person using what most would call a natural horsemanship approach with my horse.  EVERYONE had advice on what I should be doing….

So I started listening to their advice, waiting until they finished talking – then simply smiling and saying “thank you”.

In my heart I was thanking them for the time and effort they were putting into their well intentioned efforts to help me do what they thought was best.

And something interesting happened:

The interactions became softer, more positive.  On both sides.  As people saw me listen and heard my thank you – -they relaxed, became less pushy about their points of view – -and the whole dynamic changed.  Monologues became conversations – and my time at the yard became a lot more enjoyable.

This was great for my confidence too – instead of feeling under pressure to do things differently, I was able to continue in my own way without pressure or stress, and without having to argue with anyone.  And because all I had to say was “thank you” – I felt differently about things too.

What a difference.


With ourselves:

I have talked before about how to handle fear, and negotiating with our unconscious to help us find our  true confidence ( and

And here is the first thing to do whenever you notice you are feeling unconfident, worried or anxious about being around or on your horse:

Say “Thank you”




As you are driving down the lane to your stables, and you feel those butterflies starting to flutter around in your stomach:  say “Thank you.  Thank you for wanting to keep me safe, and make sure I pay attention to myself and my safety”

That is all your unconscious is doing when it causes you to feel fear or worry – or to “lose” your confidence:  it’s just trying to keep you safe.

That is a wonderful thing.  To know that a part of you is always looking out for your safety is a wonderful thing.

So let’s thank our unconscious for doing this.

And we find that something interesting happens:  when we say “Thank you”,  our unconscious believes we have heard it, that we are taking it seriously – and it starts to work WITH us instead of against us.

Things change, just like when we say it to other people.  Things change from an argument to a conversation.  From an argument where no one is listening and everyone is shouting, to a conversation where we hear each other, understand each other and work to find outcomes that work for both of us….

Just learning to say “Thank you” to your unconscious can make a huge difference to how you feel.  IT can make a huge difference to your confidence.



So there you are:  just three ways in which saying “Thank you” can make a massive difference to your horsemanship and your life.


An Attitude of Gratitude – worth practicing…..


Yours, in Confidence













Beating the “Blah”s: Emotional Awareness and Confidence


Have you ever had one of those days where you woke up and you just felt “blah….”

You know those times when nothing’s exciting,   you’re not motivated and everything is an effort


If you are lucky a day when you feel like that coincides with a day where it’s miserable and raining anyway  or a day when you have to go to work and get paid and it doesn’t really matter.

If you are self employed and work with horses though then it can be a tad different

Also what if you feel blah in the only hour of the day you have to spend with your horses?  What on earth can you do about that?


So, “blah” describes pretty much how I felt when I woke up this morning


This time of year is always difficult for me:  the change in the weather, change in the light, the prospect of losing the summer and the arrival with the winter where work shifts from being  outdoors with individuals to being indoors doing talks with groups etc

I also have the personal matter that at this time of year I am reminded of the loss of a couple of close relatives.

So ok, I have some reasons for it – but as you know I am a beacon of positive thinking in this negative world – so surely I don’t feel blah?  Surely I don’t feel negative?

Well I’m human, so I do.


So what can you do to stop those blahs from ruining your winter – your hour, your day, your week your month…


Is there anything you CAN do without denying the fact that this is what you are feeling?


Let’s take a look at something:  I read an article recently about Emotional Awareness

“Emotional awareness means knowing what you are feeling and why. It’s the ability to identify and express what you are feeling from moment to moment and to understand the connection between your feelings and your actions. Emotional awareness also allows you to understand what others are feeling and to empathize with them.  It is also about the ability to handle all of your emotions without becoming overwhelmed”

You can find the full article here:  it’s worth taking a look, although if you head over and read it you will notice that I have a slightly different take on a couple of the points they make

Ok, so being emotionally aware, I realise I am not at my most positive – why does this matter, especially when talking of being with horses?

There are a couple of reasons this matters – and it is usually to do with the strategies we choose for dealing with these emotions.

In the article, the author talks of three common reactions to negative emotions, let’s take a look at these and explore how these might help us

1) Distracting:  where we take our mind off the negative emotions be reading, watching TV, fantasising – or doing something completely different.

This can actually be constructive:  going off and letting our mind do something different gives us a distance from whatever is upsetting us, and allows us to get some perspective.  Many of us know that if we can just get out there for ten minutes, or walk the dog, that our “blah” mood will be blown away and we can get on with our day.  Sometimes distracting ourselves helps us find the “RESET” button for the day.

It is worth working out a distraction strategy that works for you – and having that ready to use on your “blah” days….


2) Sticking with a single, habitual response to the discomfort of the negative emotion: you know people who always crack a joke, whatever the situation?  That is a habitual response.  Again, it might not really matter, but it also doesn’t really make any difference to the mood or situation, so it tends to be a real sign that you or that person is genuinely “stuck” – and would benefit from having some other strategies!


3) Blocking the emotions out:  this can be a useful “survival mode” – after all, if I have to do a job, or write an article – and I have no choice, then the ability to block out the negatives and get on with things can be a great skill to have.  However, it has  a downside:  first, it doesn’t change anything, the emotion is still inside me, simmering away and is likely to boil over some where else if I don’t deal with it;  second – blocking myself in any way means I am losing my ability to feel – and that definitely reduces my confidence around horses and people….


I have to say I actually have strategies for a blah day.  I have strategies for a good day, strategies for a blah day, strategies for when I feel good and the horses feel blah, strategies for when the horses feel good and I feel blah!

Because you know what let’s be realistic here we always hope for the best but let’s accept that sometimes things just aren’t perfect  — What do we do then?


To give you an example from today:   Today was definitely a blah day – to make it worse the sun was shining!

So I got to the field and I just KNEW that things could go badly wrong if I ignored my “inner blahness”


One thing horses are superb  at , and it’s why they are so good in horse assisted therapy – and that is reflecting what is really happening inside you


Horses are the same on the inside as they are on the outside – they have a congruence which is natural  to them

I have come across horses who have been blocked form that congruence by various things, and it’s my job to help them work towards rediscovering that, but their natural state is to be congruent – that’s one reason they make such good therapists


It also means they are very good at picking up anything that is not congruent in us.


Think about it:  the horse knows the difference between a lion who has just eaten and is walking through the herd with a full stomach – and a lion who is pretending to be full but is actually hungry and scouting out prey – the horse has evolved to know this difference, to know when things are not congruent ….


How do you think a horse feels when we turn up and we are not congruent?


When we’re going “I feel really bad, I feel miserable, I feel down, I don’t feel confident – but I’m going to fake it”?

If a horse picks up on that incongruence it disturbs their natural state of being, it makes them uneasy

Which, of course, we then pick up on – and the vicious spiral of unconfidence begins


What if, though, we acknowledge the fact we don’t feel very good at this moment, or today?  What if we admit that to ourselves, and accept it?


And build this INTO our plans for the day? And have plans for things we can do where our emotions won’t affect our horses?


Today, my “blah” strategy included mostly inviting each horse into the play area and playing at liberty.  This way I knew my blah – which might lead to frustration – could not lead to me forcing my horses to do anything – also, in playing at liberty, the focus is on positive reinforcement, “can you” games – and fun, so sometimes even if I dot START in a good mood, I can end up in one after playing this way for a while.  Sometimes I don’t – but then I have still had a good session with the horses despite my mood…

Other things I have on my “to do” list on blah days – grooming, tail brushing (it has to be done!), general adoration – and any despooking stuff that I can do away from the horses – eg with Coblet I can walk round the field throwing ropes around, that way I am not directly interacting with him, so he won’t be affected by my emotions – but I AM doing something “useful” (which is one thing that helps me feel better!)

As Sylvie relaxes into knowing me, my Blah strategies will include hacking out on her too….


By staying congruent, I know I am not going to “damage” my horses – or our relationship.


By having things to do whatever my frame of mind, I know I am going to progress while staying confident….


And my horses stay confident too


One last thing:  I was at a conference with a motivational speaker, whose name I can’t remember  or I would link to her, who made a great point.  She said “of course we get stressed, we get upset – the thing is, can we give ourselves twenty minutes a day to be REALLY upset and then just get on with things – that way we allow our emotions, and still have a great day.  And no, you can’t carry the minutes over to the next day if you don’t use them”


So when I feel a blah or down time coming on, I allow it – in fact, I will even wallow in it for a while.  If I deny it, it will just keep trying to come back and then might really get in the way of things I want to do – but if I welcome it, encourage it – and nurture it – for just twenty minutes or, ok, at this time of year it’s sometimes a bit longer (duvet days come to mind)  then I find it loses its power over me and instead of spending time stressing about how negative I am, I just AM negative – and then I move on…

I guess in doing this I am being congruent with myself….


And that feels better



So – what do YOU do on your “blah” days to keep your confidence?


Yours, in Confidence




“Being there”: how to make more magic moments…..


I read an interesting post on facebook today.  The horsewoman, Mary-Anne Campbell, of the National School of Academic Equitation, who I respect and admire, said “Are you really riding your horse – or are you riding your expectations, frustrations and judgements?”


Her point was that often, when we have a really good ride, or a great moment with our horse, we end our ride there – and then, the next day come back to our horse expecting that same moment again.  And, when that moment does not happen – we experience all kinds of negative emotions that lead us to frustration.  Here is what she said:


“One interesting thing can be the influence of ambition on the work. When you have a great ride, almost certainly the next day you go in expecting to replicate, or to miss replicating, what you did the day before. When you have a great moment, you want that great moment again. Then you’re not riding your horse, you’re riding your expectations, frustrations, and judgments.
If you are In Each Moment, you’ll find the meltingly perfect ones begin slowly to spin together, one strand at a time, and if you can stay IN Each Moment, you have more moments in a string, then more.
It’s more about training ourselves to have that first one moment of perfect calm, perfectly being with the feeling and the understanding of the feeling, and more about learning to crave that experience of “being there” than it is about teaching the horse to do things differently.
They can walk straight lines and perfect circles, they can half pass and piaffe and pirouette and do all manner of cool things. Can we accompany them?”


And this got me thinking about the things I say about Confidence – and how we, as humans, manage ourselves in ways that often don’t help us build and sustain lasting, solid confidence.


Let’s take Mary-Anne’s words about the horse – and apply them to ourselves:

“When you have a confident moment, then almost certainly you go in the next day expecting to replicate that….you want that moment again… “ which means, just as with our horse riding, we are not in the moment, we are not connected with our real selves, — we are living iwth our expectations, frustrations and judgements


How often have you had a great moment, a great ride – a great day – and you have been THRILLED to feel so confident – and then the next time you go back to that place or situation, that feeling is gone – and you are once again anxious or concerned – that golden moment of confidence is no longer there.

And How do we feel when that happens?


Most of us feel a touch of despair – we feel the loss.  The absence and emptiness leadus to imagine we will never have that feeling again and we find ourselves feeling worse after feeling so good than if we had never had that wonderful moment of belief and confidence at all.

BUT:  we don’t do this so much with other parts of our lives, do we?

When we have a good moment in a sport, where everything clicks, it drives us to practice more so we can have that experience more often!

When we experience those wonderful moments of congruence, and coherence – in most areas of our lives it inspires us to seek them out again, and keep working on whatever it is that got us there


And yet, with some things this doesn’t happen and instead of being inspired by these “moments of glory” we find ourselves depressed and miserable about the fact we don’t have these moments all the time….


What’s the difference between whether we feel positive or negative about these moments?


Usually, the difference is that these moments excite us when we KNOW WHAT WE DID TO GET THERE….  and we have a strong belief and trust that we WILL be able to achieve those moments again.  When I know I have the skill to play a good game of tennis, then I am pretty certain I can replicate what made that last game such a good game for me…. and I know what to practice to get even better.

But what has to be in place for this to happen?

Usually training is about developing our knowledge (mental state) our skills (physical state)  and our ability to bring the two together by being calm and relaxed (emotional state) – so for tennis, I have to know how to play the game, have reasonable physical skills – AND be in a good state of mind when playing – if these three things are in place, then I stand a good chance of having some of those lovely moments in a game when everything comes together into that “sweet spot”

If I have ambition to do that – and I “try too hard” then I lose the relaxation, the calm – I start worrying about my shots, and I tense up – that affects the physical skills – and when I start missing shots, I get upset, frustrated – and that affects my mental state and I lose my ability to read the game so well – and it all goes downhill.


So – if this applies to sport, and horse riding – what about applying it to ourselves when it come sto our development of our confidence?


First we need the knowledge:  knowing how Confidence Mapping, IDEAS generation,  and other resources such as anchoring, working on limiting beliefs etc  is the “mental state”.  With this knowledge, we have the toolkit to build and maintain our confidence

Then we need the skills:  do we have the ability to USE these tools on ourselves – have we practiced using them so they are easy to use in any situation…..

Then, do we have the mindset that ALLOWS us to combine all of this in the moment…


Basically – do we take our own work of confidence building as seriously as we take other things in our lives?


Mary Anne goes onto talk more about this process in horse riding:

“The slower work, done really, really well, brings you to the faster work done really really well. The secret is that the fast work IS the slow work. If you skip it, you may get quick work, but you’ll never get sweet balanced amazing relaxed exquisite work at every gait, and that is the gold standard. Not because it’s “correct” but because my good lord it is mind blowingly amazingly wonderfully exactly what we all dreamed of when we first saw these animals, and they took our hearts. It is becoming one with the horse. And THAT is worth savoring, all the way through.”


With horses, we know if we work slow, savour those golden moments, and stay in the moment with calm relaxation – we will achieve anything.

It’s the same with ourselves:   can we stay calm, allow ourselves the time to take things slowly, in a balanced way – to stay in the zone where our mental, physical and emotional states all work WITH us and not against us – and be as amazing with ourselves as we are with our horses….


What are YOU doing to be as amazing with yourself as you are with your horse?


Yours, in Confidence




Link to the National School of Academic Equitation:

And the original comment that sparked off this article was on a post about dressage by Craig Stevens – you can find him on facebook, and Mary-Anne’s comments here:





The Key to Confidence: Listening


The Key to Confidence:  Listening


People often ask me “What is the Key to real and lasting confidence?”

I used to respond that there is no one magic wand, no one thing.  But recently I have begun to change my mind….


It seems to me that one word can sum up the key to confidence:




Listening to your horse and listening to yourself….


Listening to your horse:

On one of my Hacking with Confidence courses one person, Sandy, was getting frustrated at how unconfident she felt.

“My horse is doing nothing wrong, but I just don’t feel safe about riding her out, or cantering in the school – what is WRONG With me!”

We had worked through measuring her confidence, and developing strategies – but she was still feeling unsure and anxious.

When I watched her one day, riding her horse in the arena, and then taking her out down the track for a few hundred yards, I realised what was going on….

Her HORSE was unconfident, and Sandy’s unconscious was reading this, and making sure Sandy didn’t push her horse beyond her own confidence levels.

Sandy’s Unconscious was, in fact, listening to her horse and hearing her feelings…and then keeping Sandy safe in the only way it knew how – by causing HER confidence to falter.

When we explored this, Sandy felt a huge sense of relief, and started paying more attention to her horse.  Unlike her previous horse, who had expressed himself in large behaviours (eg stopping, turning, bucking!)  her current mare would just be slightly slower, a bit “sticky” with her feet – and these were the signs Sandy was missing consciously, but noticing unconsciously

Once Sandy started paying attention and really listening to her horse, her confidence returned and she was able to progress both her own and her horse’s enjoyment in riding…


Sometimes your own lack of confidence is a reflection of something your HORSE is feeling.


On another level, listening to my horse is important.  If I prove to my horse that I am listening to her, how much does that do for HER confidence, and HER ability and willingness to listen to me?

I was working with a new horse the other day, she didn’t know me and hadn’t met me before.  Early on, when I was just holding her and talking to her owner, she turned to scratch herself – so I joined in to give that place a good scratch.  As we stood there, she started pointing out more places that itched.  And I listened.  And scratched.  Her communication got more subtle.  And she relaxed more and more.  Listening built the beginnings of a relationship with her that gave both of us confidence in moving forwards into training.


I have one more very personal example of how important listening to the horse is:

Yesterday I was playing around with getting on Gracie again.  Those of you who read this blog regularly and follow my facebook page will know that Gracie has previously had a pattern of shutting down under any slight pressure (sort of going inside herself to watch her happy videos) and then, when something snaps her back into the real world she has spooked – and I have decided to restart her to unpack this.

I shared on my fb page a photo essay on how this year the first time I sat on her it was with nothing on her head, and with a bareback pad, to make sure I had her full permission and was paying attention to her levels of relaxation

So yesterday a friend was with me and I decided to do a repeat of this.  I put the bareback pad on her, and invited her to line up by the block.  After a few laps and a few times of not quite lining up, and me just “allowing” this, she lined up nicely, I scratched her and she had some massive emotional releases – yawning and stretching.

When I was lying over her, and with my leg along her, preparatory steps for sitting on her – I realised I was NOT in my comfort zone.  Something was putting me at a 6 or 7 on the unconfidence scale.

I started paying very close attention – -and although her bottom lip was loose and wobbly, her head was low – and she was inviting me on – I felt uncomfortable about her eyes….

While lying across her, she hadn’t licked and chewed or shown any relaxation and I just felt something was “not quite right” so I was not going to swing my leg over and sit on her.

Just as I said this to my friend, Gracie took one small step forwards – I quickly slid off – and as soon as my feet touched the ground Gracie stepped away, bunched up – and started broncing….

It was only a few broncs, and she stopped after about fifty yards.  I remember thinking “if I had a saddle I could have sat that”

But that wasn’t the point.  The point was that by listening to my horse, and realising something wasn’t quite right – I had stayed safe.


More importantly – and it had been much more difficult – I had listened to MYSELF

How easy it would have been to have said “nah, don’t be silly, you’re being a wimp, just get on!”

In fact I had said to Tracy, the friend with me, that I felt like a wimp!

Here I was, a Confidence Coach, feeling unconfident about sitting on a horse I had sat on before…feeling unconfident was stupid!

And yet it wasn’t.

In fact feeling unconfident and listening to that feeling had saved me from a potentially nasty experience.



It is HARD to listen to yourself.  When you are with others, who are encouraging you to get on with it – it is hard to hear your inner voice that is trying to keep you safe.

It is hard to listen to yourself.  When you are alone, and no one else is there – it is just as difficult.

It is as if within ourselves we have different characters, different voices.  And metaphorically we do.  We have our conscious mind, our unconscious mind – and there are probably other parts all still inside us

So when we think of riding, one part of us says “yay! I really want to ride!” while another part of us is saying “heck no!  You’re not safe and I’m not going to LET you ride!”

SO it seems whatever we do, we are going against part of ourselves.  If we stay safe and don’t ride, then we regret it and feel we have given in

If we force ourselves to ride, then we still feel scared afterwards and in fact we feel worse, as the ignored voice starts shouting louder to get our attention next time, and feels it can’t trust us now…and even though we have ridden and think we should be feeling happy and content – we don’t and we don’t understand why.

We are in conflict with ourselves.


And for most of us, that is the main problem with any confidence crisis – it’s puts us into an internal conflict and we can’t see any resolution – all outcomes end up with one part of us being unhappy.




Unless we find a way of listening to ALL our voices….


Really listening…..


Find out what they are REALLY saying….



That voice that says “don’t ride! It’s not safe” – is RIGHT!

Find out what it is REALLY saying.  Is it saying:

“It’s not safe because –

-          your horse is not relaxed

-          you don’t know enough about what you are doing

-          you are not in the right frame of mind for this

-          you tend to blast past your thresholds and put yourself in scary situations

-          you are just doing this because you feel you SHOULD

-          you haven’t thought this through

-          you don’t have any strategies for coping if things don’t go well



When you listen to what the voices are saying, they are almost always right.

If we don’t listen to them, they start to shout, and make us more and more scared to make sure we stay safe and take care of ourselves


If we listen to them, and find out what they are saying, they will learn to trust us, and work WITH us…. to build and keep our confidence


The door to confidence DOES have a key.




Yours, in Confidence



PS if you find this blog interesting, and want more details on HOW to listen to yourself, take a look at article 5 in this blog:






Confidence — a matter of mindset: joyous learning


Confidence -- a matter of mindset:  joyous learning

There are a lot of articles out there about the difference between playing with your horse – or working your horse.

In fact there are even camps that say you should never WORK your horse, but always PLAY – as this creates the mindset where a horse can learn, and to work a horse is to drill him endlessly in boring routines…

There is a tendency to think of “work” as being dull, boring – difficult; whereas play is effortless, free and easy


Well I don’t know about you, but I put PLENTY of effort into my play!  AND I play lots of complex sports with rules to learn, nuances to understand – so “play” being effortless and easy isn’t the reason I do it…


And you know, I have also been known to enjoy WORK – yep, I admit it.  There have been times when I have been working flat out, up against a deadline, staying late, all cylinders firing and absolutely stretching myself to the limit mentally and physically to get it done – and I have loved every second of the experience.

So I don’t think it is as simple as “Work vs Play” – in fact, to me that is a false dichotomy.

These views,  are all based on the premise that there is some sort of “trade-off” between “joyful play” and “hard work”—and in this trade off view, we as horse people have to choose between fun and learning, enjoyment and achieving goals – between a horse led world where all is fun and nothing is learned, and a human led world where everything is rigorously studied and no fun is allowed….


But here’s a question:  do we as horse people HAVE to choose between learning and fun?

Many people who have been drawn to the natural horsemanship world because of it’s focus on play, DO find their horses and they learn a LOT even though they are enjoying themselves….

So what if we can create an environment where we can have the benefits of work AND the benefits of play combined?


How can we do that?


It’s mostly a matter of mindset…




Horses by nature are curious about the world.  “Confidence leads to curiosity” is a trait espoused by many schools of horsemanship.  Tom Dorrance used to say “don’t knock the curiosity out of a colt” – because when we have that curiosity, we have the desire to learn that helps create the fun-learning, play-work environment…..


One of the tenets of the Montessori schools for young children is this:

“young children are capable of an astounding amount of learning when given the freedom to explore to their heart’s content, particularly in an environment of carefully prepared, engaging, meaningful explorative activities.  In such a setting, learning so called “academic” skills such as handwriting or arithmetic, is experienced as a playful, enjoyable activity.  The pleasure and deep satisfaction of such concentrated enjoyment is natural and to be expected because it is consistent with the actual needs of the child.  Psychologically the satisfaction derived is exactly the satisfaction that comes from play.  As Maria Montessori put it, “play is the child’s work”


What if we treated horses the same way?

Then we would use their natural curiosity and create an environment where “academic” skills could be experienced as a playful, joyful activity.  For example:

-          confidence in narrow spaces and trailers

-          following a rider’s directions

-          moving at different speeds

-          going into scary spaces with a human’s support

-          asking the human for help when “stuck”


and moving on to more advanced skills such as

-          balancing evenly on four legs

-          moving haunches and shoulders

-          suppling

-          “collecting”


What if we could create the environment where all these skills are part of a horse’s “play”?


How confident would our HORSES be?


And how confident could WE be, knowing we were working WITH our horse’s nature, and not against it?


Many trainers err on one side or the other.  Some  want to make learning so much fun that we forget about a curriculum, a goal, a focus – and risk not enabling our horses to develop effectively.  Yoga can be fun, but it also needs to be done carefully and in a managed way to make sure we don’t over do things or ask our body to do things it is not yet capable of doing safely!


Some want learning to be “a serious business” – the paddock is for play, now with the trainer, the horse has to “focus” and “work hard” – horses are said to have “work ethics” – as if they are humans.  This is a level of anthropomorphism that is not at all good for the horse.  These trainers are masters of defining levels, methods, stages to be learned, but rely heavily on extrinsic motivation to achieve these things.

I could go into detail here on the history of the work ethic, religious guilt and the abuse of “moral codes” to develop submission and oppression of the workers – but maybe that’s another blog LOL

The insidious thing about our culture is that we feel if we are enjoying our work, then we also tend to feel guilty – as if for it to be “real work” it has to be miserable in some way.

You know – it doesn’t.


You can enjoy things without feeling guilty


And if it feels easy and effortless – ENJOY that!  Cherish it as a time when things are flowing and fluid….

So many of us think that if we enjoy it, it isn’t work – and that there is a big divide between work and play….


What if we refuse to accept this false alternative?


What if, instead of learning vs enjoyment; work vs play – we think instead of an integrated, joyful experience during which learning happens?


If we focus on creating the environment, the activities that enable learning and “work” will occur in a playful, joyful way, with the learning being INTRINSICALLY motivated from within the horse himself….


Joyous learning….


And who would not want that for their horses?


Who would not want that for themselves?


Yours, in Confidence



A story of “leadership” — and confidence


As some of you know I was on holiday last week.  G and I headed off to France on the Eurostar.  This is G’s first time in France since he was a young boy, so he was a bit nervous and excited about the whole trip.

We had a chat, and he decided he would like me to hang onto tickets, passports etc – -and “take the lead” on the travel day, as then he could relax and enjoy the whole experience without any worry.

So I sorted out the tickets, passports and planned the travel itinerary to make it an easy day.

I built in lots of time for making changes from one place to another, or one state to another – for example we arrived in London with plenty of time to have a relaxed lunch, and then head to the Eurostar check in without any rush.

As we travelled, G developed a habit of being slightly behind me, and I would make sure I matched my pace to his, so he never got too far behind, and to keep an eye on him to ensure he didn’t lose any confidence in our direction or progress – -he was so distracted by everything he was seeing, I had to work pretty hard to do this.

When we made it to Paris and had to cross the city to catch our train to get to my brother’s, we used the metro.  Here there were a LOT of distractions, it was all new – so I slowed right down, often stopped by the wall to talk to G about where we were going, and what we were looking for – and how we had plenty of time.  I wanted him to feel safe and secure.

When we made our connection, and were on our way to Burgundy, I finally relaxed.  Leadership is hard work!

We had a great few days of R&R then we had a day in Paris before heading home – so I used the same approach.    We had a lovely day.


When we got back to the UK that night, G said “I am on home turf now” and took the lead.  It wasn’t a discussion – just while we were standing talking about getting from St Pancras to Euston train station (a short walk) he suddenly picked up his luggage and said “I’m going this way!”

I followed him out of the station.  I was worried, not at all sure we were heading in the right direction.  He didn’t explain what he was doing, or why – and was walking rather fast ahead of me – I felt rushed and in danger of being left behind!

I did not like that feeling at all…


When we made it outside the station and he strode off in one direction, I was certain it was the wrong one so called out to him – he turned, looked where I was pointing – then came back and continued past me in the direction I had pointed, (the right one!)  and didn’t even stop to say anything.

I definitely was not feeling good at this stage!


He marched off.

I was left behind


It was only at the first junction that he looked round for me – and was surprised to see me so far behind.  He waited for me to catch up– but before I could speak he was off again….


When we finally got to Euston I was not happy – I was certainly not relaxed and not confident about anything!

We saw that it was half an hour before our train left to come home, so I said to him

“I felt really stressed on that walk”


He was surprised – and said “well I just did what you did, went ahead and let you follow me”


I had to laugh.  I asked him how he had felt on our trip out, and in Paris.  During that conversation he said   “I felt you always knew where I was, you were ahead of me, but not too far – I always knew where to look to find you, and I felt that you always knew where I was…. I was relaxed, knew that if I stopped to look at something it was ok, you would notice and wait for me or even come and join me in looking….”


As he spoke he slowed down.  And realised. “That’s not what *I* was doing, was it?  I was just marching off expecting you to keep up with me – I had no idea you weren’t even with me….”

I replied “exactly – and I felt that I could have fallen over and you wouldn’t have noticed….I didn’t feel very confident at all!”


He said  “ I had no idea you were doing all that…. I just knew I felt safe and confident and you were taking care of me – while we were also getting everything done that we had planned….”


I am sharing this story because I think it highlights some aspects of leadership that are very relevant to us, our horses – and our confidence.


G realised that I had provided good, trustworthy leadership – and he hadn’t even noticed it, he had just felt safe, confident – and so had “let me lead”.

There is often a lot of discussion about the use of the word “submission” in horsemanship – and to me, THIS is what submission is – the voluntary handing over of trust because you feel safe and confident…


When G thought HE was “leading” he was in fact just doing what he wanted, with no regard to where I was, my emotional state or how I felt about it – and I certainly did not “submit” to him – I didn’t feel safe OR confident and so was not relaxed or happy about that short walk


If a short walk from one train station to another can cause me to feel that way,  if a day of careful thoughtful leadership can cause G to feel safe and confident and trust me enough to hand over that responsibility so he can enjoy the process –


What does THAT mean for leadership with our horses?


And our confidence?

I shared this article with a few friends before posting it on the blog, and they came up with some interesting connections I thought I would share with you:

-          Now I know why I feel so confident with some of my friends and not with others

-          There’s a difference between leading and “walking off expecting others to follow”

-          Leadership involves a lot of caring

-          With my new instructor I feel safe and confident – it was SO different with my last one

-          Now I understand my horse a lot better


What are YOUR thoughts?





Yours, in Confidence