How to be a happy hacker

Fun ride photo

I thought you might like to share the article recently published in Horsemanship Magazine:

Make 2015 the year you become a VERY  Happy Hacker:

Hacking is one of the most enjoyable things we can do with our horses – and yet it is not easy!  We are asking our horses to cope with roads, new sights, new sounds, unpredictable events – and trust us to take them to new places and bring them safely home again.  Being a happy hacker doesn’t mean having the perfect horse, or being the perfect rider.  What it does mean is that the two of you are safe together, that your horse looks to you if there is a problem and you work together to solve them.  A horse who stops, and looks to you for advice when she is worried or scared – is a safe horse.

Here is your spring and summer outline for being a happy hacker by this autumn!


“May and June.  Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights.  The discussion of philosophy is over; it’s time for work to begin.”
–  Peter Loewer  

“It’s time for work to begin”—that is a great description of May!  At last we can see the sunshine, the longer days – -and we can see ourselves riding off into the wide blue yonder.

Here are some great things to do in May to improve your hacking.  This month let’s focus on things you can do by yourself:

  • Take your groundwork out on the trail: build on your groundwork and take your horse out in hand. This gets both him and you used to being out and about together. Remember if you build a “herd of two” by taking care of your horse and keeping him safe, this will translate to when you ride
  • When you take your horse out, try to build his confidence so you can walk level with your saddle. This gets your horse used to being in front of you – and you can practice reading your horse from here.
  • When you see your horse react to something (eg tighten his lips, hesitate, raise his head) practice helping him calm down. You can do this by putting yourself between him and the scary thing and asking him to go past it many times. Eg stand with your back to the scary wheelie bin and ask him to walk past, however far away he needs to be. As you do this a few times you will see him lower his head and relax.  When he is relaxed you can switch positions and he can go closer to the bin.  Practising this means he builds his confidence in you as a partner, and you practice noticing when he is worried and needs your help
  • Teach your horse to line up next to fences, logs and bumps for mounting – this will be invaluable for later on!
  • Practice getting on and off your horse out on a hack. If your horse has confidence in you on the ground then when he gets worried while you are riding, you always have the safety net of being able to get off and deal with things from the ground – remember we are training our horses and ourselves for the future, not just trying to “get round this ride”.  Getting off shows your horse you are working with him.  It’s good practice too!
  • Go to horse agility and spook busting events to work together on your confidence. Many of these are focused on groundwork, but others (eg Trec) also help with riding too!
  • And perhaps the most useful of all: practice stopping!  Teach your horse to stop with a verbal cue, or a lift of the rein, or a breathing out – or all three.  And reward stopping every time.  Knowing your horse will stop is the biggest confidence booster when out hacking.


In summer, the song sings itself. ~William Carlos Williams

June is the month everyone is getting out and about, so this month, enlist the support of some of your friends to develop your hacking by playing “hacking games”.   These four games start off being played in a safe place like an arena or field, but then you take them out on a hack with you and practice them out there.  These games are great for building your partnership when you are hacking out with others:

  • Watch this space: In this game you prove to your horse that you will keep him safe.  You start off on the ground, just standing in the centre of the arena, and your friends ride around you, starting off right at the edge of the arena but then taking turns to come closer.  As they get near you and your horse, before your horse reacts – you step towards your friend’s horse and they turn away.   Build this up – slowly — until your friends can ride towards you at a trot, or two or three at a time – and your horse just stands relaxed, knowing you will take care of it.  Sometimes this takes one session, with other horses it may take a few sessions spread over a few days…
    Then get ON your horse, and do the same, by looking at, waving your arm at or taking a step towards your friends, you “make” them move away and keep your horse safe.  This game results in a horse who trusts you to take care of the other horses around them, and who will stand calmly whatever the other horses are doing.
  • Mind the Gap: this builds on the work you have done in the Watch this space game. Now you are riding your horse in the arena, and walking around the edge, close to the rail.  Start with one of your friends riding a small circle in the centre of the arena, with a large distance between you and them.  Watch your horse closely – if she reacts, ask your friend to give you more space by “waving them away”, if your horse doesn’t react and just keeps walking forwards, then build up until your friend is riding past you fairly closely but your horse is not reacting at all but listening to you.  Start with you doing a lose walk and your friend’s doing a faster one – and build up through the gaits.  You can also play this game with them coming from behind you and passing you – and riding towards you.
    This really builds your “herd of two” as your horse gets used to being safe when horses come from behind or towards them at any gait.
  • Leapfrog: this is an extension of Mind the Gap. In this you ride with your friends at walk around the rail, and then practice overtaking each other and moving to the front of the ride.  At first, the overtaking will have to be quite wide, so all the horses feel relaxed and calm.  Eventually, you will be able to be overtaken at speed, quite closely and your horse will stay quiet.  For this game, each horse overtakes and then slots into the front position straightaway.  This builds your horse’s confidence with being overtaken, and leads to the next game where they also get used to horses going away from them.
  • There and Back again (the Hobbit game): this builds your horse’s confidence staying with you when other horses go away from them (pretty important on fun rides!).  Again, like all the games, we start with this game in an arena, then take it to a field – and then you can play it anywhere with open spaces out on a hack too.
    First, line up all the horses and riders along one short side of the arena.  Then, one of you ask your horse to ride away at a walk.  You are only allowed one “ask”  and if your horse turns to come back to the other horses you go “great idea, let’s go back”.  When back with the others, you give your horse a rub – and do it again.   And again.  Three times. Some horses will only go a couple of metres before turning back – all three times.  Some will go further as they build their confidence.  It doesn’t matter how far they go – the point is you are proving to them that if they get worried, you will bring them back to where they feel safe.  Take turns doing this.  The horses WILL go further as you practice – remember no cheating!  When all the horses can go to the end of the arena at walk, you can try a trot… or maybe two riders going at a time.  This game can be played for a horse going away from – but once that is working well at trot and even canter, you can change the game to focusing on the horses left behind:  have two or more horses walking away, and you ask them to come back when your horse gets worried about being “left behind”.  By the end of this game, your horse will happily go away from other horses and allow other horses to go away from him.
    Be aware when you take this game out onto a hack, that there is an “out of sight” threshold for most horses: if a horse goes away but out of sight, the horse left behind will be worried, so play with this threshold very slowly and carefully.

Playing these games will give you and your horse confidence riding in company and set you up for success on group hacks, fun rides and sponsored rides – whether you know the other riders or not!


July 1969 was when man first stood on the moon.  Where will you go this July?

July is the month for getting out and about and having FUN with your horse! Take the games and experience from May and June – and spend these lovely summer days taking your horse to new places to play.  Here are some ideas for safe riding that I teach on hacking courses:

  • Choose a location and head there in your car first. You can check out the access and parking for horse transport. Check out local pubs and ask if you can use their car park in return for buying a post ride drink or lunch!
  • Plan your route using good maps. I prefer the ordnance survey Explorer maps (the orange ones) as the detail enables you to follow your route with ease. Make sure if you are going with friends that all of you have copies of the map/route, and if you are going alone, let someone know the route you are planning to take.
  • Put together your safe hacking kit which will include:

Waterproof and warm clothing – you never know how long you could be out there
snacks for you and your horse
Drink for you
whistle and torch for attracting attention
a compass and map of the larger area
spare hoof boot in case of soreness
small rasp for removing a loose shoe/any hoof damage
mobile phone (fully charged and with an ICE number in the contacts list)
tags with your name and emergency contact details – attach to your horse and yourself
foldable water bucket
spare string or rope
wound powder

Have fun playing the games on these rides – and enjoy the summer!

August:   the month that India became independent: time for you to be independent too.

Now you have your hacking foundation, you can relax and enjoy yourself. Here are some ideas:

  • Take your horse on holiday: there are companies that organise rides for you, so all you have to do is relax and have fun. This is a great way to practice your hacking!
  • Get some friends together and head to the beach for a ride or a holiday…
  • Ride one of the longer trails such as the Mary Townley loop
  • Look at some of the EGB (Endurance Great Britain) rides: these are like a fun ride, but have added organisation so are a great way to start riding in larger events
  • Plan some fun rides for September and October and start looking forward to them!

With everything from the last article as your foundation, and this summer of building your hacking – 2015 is certainly looking like the best year yet!!!



What is the Mindfulness Journey?

The Mindfulness Journey
Want to make 2015 the year you become more mindful?
Heard about mindfulness and wonder if it’s for you?
Tried mindfulness but not been able to keep it up?
The Mindfulness Journey is an approach I have put together based on my personal and professional experience.
All you have to do is read the Mindfulness Journey posts on the Effective Horsemanship fb page as they are posted  ( , or you can catch up right here on this new  blog

and think about them.
Every day.
That’s all
The posts will offer thoughts, insights, some things to try.
You decide what you do and when you do it.
At the end of the year, I guarantee you will have made progress in your mindfulness
It may not be the progress you planned, but it will be progress nevertheless
Confucius said “the longest journey begins with a single
Take your first step on your mindfulness journey and read the first post today
And think about it – for five minutes.
Set a timer and think about it for five minutes.
Doesn’t matter what or how you think about it….no right or wrong. Just think about it for five minutes

Here’s an idea: for your mindfulness journey
Find a notebook, a journal.
Each day, record something that occurs to you about mindfulness
If it helps, just write down your personal reflection on the thoughts and exercises I will be sharing here each day.
Then at the end of the year you will have your own personal book of mindfulness with 365 pages of yourself and your journey.
And so what if some of the pages simply copy the day’s quote? Maybe for those days, that is enough…..

Someone asked me — what if I am late starting The Mindfulness Journey? What if I miss a day?
So what? start when you can — and do the days when you can. My day 2 doesn’t have to be the same as your day 2 — some weeks you may manage 7 days that week — other times you may only manage one or two — just go through the days in sequence, however you can — and you will make progress.
Obviously if you can do something every day, progress may be faster — but progress once or twice a week is still more than if you do nothing at all…

Make 2015 your best year yet!

Beach pic

This is part one of a three part series being published in Horsemanship magazine ( December 2014,  February 2015  and April 2015.  the series is written with my good friend Ruth Drake Chapman, a fellow horse woman and enthusiast.

I thought you would appreciate me sharing it here too:

Make 2015 your best year yet….

New Year is the time for resolutions and resolve.  How many times have we all made plans for a great year – and how many times have you reached Easter and realised your resolutions are far behind you and nothing has really changed?Well, 2015 is the year that’s all going to change.  2015 is the year you and your horse are going to have your best year yet, and this is how:

January 2015:
 “To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June.” -  Jean-Paul Sartre

The post-Christmas lull can be a depressing time, but this is the month of crisp winter mornings which are a joy to get out in.  So when the weather is good get out and about, enjoy the sunshine.  And when the weather is bad, don’t get depressed, but look at it as an opportunity to do some of the things you never really have time for in the summer….

  • Get that book out you’ve always meant to read
  • Check out clinician’s calendars for 2015 ready to book in as rider or spectator and plan your year
  • Start a DVD club with friends and have warm winter evenings watching horsemanship and having fun – share ideas for some fun activities to do this year
  • Look out for some clinicians who do horseless workshops – some of the ones on horse behaviour will really make a difference to you and your horse
  • Spend time with your horse in the stable or shelter, just grooming and connecting

January can be a great month to lay the foundation of your year

“The word February is believed to have derived from the name ‘Februa’ taken from the Roman ‘Festival of Purification’.
February is a short month, the shortest of the year – and most of us can do something for 28 days.  So how about making February your “purification” month?    Can you think of something “purifying” to do each day in February?

How about:

  • Decluttering your horse stuff?
  • Clean up your tack room and tack?
  • Do a tack swop with friends, which can also make a fun February evening
  • Think about cleaning up inside as well as outside: how can we get ourselves mentally ready for the year?  From Mark Rashid to Philippe Karl, your mental state is said to have a great impact on your riding.
  • Find a mediation or mindfulness course or class
  • Find yourself a confidence coach
  • Identify the negative things to let go of, and the positive to hold onto into this new year

“March is a month of considerable frustration – it is so near spring and yet across a great deal of the country the weather is still so violent and changeable that outdoor activity in our yards seems light years away.”   -  Thalassa Cruso 

Ah the month of frustration;  tempting days of spring, mixed with the snow and ice of a winter hangover.  But, if we can do something for our fitness each day for this month, we will be ready for Spring when it comes…

This could include simple things like walks in the winter sun, taking the stairs when you can – but let’s take a closer look at being fit for riding.  How about:

  • Working on your balance: practice walking along jump poles, kneeling on an exercise ball, using wobble boards….
  • Working on your flexibility: try yoga, Tai Chi, stretches – any of these make a big difference when you ride
  • Working on your core stability:  core exercises with a ball, pilates classes, “fit to ride” classes
  • If you want to get your horse involved too, find a place to get some lunging lessons, or some in hand/groundwork lessons and you can help your start getting fit too

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” -  William Shakespeare

Well we are already well on our way to a great year:  we have built a foundation of  planning, and mental and physical fitness.  Now’s the time to set our goals for the year.  If we set goals in January, they seem very far away, and we are often too ambitious and unrealistic in our expectations.  In the comfort of the pub, I can achieve anything….

So instead, let’s wait until April to sit down and set our goals for the year.  By now we have done some reading, talked with our friends, had some coaching and worked on our own and our horse’s fitness – and we have an insight into what is actually achievable this year.

How do we set goals?

The first thing I say is don’t do it alone.  Goal setting is much easier if a group of you who know each other and your horses well get together and work on this.  You can support each other in answering the following questions:

What are you going to START doing this year:

  • That will be FUN for you and your horse eg try horse agility, le trec; plan a beach trip!
  • That will be GOOD for you and your horse clinics, workshops, courses
  • That will MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the  longer term for you and your horse eg finally get some coaching on that trailer loading issue!

What are you going to STOP doing this year:

  • That will lead to more FUN:  eg stop letting people talk me out of spending time with horses; stop worrying about mistakes or things that didn’t work as well as I hoped
  • That will be GOOD for you and your horse:  eg stop getting angry with my horse when things don’t work out, stop getting angry at myself…
  • That will MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the longer term for you and your horse:  stop procrastinating and book that trailer driving course

What are you going to CONTINUE doing this year:

  • For FUN: eg keep going out on fun hacks with my friends; just hang out and groom my horse for as long as I like
  • For the GOOD of you and your horse: keep doing the hard work on keeping your horse fit and healthy, keep buying Horsemanship Magazine (LOL)
  • To MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the longer term for you and your horse:  keep going with this “best year yet” programme….

More to come in the February issue when we look at what you can do from May – August to keep 2015 the best year yet for you and your horse!

I will post that article after it has been published — so watch this space!

Bouncing back: ten tips for Emotional Resilience

Gracie asleep

One of the things I find most interesting when looking at the issue of confidence, especially around horses, is the concept of “emotional resilience”.  You know how sometimes something happens to you and you can just acknowledge it and move on – and yet other times something happens and it rocks your whole world?  And causes you to question everything?

That is all about emotional resilience,

So what exactly is “emotional resilience”  and where has it come from? The American psychologist Emmy Werner was one of the first to use the term “resilience” in the Seventies, in a study of children from Kauai, an impoverished region of Hawaii. Werner found that of the children who grew up in difficult circumstances, two thirds exhibited destructive behaviours in adulthood, whereas one third behaved normally. She called this latter group “resilient”, saying they had genetic traits that were different to the others.

Similar studies followed, including an influential one in America in the Eighties, based on the children of schizophrenic parents, which found some thrived despite a lack of parental attention. Academics built up a body of research in the US and Australia, where it is called “psychosocial resilience”, and as the concept garnered attention in Europe, its therapeutic effects began to emerge.

Resilience, explains Prof Richard Williams, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of South Wales, comes from the Latin resilio, which means to jump (or bounce) back. Now, emotional resilience measures our ability to cope with or adapt to stressful situations or crises – be this a hurricane in Kathmandu or an A-level exam in Kingston. Indeed, says Prof Williams, the two situations aren’t so different – rather, they’re on a “spectrum of adversity”.

So emotional resilience is about coping with the things life throws at you…and it is a topic that is even being introduced into the school curriculum…

And this is the key point: emotional resilience can be taught. It’s not just those who have been exposed to natural disasters who develop it; nor is it only children who can surround themselves with its protective armour. Experts say adults are just as adept at learning the skills needed to be emotionally strong, proactive and decisive, no matter how late in life they start.

Just as with Mindfulness work, the effects of emotional resilience training are well-documented. Unlike other therapeutic techniques, many of them rooted in management speak, this has its origins in science. Schools and offices in which the practice is taught have improved so much – increased motivation, innovation and better relationships – that the Department for Health now sponsors a free, downloadable “emotional resilience toolkit” for employers, with tips on how to “survive and thrive” at work.

Let’s take a look at the main things that building emotional resilience focuses on – and see how these might apply to our confidence:

  1. See crises as challenges to overcome; not insurmountable problems

Perspective is key.  In many situations simply “reframing”  the situation can help.  To reframe from “I will never be any good with horses”  to “ I haven’t learned how to cope with this particular situation yet” makes a huge difference to how we feel.  Confindence Mapping is a useful tool for gaining this perspective, as is journaling – both focus on keeping track of what IS working and progressing as well as the challenges

  1. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family

Bear in mind that supportive doesn’t always mean  agreeing with you – but it DOES mean working with you to achieve your goals and helping you find your way.   It DOES mean removing the people who every time you make a tiny step in the right direction (for example you safely led your horse in from the field) point out how far you have still to go (“it will be years before you are hacking out”).

  1. Accept that change is part of life, not a disaster

I think my last blog focused on this – Life is life and we have to deal with it – and that’s just part of the journey

  1. Take control and be decisive in difficult situations

Now of course with my rather Zen approach to many things I would say “control is an illusion”  LOL – but there is a valid point here.  Identify what you CAN control, and work on that.  If you identify things you CAN’T control, then either change the situation or stop trying to control those things.  One example of this is a friend who has her horse at a livery yard that is not perfect.  The owner often brings her horse in to her stable far too early for my friend’s liking and nothing she has said has convinced the owner to change.  However, everything else at the yard is great, so she has instead researched stable toys, made sure her stable is next to her horse’s fieldmate’s stable, rearranged things so the two horses can still touch and groom over the wall – and has settled for that.

A good example of “change what you cannot accept, accept what you cannot change – but always look for improvements” LOL

  1. Nurture a positive view of yourself – don’t talk yourself down or focus on flaws

This is a big one – our whole life we are assessed, evaluated and have it pointed out to us where we are failing.  What if we focused on strengths instead?  What if instead of focusing on our “flaws”  we just realised that no one is perfect, we have strengths and we can build other strengths….  Every one of us has a right to be here, to be happy to be sad, to be who we are – and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can get on with enjoying things.

It sounds simple, but this one is not easy… it takes a big change in mindset and mindfulness and meditation can be really useful here – as can good friends

  1. Look for opportunities to improve yourself: a new challenge, social situation or interest outside work. Set goals and plan ways to reach them

It seems odd having just said to not focus on flaws that we now say “improve” – but this is about making small achievements and wins.  When I play a tune on a piano and it actually sounds familiar – especially when in the early days it sounded like a cat in pain – I feel good about myself,  So this is about looking for opportunities to feel “justifiably good”  about yourself – building genuine, positive self esteem based on reality.

  1. Keep things in perspective: learn from your mistakes and think long-term

The easiest way to keep things in perspective is two fold:  one, keep track of your progress, so you can see how far you have come – and two: realise that for most of us, our confidence with our horses is what many would call “ a first world problem” – and we are really lucky that we have the time and support to work on this…

Thinking long term helps me cope with the whole life thing – I heard a story once about a woman who went to a counsellor for some advice.  She said “I have always wanted to be a doctor, but. It will take five years so by the time I qualify I will be 45”.  The counsellor simply replied “in five years you will be 45 anyway, whether you become a doctor or not…”

  1. Practise optimism and actively seek the good side of a bad situation

Those of you who know me know this is something I do a lot.  I may not be able to control or change a situation, but I CAN control or change what I focus on and how I choose to FEEL about the situation.  Recently I was told that due to bureaucracy my entry to a long awaited Masters course was being delayed by a year.  I COULD have got upset about that – and for a few minutes I did.  BUT there was nothing I could do to control it – and I realised that it does actually free up my time for this blog, my new job, my own riding and time with my partner – all things that have been a bit lacking lately and so I chose to focus on that positive.  It helps if you have friends to support you in this way of thinking.  It helps a LOT.

  1. Practise emotional awareness: can you identify what you are feeling and why?

I often say “ self-awareness is a pre-requisite for self management” .  If we practice being AWARE of how we feel, then we have more options for CHOOSING how we feel… and we become thinking, reasoning human beings rather than reactive bundles of emotions…

  1. Look after yourself, through healthy eating, exercise, sleep and relaxation.

This is actually bigger than it looks.  Because to look after yourself, you first have to accept and truly believe that you are WORTHY OF CARE.

And this is one of the biggest things around emotional resilience and confidence:  you are worthy of being confident, resilient – simply by being human and on this planet, you are worthy.

Remember that.

This is a long article, but I think it is a topic deserving of the length – I will probably write more on this but for now, how do you think your emotional resilience is today?

And what can you do to strengthen it?

Yours, in Confidence


What’s Life got to do with it?

Tory 2

Hi everyone,

I am delighted that the Confidence Wheel I posted here back in March is getting some replay on other sites this week — always good to know when thinking is appreciated and helpful.  Many people have commented and messaged me to say they are finding the wheel useful not just with their horses, but in the rest of their life too.  Others have been in touch asking “when are you going to start posting again?”

And I realised over six months have passed since I wrote that Confidence Wheel post….

So what has happened?

Have I run out of things to say? (some of you are laughing at that thought!)

Has everything about confidence been said?

Am I not interested any more?

The answer is – none of the above.  In fact what has happened – is just plain old everyday LIFE.

LIFE has happened.

Some of you may already know this, but I started doing the confidence coaching back in 2008, after the credit crunch when my professional consulting and training work dropped off – and my mum was diagnosed with dementia.  I stopped doing the consulting work, spent more time with mum and dad – and started doing the confidence coaching.

I really enjoyed the change.  Working with people who wanted to make a difference to themselves and their horses was and is very rewarding (in emotional terms, if not financial!). And for 4 years that was my focus.

I started the blog in March 2012 when I realised that people were often asking me similar questions and I thought I could share more widely and reach more people to help them by having the blog.

Life was flying along, with lots of horses and helping people – a wonderful combination.  Financially it was tough, but in all other ways it was a great time, I was helping people grow, helping horses be happy – and growing myself in many ways too.

Then in summer 2012 I met G – amazing, I now had a partner as well – life couldn’t get much better (although a lottery win would have been appreciated).

All through this time my own horses were getting attention and time, because I was self employed and managing my own calendar, and this was how life was working.

Then, in October of 2012 my dad fell ill.  Oh we had had some challenges before when he had 6 weeks of radiotherapy and we had to work out how to have sitters with mum, while ferrying dad to and from the hospital on a regular basis.  We were lucky – we had local people who volunteered to drive dad, and I, being self employed, could take the time to sit with mum.  But this was “proper ill”.  He was 89, and had a fall.  We found respite care for mum, and it was all hands on deck to support the situation.

We were very lucky – we had supportive Macmillan nurses who coordinated services – and we ended up being able to get mum and dad together again, in the same care home, for a few weeks before dad passed away in June 2013.

Of course, in this time, I had been able to do very little work – so life was getting challenging.  My partner was being bullied at work and it was obvious they were trying to “move him out”, so things were changing….

Through all this I was in pretty good shape thanks to friends and family.  And I will never forget that it was friends and family who made all this “life” easier to handle, and happier to be in.  I will always treasure that time I had with mum and dad helping them stay at their home as long as they could.

With mum in care, and a partner whose job was in jeopardy, I took a good long look at where I was and what I wanted.  And I decided that “life” had changed.  Whilst I enjoyed what I did, I also loved my partner and now had an opportunity to change things to support him, and us in a different way.

The confidence coaching would never be enough to support us without his income: not at the rates I charged anyway (gosh darn my belief in making things accessible!!) and I wanted to think about having time with friends and family again without worrying about missing work opportunities (which usually came up at weekends, just when friends and family were around to spend time with)

So I looked at life, and thought about what I really wanted.

And went looking for a “real job”.  I applied for lots – and then got head hunted for one.  And you know, it is an amazing job.  I am valued for my thinking, my perspective and myself. I am in a great team.  Sure the company isn’t perfect, but then I know from my consulting experience that no company is.  And I get paid.  Every month.

And this job is enabling may things in life:  we can buy a house in the country, instead of being on the edge of a town; we can plan for G leaving his job as we can manage on my income alone for a while; I can go and do an intensive classical riding course; I can plan and spend weekends with friends and family without worrying about the impact on income; I can buy Christmas presents without stress!

So many amazing things now possible thanks to this change in life.

In June this year, my mum passed away.  I was happy that I had been there for her so much, and that as a family we had been together for so long.  And I was happy with my choice to find the job…

Of course we are not there yet – currently I am working away from home during the week, so no horse time or coaching time except the weekends – and then I just want to be “home.  But that will change in the spring when we move house and I will have my evenings at home again.  And my brain is still coping with this “working every day” thing – I wake up on a Thursday and it says “Again? Really?”  LOL

My horses think they are retired, getting fed, brushed and that is about it for now.  I did loan a horse, Paddy, so I could practice my riding – but he turned out to have a sore back so I couldn’t ride him – he is happily in a rehab home getting better.  Many things have not gone as planned!

Next Spring I hope we will be moved, I will have the evenings and weekends for my own horses, and the income to enjoy life.

I also plan to be coaching again – maybe in a slightly different way, in a format that is more “self directed learning”  than me being there all the time – or group working – or video coaching.  All that is to be planned.

Bu the main reason I am writing all this, is to make the point that all that has happened since 2008 – has just been LIFE.  Life happening, and me making choices about that life.  Or just going along with it when choices didn’t seem possible…  even if I can’t choose what happens, I can have some impact on how I choose to feel about what happens…..

Now I could feel guilty and sad about things: I could feel sad about not being with my horses so much, about not keeping up to date with the blog, about life not being exactly the way I planned or wanted it.  I definitely feel sad about my mum and dad not being around anymore.  And that is normal.  That is life…

Or I can just recognise life for what it is and make the best of it at each turn, at each junction, using the mindfulness and meditation I practice most days….

There is a Chinese story I love:

There is a story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields.

One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck?….

How does this apply to confidence – and possibly even horses?

When we are able to hold the perspective that “life IS”  and accept that, and then make our choices based on what IS instead of what we wish were true, then we are in a place where we CAN change things….

Of course this relates to mindfulness – which I plan to write more on later in another post.  Being mindful and accepting your reality is the first step to making a change…

So what has YOUR LIFE got to do with it?

And what would help you make the choices that your life is needing right now?

Yours, in confidence


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