One of the most beautiful works of photographic equestrian art is a book created by a dear friend of mine, Sir Pedro Yglesias de Oliveira.

The book is a journey through history, from the Lusitano’s beginnings in the Portuguese school, to the breeds success as a modern day sport horse.

The pictures are just wonderful, and if you look closely my favorite horse in the world is one of the stars (Batialo).

Pedro is now the official photographer for the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, and well known author of several popular equestrian books.

 Pedro’s listof published works include; Equestrian In Lisbon, Lvsitano (stud farms of Portugal), The Arabian Horse in Portugal, and most recently Art and Lusitano and Portuguese Equestrian Art School.

 For more information or to purchase a copy of These beautifully photgraphed books, please click on the link below.




Why Portugal?


I have been asked many times why I am in Portugal. I came because of the horses and I stayed because luck introduced me to the right people.

After stumbling onto a lawn one afternoon I met the mother of Catarina Sande E Castro who offered me a room to rent, and when I met Catarina and told her I was interested in horses, she very quickly organised for me to come the following day to meet Mr Joao Pedro Rodrigues.


 After watching me ride for ten minutes Joao Pedro told me to come back the following day, and the day after that, and so on…


Now the head of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, Joao Pedro was the man who inspired my first ever classical training article, and is the reason why I made the decision to extend my return flight, month after month.

After that well, the months turned into years when I found my dream horse, aka Batialo!!!!!

So thank you to Joao Pedro Rodrigues, an extremely humble breeder, rider and classical trainer!

If you have never been to Portugal, you must visit, and now with the chance to stay at the home of the late Master Nuno Oliveira, and train on a Lusitano at his last property of residence, well it’s a chance you should not miss!!

Click here to read one of my first ever classical training articles on Eurodressage, inspired by Joao Pedro 😉

For information on staying at Quinta Do Brejo and having lessons on Lusitanos with Catarina’s husband and former student of Nuno Oliveira write to me at

Sarah Xo

Photos by Pedro Yglesias de Oliveira



Readers’ Choice: Adjusting Your Expectations…

It is great to come out everyday with a goal, an idea of what you would like to achieve.

It is also great to have a long term vision, a set of objectives with set times frames.

However, I read a quote recently that said “Peace Begins when Expectation Ends”, and I realise the importance of this truth in dressage training.

“Peace Begins when Expectation Ends” (unknown author)

It is great to set high expectations for yourself and for your horse, but if by chance you fall short of those ideals, often we are over critical or even a little harsh on ourselves afterwards.

If I come out for training and decide that today I am going to fix my position, then perhaps I am expecting too much and thus setting myself up to fail.

If however I come out and say today I will work on getting more relaxation in my legs, then it is more likely that my expectation will be met, and that tomorrow I can work on a different aspect.

If I decide today I am going to do the whole test perfectly, again I’m over shooting. If I select two or three movements of the test, and work on perfecting them, then I have more chance of a satisfied ride and a less confused and tired horse.

I have often heard people coming back after injury, or bringing their horse back after injury, saying things like “But I was expecting to be here by this date, so I’m going to have to push it.”

Expectations with deadlines are super, but setbacks are a natural and very real part of dressage training, and the ability to adjust your expectations, is just as important as your ability to set them in the first place.

I had expectations of where I wanted to be and when, but after the decision to geld my horses I had to rearrange my goals in order to give myself, and my horse time to recover and adjust.

If we set too much of our goals in concrete, we set ourselves up for disappointment, but if we make goals, understanding that they must remain flexible, we allow ourselves and our horses the opportunity to be in the moment.

Don’t end all expectation, but allow yourself the peace that comes from the ability to adjust them every now and then according to where you are on your journey.

Warney’s Whip

For the full article on learning to ride in the moment, click here and go to Eurodressage 😉

It’s all about the Journey

I am useless, I’m not a good rider, I will never improve, my horse does not deserve to put up with me, I might as well give up, I’m wasting my husbands/parents/my money.

If you have never had any or all of these thoughts at some stage during your riding career, well I envy you!

Dressage is not easy, there are constant debates on every social network and website over the right way, and the wrong way and what to do and how to sit, and what it should look like or feel like, or at what time you should achieve this or that.

As dressage riders we are quite often perfectionists, and while most of us get so much true enjoyment from our riding, we also often place expectations on ourselves as to what we want to achieve.

For some it might be the Olympics, for others it might be to just be able to feel good in the saddle, or feel that our horse is understanding us.

Whatever the goal, we all reach certain points in our journey, that make us reassess where we are at.

During these times we often face one, or all of the above thoughts, and it is often very hard not to transfer this energy onto our horse.

Of course we know that none of the above thoughts actually help us, but sometimes is just takes someone else to remind us what it is all about.

So that’s what this is…a reminder!

Do you treat your horse with compassion? Do you love him? Do you look after him and feed him, and provide him with his daily needs?

Do you strive every day to work with him not against him, to not force or harm him unintentionally?

Do you treat your horse with compassion? Do you love him? Do you look after him and feed him, and provide him with his daily needs?

Do you strive every day to work with him not against him, to not force or harm him unintentionally?

If you can honestly answer yes to all these questions then the only thing you really need to decide is do you love it?

Does it change you as a person, is it your reason for getting up in the morning, and quite often the last thing you think about at night?

If you can honestly answer yes to all these questions then the only thing you really need to decide is do you love it?

Does it change you as a person, is it your reason for getting up in the morning, and quite often the last thing you think about at night?

If it is, then all the rest is rubbish, because whether or not you achieve your goal, you will discover yourself, and the meaning of life, in the journey.

For the full article on frustration and positive thinking see my article on Eurodressage via this link 😉

Finish On A High

My grandparents were married for over 60 years, and my grandma’s golden rule was “To never go to sleep angry”.

The reasoning was of course that she wanted to finish each day with positive emotions, in order to wake up feeling happy and ready to start the new day ;).

If you want to establish a long and healthy relationship with your horse, this rule can be applied in a new way, and I say “Always finish your training on a high!”

What does that mean?

Some days you come out into the arena, and from start to finish you feel that your horse is with you, and listening to you, and on these days finishing on a high is easy.

“Always finish your training on a high!”

On the days where you are feeling less capable, or having trouble with a particular movement, always try to finish that movement, and the training session, with something you accomplished and executed well!

For example, if I am working on the half pass, and I am just not getting it how I would like it, finish that work with a very well executed leg yield, and then reward the horse.

If you are having a day where you feel you cannot achieve anything you had set your mind to, finish on something you know you both do really well, and congratulate your horse.

When you leave the arena you want both you and your horse to think, well I did that really well, even if the “that” was not the difficult exercise you had been working on.

If you try to do the perfect canter pirouette, and you end up in a big mess, and your horse gets stiff or takes over, and you keep trying to do it and in the end you just give up, you will leave the arena A, feeling like you are a failure, and B with a horse that will remember that this dressage stuff is a whole lot of hard work.

If you know the canter pirouette is not yet there, finish that series of exercises with 4 strides of on the spot collected canter, and reward your horse for his brilliance.

He will remember how much fun it was to collect the canter, and next time you ask for more, who knows he might be so proud of himself, he will give you the full pirouette.

I’ve seen riders who not only finish on a low note in the training, but then also leave the stable in a bad mood and don’t say goodbye to their horse.

One of the truly undefined yet powerful aspects of dressage is the psychological link between horse and rider, and if you don’t foster that, you can’t expect greatest in the arena.

Even if you had a ride that was not your best and you are late for work, or feeling tired, or hungry, take two seconds to just say thank you to your horse, pat him, give him a carrot or two.

It may seem simple, but my grandma was onto something, and if when you leave your horse, you pass on good energies, loving thoughts, praise and gratefulness, he will be that much happier to see you tomorrow 😉 .

Click here to learn about dealing with frustration at Eurodressage

Getting a sore back before, after, or on the horse? Click to here to get fit for riding!

TRAINING: Loss of Confidence… In yourself, or in your horse…

I have talked lot about fear, about facing up to the fact we are not indestructible and well, falling off hurts!

Fear aside, there is another emotion that is very important in riding, and that is confidence.

I’m not talking about confidence in terms of the absence of fear, but confidence in terms of believing in yourself, in your horse, and in your ability to train him effectively.

When you lack the confidence, you stop believing in yourself, and the problem with that is that your horse is very aware of the fact that you don’t think you can do it, and if you don’t believe in yourself, well why should he?

“When you lack the confidence, you stop believing in yourself(…)”

The opposite is being a trainer or rider that believes they know everything, and have their “own system” that is completely fool proof and works on every horse and every rider.

Both ends of the confidence scale are particularly detrimental, and both will suffocate your chance of personal growth, and training success.

Having the right amount of confidence, and still understanding that you are always learning, always growing, always perfecting, is yet another fine line in the world of dressage, and if you can find the balance, it will help install the right amount of confidence in your horse.

“Your horse will understand that you are capable(…)”

Your horse will understand that you are capable, but will know that you still grant him the respect to tell you if you are not getting the message across in the right way.

For example, If I give the aid for the half pass, I must be confident and I must expect a reaction. However, I must leave room for the possibility that if I constantly apply the same aid, and my horse gets more and more confused, then it is my aid that is not correct, or my body that is somehow blocking my horse.

Then I must have the humility, and yet still the confidence to say, well I didn’t get it right, how can I change it, and still know that I will get it right, and I can change it.

Walking the fine line of confidence in ones ability, yet leaving room to accept ones weaknesses, allows you the possibility to feel what is happening with you and with your horse, and help you to gain confidence in each other.

Instilling confidence in your horse, is even more difficult, as it requires constant reward, recognition, patience, and compassion, while also maintaining the ability to lead the dance.

“A talented and intelligent horse can be your best ever teacher(…)”

A talented and intelligent horse can be your best ever teacher, because they will have the right amount of confidence in you. Confidence enough to trust in your aids, but confidence enough in themselves, and their relationship with you, to tell you when you didn’t get it right.

It’s the give and take in this relationship, that helps you to grow together, instead of fighting it out in an ego battle of who is right.

If you know that alone you and your horse have worked out the delicate confidence line, that each of you trust and respect the other, then it also helps to have other people around you to foster that confidence.

I’m not saying you need to go out and order your own private cheer squad, I’m saying that if you are always surrounded by people who have a negative or even disrespectful view of you, your horse, and your ability, then eventually this will get to you.

We can all pretend we are islands, but at the end of the day it’s great to have someone who can believe in you when you question yourself, as most dressage riders inevitably do at some point or another.

e: warneyswhip(a)

Insight: The Art of Accepting a Compliment

I have talked about learning to be able to take criticism, about accepting, and even being thankful for the but that comes after any feedback, knowing that that but can help you to be better!

While many of us must master the ability to take criticism, it can be just as difficult learning to accept and appreciate a nice compliment or genuine praise.

Learning to accept, internalise, and make use of criticism is an art, but receiving and accepting praise, or a compliment, seems far more simple.

In reality, there are numerous ways in which one can ruin a good compliment exchange, and chances are you know someone who you have given up complimenting because it has become too much hassle.

“Equally frustrating are those who just can’t ever accept a compliment. Who when you say “you look beautiful”, think you are being sarcastic, or rude, or just plain stupid.”

First of all we have the “goodie two shoes”, people like those kids at school who would suck so hard up to the teacher fishing for the compliment, or praise, that really it lost all meaning.

The people that have to find validation by making sure everyone acknowledges just how great they really are.

Equally frustrating are those who just can’t ever accept a compliment. Who when you say “you look beautiful”, think you are being sarcastic, or rude, or just plain stupid.

Appreciating, accepting, and letting that acceptance generate feelings of gratitude, and warmth, doesn’t mean you are up your self, it means that you have the ability to accept yourself as seen by another.

It takes work, learning to push out that gut reaction of “you can’t be serious”, and just let yourself feel happy.

It might be something tiny, that you thought no-one noticed, a special meal, or silly gift, and when someone turns to you, unpromtped, and says thankyou, learn to enjoy it.

The problem often is we get so used to hearing put downs, and ridicule, that our society becomes sceptical of genuine praise.

“(…) what I find to be beautiful might not be the same as the person sitting next to me.”

Someone gives us a genuinely nice comment, and we immediately question it, or in some cases, turn it around so that it sounds not like a compliment at all.

I have been reading many of the dressage groups recently, and I find that their is plenty of very good and healthy criticism, but not a lot of genuinely supportive and helpful praise.

In some cases even when a person does go for it, and says something positive, others condemn them for being incorrect, or praising without merit.

Beauty in dressage also has a subjective element to it, and what I find to be beautiful might not be the same as the person sitting next to me.

It doesn’t make me wrong, or them right, or vice versa, and some of the best praise can come from someone who just genuinely feels, through their eyes, that something is worth celebrating.

Horses are the best at their ability to praise, and accept praise in return; give them a carrot and they’ll think you are amazing!

Batialo loves to be told how awesome he is, but if he bites my arm he doesn’t expect to be told he is a good boy.

In fact he slinks off into hiding knowing that he took the ‘play’ too far.

IMG_2543He also knows that if he tries to show off, and earn my reward through over exuberance, that he will also not be fully rewarded, because I know him, and I know when he is just trying to get me to tell him he is awesome, and when actually he is trying to take over!

If people give you compliments and you throw them back, chances are you’ll end up never being told anything, for fear that a genuinely nice feeling will lose its intention and its meaning.