The Three Keys to Confidence

I have been asked by many people recently – but what IS the key to confidence?  And I realised there are 3 keys that can unlock the door to sustainable confidence….

That is what this week’s blog is about:  the Keys to Confidence


I was away doing several talks this past week, and working with some new clients – and visiting my parents in their new care home in Kent — which is why there was no blog last week.  The good thing about that is that when I am driving is when I do a lot of thinking….


I realised that in all the situations I find, there are three main areas that affect our confidence, and our ability to sustain our confidence.  Here they are:



Knowledge:  having the information we need to understand what to do, how to do it – when to do it – and why it works or doesn’t work.  In here is knowing how to read your horse, how to know what your horse is thinking and feeling;  knowing the basics of how a horse works and what affects them .  At more advanced levels this is knowing what a shoulder in is, a renvers, a travers

It seems logical that knowing stuff is a prerequisite for being able to DO stuff….

And if, like me, you hold the view that everyone does the best they can with the resources they have, then the amount of knowledge you have has a HUGE impact on exactly what IS the best that you can do….

How do you get knowledge?  Go watch as many trainers and clinicians as you can; learn from them even if it is just learning what you DON’T want to do.  Find people you respect, who match your values – and find out who they learn from.   And ask questions – ask LOTS of questions.  The only stupid question is the one left unasked…..

But remember – knowledge isn’t just about stuff OUTSIDE you.  One of the biggest helpers to confidence can be having more knowledge about how YOU work.  How to read YOUR feelings – and how to manage yourself.  Learning more about yourself can make sustaining your confidence much easier.

One example recently was a client who was very upset about her erratic confidence – it would be up one day, down the next and she found this hard to understand.  When we sat down, away from her horse, and spent some time exploring things – we uncovered that in herself, she had always been a person who had good days and bad days – so now we had this knowledge, we could come up with a plan for her time with her horse where she had things she could do on a good day, and other things on her not so good days.  Interestingly, once we started this plan, she found that she had a lot more good days….


Skills:  being able to apply the knowledge.  This can be something as simple as having the ability to handle your tools:  the ropes, reins, sticks, saddles, and your own body – being able to manage and move these so they are useful and support your plans rather than go against them. 

Once we KNOW things – we need to practice them so we have the SKILL to use them. 

I draw – and the more I practice, the better I get – drawing is a skill, so when I practice, I get better.

The more you handle your ropes, the better you get.

The more you ride, the better you get

Sometimes, when we learn something new and try it out – it doesn’t work as well as we woud like it to.  So what do most of us do?  We decide we are hopeless at it, and stop doing it – when in fact we need to do the opposite –

When I first started doing the classical in –hand work, I was SO bad!  I would use too much pressure, the horses made it quite clear that I had NO IDEA what I was doing, and it looked awful! I was very tempted to stop – but then I realised, of COURSE I was no good at it – I hadn’t practiced!

Would I expect to be able to play the piano after a few lessons, if I didn’t practice?

Would I expect to be able to do ANYTHING well, if I didn’t practice?

Well, this was the same.

So I practiced  Badly at first, but when I listened to the horses – and apologised – I found that over time I became less clumsy, I was able to put into practice what I had learned and it was working….

I think we often have the assumption that knowing something is the same as being able to do it – and we forget that inbetween knowing and being able to do – -is a large area of practicing, looking bad, and gradually improving until we ARE able to do it well enough to not feel totally stupid doing it….

Part of developing your skill is setting up an environment where you CAN practice safely.  I have one or two friends who are in the same boat, so we practice together and that makes it fun and a bit of a laugh – it also stops me spiralling into the “but I should be better by now” pit of despair that can happen if I practice alone too much!

So – think about how you are going the develop your SKILL so you can USE your knowledge effectively…..


And again – realise that SKILL isn’t just about handling ropes, or horses – it is also about handling ourselves. The first time we went to a dinner party where we didn’t know how to behave – it was difficult.  As we went to more and practiced – it became easier to handle the interactions, and relax and feel confident.  So practicing on our internal selves and how we talk to ourselves is also important for confidence – which leads us to the third key….


The third section , Acceptance, is about knowing yourself.  Knowing yourself, and accepting yourself. 

That’s the first step. Accept yourself exactly as you are, right here, right now.  This is the reality.

When you accept yourself as exactly what you are, now you have somewhere to start.

What do I mean by acceptance – what do you need to accept?

Accept the knowledge you have.  If you don’t think it is enough, then go find more

Accept the skills you have – if you think you don’t have enough skill, then find a way to practice and develop them until they ARE good enough

Accept the horse you have in front of you today:  if it isn’t the horse you want (yet)  then go find the knowledge and skill and support to help him or her become that horse

Accept the reality of where you are in your journey:  and if it’s not where you want to be, then make a plan to get there – what knowledge, skill and support will help you on that journey?

Accept where other people are:  they will be in different places to you.  Not better or worse places – just different places.  They are on different journeys – and so what they say to you may work for you, it may not – remember it’s your journey and you will know what feels right for you…



You are a human being.  You are a living force of nature.  You are the perfect YOU.  There is no one else like you in the universe – never has been, never will be – you are UNIQUE

Compared to others, you have differences.  Compared to you, others have differences.

So what?


What matters is what YOU do, how YOU do it, how YOU make your life work…..


Accept yourself – look inside and see who you are.  See where you are real and true – and where you are tangled up in expectations and should.  Cut through the tangles.

How?  Some examples:

“I haven’t been on top of things this week”   So what?  No one was hurt, and I had so much going on, something had to give….I think I can forgive myself for that

“I am not prepared for Bucks Open Studios” (an art show that is coming up)  So what?   I prioritised being with my dad, and that is most definitely ok…


Realising that time is limited, that my energy is limited, and ACCEPTING that this means not everything I want to do will get done – that it is OK to make choices that mean some things don’t get done…..

This is all OK.  This is all just being human.


Accepting yourself exactly where you are today, this hour, this minute – will make the biggest difference to your confidence.



The box:

You may have noticed that the three circles are surrounded by a box. 


These three keys to confidence work best when you are inside the box.

The box – is simply an area of safety,  love and support.


When you are in an area of love and support, you have the space (bardo)  to find knowledge, to practice skills – and you have the safety to open up and admit who you are and accept yourself


So here are some questions for you:


What knowledge are you seeking out this month?

What skills are you practicing?

What are you accepting – about yourself and others?


And what are you doing to make sure you are inside the box of safety, love and support?



Yours, in confidence
















5 thoughts on “The Three Keys to Confidence

  1. This is the first good usage of box that I’ve heard, I’m off to construct a box in which to operate and will share my box with others who are going the same way 🙂

  2. As always you hit the spot – I always feel so much better about everything when I read your blog and totally motivated to go forward but with a kinder heart to both myself and my horse.

  3. Hi Cathy, as usual I enjoyed your article. Having had big confidence issues and to a lesser extent still do I have a question for you. I can only term it as being ‘ residual anxiety’ and it still controls my feelings first thing every day. When I analyse it it would appear that i have no apparent reason to be anxious. It puzzles me. I would dearly love to put it to bed but apart from facing it and dissecting the reasons which do not seem to hold water I am at a loss. My present horse has given me my confidence back and has not given me any reason to be concerned. This is so frustrating!!!!!!!

  4. This is such a powerful post, Cathy! I have been struggling a lot with confidence lately with Ngugi. In fact, I think part of my problem after my accident falling off a few months ago is that I haven’t fully reflected through writing (in my blog). Reading yours and seeing this 3-part plan makes me excited to get writing–perhaps even creating my own plan based off this theory–and get back in the saddle more confidently.

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