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




GUEST BLOG: Embellished Horsemanship by Maja Lisac


GUEST BLOG:  Embellished Horsemanship by Maja Lisac

As I am on holiday this week, I thought it would be a good time to share a guest blog with you.

Sometimes when I write articles, people respond in e,ails.  I love those conversations and in this case they led me to ask the writer; Maja Lisac if she would write for the blog.

I am happy to say she agreed.

Over to you, Maja…

Hi! I would like to share some of my thoughts with all of you reading this great blog. My journey with horses started about six years ago, although I like to start counting from the day I got my first horse, three years ago (I was about eighteen). Since then, I’ve been looking for ways to improve everything – from the foundations of our relationship, all the way through confidence to my riding skills. Still, not only do I feel, I KNOW that I’ve just begun. Nevertheless, learning things about yourself and others is truly gratifying, so I’ve decided to share some bits of my own ‘epiphany’ in this longish read. Here we go:

How many times have you caught yourself being reminiscent, while looking at a photograph that shows how good you look while doing something? How many times have you relished in the thought of your personal success? We like to see our achievements. Maybe it is even more precise to say that we like to see ourselves meet with success.

Everyone is looking for appraisal, both from themselves and from other people, so that they could feel important. It is an integral part of our ‘defining ourselves’. This is normal. Our egos must be fed… But they must not become obese.

While this aspect of human nature can often go unnoticed, or not seem as relevant or intricate, spending time in the horse world reveals how much of an inhibitor it can actually be.

One of the most common problem-causes among us horseowners is the desire to prove to ourselves and our peers just how good a relationship we have with our horse. The event that inspired my thinking about the whole subject was an occasion when I almost ‘broke down’ after my horse refused to canter in front of other people. I believe almost everyone is familiar with this situation. There were several factors that made me feel so horrible, but all of them could be reduced to being utterly dissatisfied with the image which I, as a more experienced rider, was presenting to them, as opposed to what I was supposed to present. Once I put it this way, it made me realise how many irrelevant expectations I had.

Very often, we put the image of our relatonship before the relationship itself. We try to ‘trick’ ourselves and others into believing that we already have the desired relationship instead of admitting that there is still something we have to work on. On one side it is because of the great peer-pressure that we all experience when we are trying to define ourselves as anything, let alone capable horse(wo)men. We feel we have to confirm this image in oher people’s eyes, over and over again, in order for it to be real. After all, working with horses is perceived as an impressive ‘feat’, so people often tend to skip steps, trying to seem ‘natural’ as quickly as possible. Do you notice how little this has to do with the real relationship? We have to look competent in order to feel competent, and only then (we think) we can begin to be competent. The order is wrong. Which brings me to the other end of the problem. For some reason, people like to think in polarities. We are either competent or incompetent. We do not leave enough space for all the colours that lie in between. Our mind-image, to ourselves, is unequivocal. So, if something doesn’t work, we tend to grasp at lifelines – the quick-and-ineffective-fixes – instead of taking our time to build the needed confidence. Our picture has to look good NOW… Or we pronounce ourselves incompetent.

Allow me to go even further down the line, and look at the natural horsemanship itself. It is a beautiful concept at the heart of which is: keeping your relationships honest. It has become very popular in recent years (the Internet era) and there are a lot of people ‘demonstrating’ what such a relationship looks like, rather than what it is likeOf course, there are many people eager to explain, people who really do keep it honest, but what I have in mind are those pictures from the very beginning of the story. Suddenly, we are surrounded by successful people. Or at least this is how it appears. Among all the facebook photographs, and stories that are told, we may feel less capable than the people surrounding us. However, what we actually see is the human need to present us with an image – an image of their own success. Given all the reasons above, it is not difficult to understand why we are under such a pressure. Now, maybe even more than ever, people tend to embellish things and compare themselves with others. Some of what we see may be false, some of it may be true, but with all of us being so concerned with presenting the embellished image, the true relationship remains out of sight. Natural horsemanship is replaced by embellished horsemanship. It is a vicious circle, as all the reasons above cause the practice below, which in turn augments the reasons above… And all of it has little to do with how you and your horse really get along. Letting go of images, and trying to keep it honest is what horses will appreciate the most. After all, in my own case, it turned out that my dear gelding did not want to canter not because he was being stubborn, but because he had a bruised hoof. I would have done us both a favour if I hadn’t immediately resorted to blaming both my incompetence and his pigheadedness instead of listening to him, just because my primary concern had been how it was going to look like to others.

So, the next time you feel bad about not being as good as people surrounding you, keep in mind that everyone has (had) their own problems. No image is truly flawless. It is just a matter of embellished horsemanship vs. natural horsemanship. And to tell you the truth, the latter will always win. We may trick other people, we may even trick ourselves, but one thing is sure – we can never trick our horses.

Art vs Sport and how it affects our confidence


Art vs Sport and how it affects our confidence

Art vs Sport  and how this affects our confidence


How we view our time with our horses can have a huge impact on our confidence.

One key dimension which affects us is whether we view things as a sport, or as an art.


What is a sport?

Whilst there are elements of fun, play and amusement in the word and its synonyms, the main definition is “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.”


What is an art?

“The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture,…: “the art of the Renaissance”; Works produced by such skill and imagination.  Synonyms include craft, skill, artifice, knack, workmanship.



I came across an interesting article about Fencing recently.  Not building fences for our equine friends – but sword fighting.


Let me share an excerpt with you and see if you can see the parallels to the horsey world



What is the difference between fencing, as a sport and fencing, as a martial art? That is, between “olympic fencing” and Classical Fencing. Even in cases where there are few technical differences which is not the situation at the present time there remain substantial philosophical ones:

  • The goal of a sport is to achieve mastery over others; the goal of a martial art is to achieve mastery of yourself.
  • In a sport, winning is the end; in a martial art, winning is the means.
  • A sport is most concerned with the product; a martial art is concerned with the process.
  • In a sport, victory defines excellence; in a martial art excellence defines victory.
  • In olympic fencing, the emphasis is on touching the opponent, in Classical Fencing, it is on not being touched


Does this ring any bells?


Let’s look at the first point:” The goal of a sport is to achieve mastery over others; the goal of a martial art is to achieve mastery of yourself”

So many people view horsemanship as gaining mastery over the horse.  The focus is on control, “making” the horse do things.

Whereas when you master yourself, and your emotions, your ego, your energy – then your relationship with your horse changes significantly


And how does this relate to confidence?  Control of any other living being can only ever be an illusion, the only being we can hope to control – and probably only imperfectly, is ourselves.  Our unconscious knows this – so although everyone tells us we are “in control” and therefore safe, if we don’t trust OURSELVES, we do not feel confident.

Confidence is not about being in control of our horse, or our destiny – it is simply about knowing we are in control of ourselves…..


The second point: “In a sport, winning is the end; in a martial art, winning is the means”

What does this mean?

In sport, winning is the be all and end all – to win is what you train for, what you focus on – and what the money is aimed at.  It proves you are “the best”.

In art, winning is a proof that for you, your process worked.  It is a way to back up your process with evidence that for you (and your horse)  it was effective.

An example of this is that a 20 metre circle, ridden well, is a proof that you can ride your horse with a  uniform bend and a uniform step – ie that you have developed yourself and your horse to that level of craft and skill.  There is no need to compare this to other people’s 20 metre circles – it is the comparison with your last effort that matters…..

In an art, what matters is not whose circle is more perfect – it is who has developed the skill and craft to create a better circle than the last time…

How does THIS affect our confidence?  Well it’s a hard truth but there is probably ALWAYS someone out there who is a “better” rider than us – in some way or other!  So we will never “win”.

However, we CAN improve – we can develop our skills, our abilities – and that is inspiring.  IF we look at how far we have come, rather than how far away we are from perfection – that is much more confidence boosting!


The third point: “A sport is most concerned with the product; a martial art is concerned with the process.”

So an art is concerned with HOW we achieve things, not just WHETHER we achieve them.  I might not be able to ride a great piaffe, or jump a high jump – but if I know I am following a good process to eventually get there – then I can feel confident in my skills and ability.

Sometimes life focuses us so much on outcomes and products,  and we feel they are out of reach and that doesn’t help us feel confident

If we know we are on the path, or on A path where we are learning a process – then that leads us to feel MUCH more confident in ourselves, our choices and our learning.

IT is not about whether we are confident or not – that is not the thing to judge – it is more whether we know HOW to become confident…..and that is definitely do-able!


Point four:  “In a sport, victory defines excellence; in a martial art excellence defines victory”

What an attitude shift:  it’s not about being THE winner, it is about being EXCELLENT.

I can be excellent at haltering my horse, at walking, at flexions – I don’t have to be an Olympic rider to be EXCELLENT…

How does THAT affect my confidence?


Point five: “In olympic fencing, the emphasis is on touching the opponent, in Classical Fencing, it is on not being touched”

A 180 degree mindshift

A TOTALLY different mindset.


So what if, in horsemanship, the emphasis wasn’t on “overcoming resistance” but on never having resistance in the first place?

If instead of winning the argument, we didn’t have the argument?

What if, instead of having to be the winner, we just make sure we aren’t the loser – that we BOTH win, in fact?

If instead of thinking of winning, mastering the horse, controlling, and making – we think of creating harmony, a desire to be in harmony – so that the harmony itself is the reward and motivation for BOTH of us – –


Well that is a very different game


That is an art, not a sport


I like the idea of being an artist.


I have much more confidence in my ability to be an equine artist than an equine athlete….


And I find it easier to be confident when I think of mastering myself, using my “performances” to show how far I have come, knowing the process,  being excellent in whatever I do – however small, and then changing my whole focus to one of being WITH my horse, rather than overcoming my horse


Can you think of other mindset changes that would help our confidence?

Share them in the comments!!


Yours, in Confidence









The Power of Allow


The Power of Allow


I was watching a well known horseman the other day and noticed that during his whole workshop, he never once said “no” to the horse.

I compared that to when I see most people with their horses – -there is a lot of “No” or “stop that” or “uh-uh-uh!”.


And I realised that all the horsepeople I enjoy being with have one thing in common:  they “allow” the horses to be horses.


As some of you know I have Coblet who, until very recently, did not wear a halter.  I was bathing him and Gracie with some insecticide  and afterwards became aware of a big difference in how I handled the two horses.

When Coblet, who we were bathing at liberty, with my friend by his head, became tense or worried, I would stop my movements, and soothe him – and when he relaxed we clicked and treated him as a reward for relaxation.

When Gracie moved or showed dislike of the bathing, I found myself automatically shaking the halter rope and saying “hey, pay attention!”


This led to me to start thinking about how we as humans want to control everything, tend to rapidly fall into the “you should know better” trap and allow our own issues to stop us from allowing our horses to be the horses they really are.

I also found it interesting to then start paying attention and seeing how often we actually abuse the halter by using it unthinkingly to “correct” or even punish the horse for expressing a feeling or opinion, rather than allowing the expression, observing it – and responding thoughtfully and mindfully.


And to me, this is the same as how many of us use the reins unthinkingly to “control” when we all “know” they are there for communication.


So, is this human nature?  Our innate tendency to take short cuts and do “what works” rather than “what we have thought about and chosen to do”?


After all, I know we don’t MEAN to be rude, or offensive, or abusive.

We don’t MEAN to teach our horses that there is no point having feelings or opinions as we will just tell them off when they express them….


I have always thought of myself as a kind, caring  “allowing” person.  But this difference between my “instinctive” response to the same behaviour from Coblet and Gracie really made me question myself.


Craig Stevens often talks of humans being like monkeys.  We grab hold of things, hang on to them tightly with our monkey hands.  When we are frightened we cling in the foetal position physically, or onto an idea mentally – or to a feeling, emotionally.  We are clutching, grasping creatures where fear makes us tight and unable to let go.

And although I know we are not monkeys, we are descended from apes, I find the analogy useful.


When we are with a young child, and that child becomes frustrated or angry, which approach do you prefer?

The one that says “don’t be angry, you shouldn’t be frustrated” or even “you’re not angry, silly! You have no need to be angry!”

Or the one that says “hmm, I can see you are angry, let me help you through this…and come out the other side….”

The first approach denies and invalidates the child’s feelings – teaching the child over time that their own inner experience is not valid or true and that the only way to know what they SHOULD be feeling is by external reference.  That leads to a lot of problems!

The second validates the feelings, gives truth to the inner experience – and also offers support to find a way out of the state if the child desires it…


Which do you prefer?


So, if it works for children, how about trying it with our horses?



When we say “no, stop that!” or “you should KNOW what I mean by this!” we are not seeing the horse in front of us – we are working with an image of a horse in our head….

If we instead stop, observe our horse, “allow” then to express their thought, finish their move (while staying safe with blocks as appropriate, of course)  — then we will be able to use our observation and respond mindfully.

What effect does “allowing” have on a horse?


I was working with a horse who, whenever asked to do anything, went to bite the handler.  This was a bit intimidating when we were trying to work in hand!

His owner had tried many things – none of which had changed his behaviour.

And now, every time he swung his head toward her, she was reacting in an emotional way and this was really affecting her confidence.

I took his reins and stood by him.  He swung his head round, mouth open.  I offered the rope which he took in his mouth.  And chewed.  I stayed safe, he got to express his feelings.

Felt like a win win.

As we went through the session, each time he swung his head round I allowed it – and offered the rope…. at first he took the rope every time adn chewed it.  Then he stopped chewing it – then he gradually stopped swinging his head round –

After about thirty minutes, he lowered his head and gave a massive sigh, licked and chewed, and yawned….

We waited about ten minutes before he gently turned his head and invited me to carry on working…

And has never gone to bite his owner again.


So what was that about?  We may never know why he needed to do this – some kind of emotional stress, no doubt.  But, by allowing him to express his feelings, giving him the respect we would give another person (I hope!)  he came to a place where he didn’t need to do the behaviour anymore….


If the horse knows he CAN do X, then he has the chance to find out that perhaps he doesn’t NEED to do X anymore….


Allowing is key to developing a healthy, open, trusting relationship with a horse.


When I started doing the in hand work with Gracie, she kept rushing forwards.  Now, I could have stopped that by being firm, or blocking her movement.  I chose not to.  If I take the mindset that she is only being a horse and doing what she needs to do – then why not allow it?

The next time she rushed forwards, I went with her  I kept my hand on the bit, but walked with her and allowed her to go round the pen until I felt her soften, then I politely asked her “can you stop now?”.  At first she said “nope, I need to keep walking!” so we walked some more – but the next time I asked her, she said “actually, yes, I can, thank you”.

Over the next few sessions she “needed” to walk off less and less, and was able to pay attention and listen instead of reacting thoughtlessly.  Hmm interesting, the more mindful and allowing I am, the more mindful and listening my horse is…..


I now tend to start my sessions with liberty work, to make sure I am “allowing” my horse to express his or her true feelings, rather than just get compliance with the halter….

This can lead to some entertaining sessions when I have invited people to watch an in hand demo, and Gracie says she can’t possibly turn left today.  Still, I think it is better to find that out at liberty and play with it there, than run the risk that my ego will cause my hands to turn into monkey hands and start forcing the left turn because people are watching….

If I truly believe that horses do what is easy, and that they enjoy their relationship with me, then how can I take it personally?  Much better to allow that today my horse is finding something difficult and find a way to help her make it easier…



What has this got to do with confidence?


For the horse, having the confidence that it is ok to express feelings means that the horse then chooses to express them in a how level way.  Instead of Gracie rearing and fighting contact, she simply walks forwards a bit.  I know which I prefer.

Instead of a horse biting and being dangerous, he simply turns his eye to look at me – again, I know which I prefer.


We also have a horse who becomes “authentic” – a horse who tells us what they REALLY think of things, so we don’t have to guess.  That makes ME as a horsewoman a LOT more confident when handling that horse!

To me, a safe horse is a “What you see is What you get” horse – and this is what “allowing” does.


And how about for you?

How does “Allowing” work for you?


Developing a mindset of ALLOWING MINDFULNESS  for yourself –


So you feel nervous:  pay attention to it, ALLOW yourself to be nervous, observe it and see where it is coming from.  By allowing the feeling instead of denying it, your unconscious starts to trust you, and will be more honest about how it feels.  Then, when you know you are having “real feelings” and you are experiencing the “authentic self” – then you can mindfully and thoughtfully choose what you are going to do about it….


It might seem that allowing gives the horse control.

However, it’s just the opposite.

Developing an ALLOWING MINDFULNESS puts you back in control…..

On control of yourself, and in control of your confidence…


So let me know in the comments – how can YOU use the Power of Allow to improve your own and your horse’s experience?


Yours, in Confidence




Faux amis – false friends: when confidence may not be what it seems


Faux amis – false friends: when confidence may not be what it seems


When you learn a foreign language, there comes a stage when you learn about “faux amis”


Literally translated, this means “false friends”


And in language learning, this refers to phrases or words which sound easy to translate, but are in fact not that easy


For example, many words in English and French come from the same roots, and so mean the same thing AND appear similar –


Amiable and aimable look similar and meant he same thing


However, many are similar, but mean very different things


Eg Extra means “plus” or “in addition” in English – in French the same word means “outstanding” or special….


Miserable means sad in English – but means “shabby, run down” in French


Here is a big one 9on English inhabited means someone lives there – in French inhabite means NO-ONE lives there!


What on earth does this have to do with confidence?




Well, this can happen with confidence too.


Something that LOOKS LIKE confidence, can often be mistaken for confidence – -when in fact, it is not.


This can happen when we are with friends, and we think they are confident because they act that way – when we have no odea of how they are really feeling on the inside


Or it can happen with ourselves.


We can trick ourselves.


We can trick ourselves into thinking we are better than we really are, that we know more – and that we are more confident than we really are.



Why on earth would we do this

Well our unconscious just wants us to stay safe and be happy – so it may allow us to pretend to be confident in order to be happy about ourselves.


Think about it – one of the hardest things for anyone to do is to be happy with themselves, warts and all.  We all want some positive thing to hold onto – and being unconfident can be a really negative place to be.

The appeal of finding confidence can be seductive – and so when one thing works, we tell ourselves look we are ok , we are confident now – –


And that can lead to some challenges



This blog was partly inspired by someone I recently worked with.  This person in initially worked really hard at understanding her confidence levels, and not going over a 5, and doing things in incremental steps, using approach and retreat on herself as well as her horse


Then she had a hack where she really enjoyed herself.


She emailed me to say “I’m confident again! – I don’t need to do this stuff anymore!”


What happened next?   She took the one ride confidence to mean she was fully confident, so stopped using the tools, stopped paying attention to things – and SEEMED to be hacking out just fine for a few months


Recently she got in touch again – -she now realises that she let herself be carried away by the excitement of that first confident ride – -much to her shock, after several good rides she found herself losing her confidence again, this time worse than before.


Luckily she noticed this – and worked out that in her eagerness to “be fixed” and to “be confident” she had tricked herself into thinking that one good ride meant she was all ok – and so had pushed herself through her thresholds repeatedly, leading to another loss in confidence.


She had “false confidence”.


Interestingly, the word “false friends” came into play in another way for her – -she said her friends were SO relieved she had “found her confidence” that they refused to accept she was anything less than “cured” and that had also contributed to the relapse.



I suppose this really goes back to a couple of fundamental concepts


First, Confidence isn’t an object you lose, then find.  It isn’t something that you have in your pocket and it can fall out.

Equally, confidence isn’t  “who you are” – it is not your identity.  You are not a “confident person” or an “unconfident person”

Confidence isn’t always knowing exactly what to do and how to do it…..knowing what will work and what won’t….


What IS confidence?  REAL confidence, as opposed to the false friend of confidence we often hold onto?


Confidence is a belief that whatever happens in that particular situation, you will be safe: physically, emotionally or mentally.


REAL confidence is a belief based in fact, experience and knowledge.  False confidence is based on fantasy.



In any path of spirituality that includes meditation, it is often said that the hardest thing for any human to do is to accept themselves as they truly are.


For me, to realise I am always a beginner, always learning, always imperfect – and often have to work hard to find a way to be confident in a situation – means I am accepting myself as an imperfect flawed human being


This isn’t easy.


I find when I work by myself, it is all too easy to see myself as better than I actually am, to imagine myself to be kinder, nicer, more natural, lighter.


I enjoy teaching and coaching because it helps me stay authentic, true to the reality that we can ALL see, instead of maybe drifting off into a fantasy that only I can envision….


Most of us either ignore our flaws, or spiral into a pit of despair at how terrible we are…..


We need to find the BARDO:  the space between, and play there


We need to find the place where we are not perfect, we are not right, we are not wrong – we are working on being as good a “me” as we can be right now, with our resources.


We need to find a place where we are allowed to be learners; we are allowed to be beginners


We are allowed to not know what we are doing – hopefully we know how to stay safe while we are playing around and trying to work this out….



We need to allow ourselves to be our real, authentic selves.



Only when we can see ourselves as we really are, can we start to work on becoming who we want to be.




False friends, and false confidence – watch out for them, and don’t let them take you away from who you really are.  Allow yourself to be worthy of the truth…


Yours, in Confidence