What Defines You?

 

I am a rider. For as long as I can remember that is what I am. One of the problems with knowing what you love, is when you have to imagine not doing that, not being that.

Riding quite literally saved my life. It was what pushed me to become stronger, what helped me find happiness, and for many days throughout my life was the reason I got out of bed.

Often I know that people feel I just sort of arrived in Portugal and lucked a good horse. I was very lucky, but truth is I have been dedicating my life to horses long before I set off overseas. You can ask my friends how many parties I missed, how many excursions I was absent, how many days I had off school, and how much of my life was put towards my dream. I wouldn’t change any of it.

When I ride I feel free, but also not alone.

The strange mix of independence, but togetherness, that I think is so rare, even more so in human relationships… and so very hard to find.

Some people are defined by belief, others are defined by something they create to hide behind. If I had to describe myself I wouldn’t’ say horse rider, but I know that most of what I would say has been born out of my relationship with horses, and what they have taught me.

Animals as a whole teach us empathy and truth…Humans as a whole teach us how great animals are 😛

I feel so lucky to have grown up doing what I love…You know when you get on and ride out, and everything just makes sense. Having been with Batialo for six years, and after all the heartache, and (actual pain), that one ride is what we live for. In Australia they say that “only a surfer knows the feeling”, but I think a horse and rider who have built something together also know a pretty cool feeling.

People will tell you that riding isn’t everything, of course it’s not for them. They can also tell you it’s just a horse, or an animal, but I know people who love their pet far more than some humans are capable of loving anything, and who can say what that relationship gives them, or what they share together.

Today I’d been at the stable for an hour giving a lesson and when I went to leave I walked passed Batialo and he shock his head vigorously up and down at me.

I had not gone to see him and he was quite visually upset with me!

When I don’t ride him he sulks. When I am mad with him I swear I see him roll his eyes at me.

Back riding again, and just changing my attitude has helped so much. I just know I can do it, and that’s sometimes all it can take. I am also 7kg heavier and as a person even my mum doesn’t recognise me. It’s still me, just a much happier version 🙂

They say a surfer is a surfer for life and others often question why I ride, and ask me if I would be happier doing something else. My answer is no. Course there are things I want to do as well, other ambitions, or purposes…but everyday when I ride out, and I think something and Batialo does it, without me having to even move, I know that my answer will most likely remain a NO!

 

 

Personality…How This Affects My Riding

How does who we are affect the way we ride?
How does our personality determine how our horse behaves for us?
When I was young I loved confrontation. A “Warne” family saying is “I’m not arguing with you, I’m just proving to you why I’m right!”
When dad died I had to make everyone ok, everything ok. If I kept everything ok it wouldn’t happen again, no-one would leave if everything was good.
Today, I still have to make everything ok. I will excuse a lot of things and avoid confrontation, because I don’t want to upset anyone.
I will typically let things go on until it gets to a point where the person will still believe everything is fine, yet I’ve long since lost all my respect for them.
On Batialo, this is exactly the same! I try to keep everything calm and avoid having a “discussion” with him, and he will get away with the tiny things until all of a sudden I’ve lost his respect and I am having to have the huge confrontation, that I could have avoided if I’d set up the boundaries in the beginning.
If you think your personality doesn’t affect your riding, or doesn’t affect your horses personality…you are wrong!
A tense rider equals a tense horse, a relaxed and happy rider, well, you can see the horse enjoying it. At least I am aware of my floors. Self awareness is the single most important thing in a horse rider, not position, nor strength. Until you know your own limitations, you will never understand what you pass onto the horse.
Batialo is the funniest horse I know, who just loves everything about his life. This for me is a great reflection of who I am, but I know that in order to gain his respect I need to get a little bit back to the “Warne” girl I used to be.
I don’t want to argue with Batialo, I want to explain to him why I’m right before the argument even begins. I need to set up a boundary where he knows his limit, he can play sure, but there must be a line that he cannot cross, and I need to make sure I am clear about where this line is.
I must do the same with people.
If you are a nervous rider, you need to somehow accept it, and then make sure you can “bluff” your horse into believing you are strong.
If you have a temper you must learn to control it, as violence, or anger is never the way to earn the respect of anything, be it human or horse!
Then, I must be aware that my horse picks up on everything that I think, and feel. Horses always know when you aren’t really there, even in the instant that your mind wonders off. They know when you are not ok, when there are other outside distractions that are taking your attention.
Not many humans can do this.

A quote that I never forget is…“The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.” Buck Brannaman

Sometimes it’s good to notice what we don’t like to see, so we can begin to change it for the better!

Today I rode with a new strength, because I no longer have any doubt in my mind as to what I want. Sometimes doubt is what leads to fear, and vice versa. You have to eliminate one before you can the other. Batialo bucked in the first 20 seconds, and I didn’t react, and he didn’t bother trying it again.

I’m also no longer afraid to ask for help, and to seem weak because of it. Today I didn’t even need to ask, my groom followed me to the arena and watched me the whole time. It meant a lot to me, just having someone there.

If it’s anything I’ve learnt this year it’s that you just can’t do it alone. Even if its moral, or physical support, you eventually need someone you can rely on, or even a few people.

Horses I have always found to be far more honest with me than people, but it’s amazing to know , that if you strip away your pride, and your determination, just for a second, and tell people honestly how you feel…Well, as it turns out they can be pretty bloody amazing really.

To Valdeni, and Frederico Pinteus, who have helped with Batialo, THANK YOU!!

Irrational Fear and Riding…

Yesterday a reader asked me how I “learnt to be mentally strong”?

This reader was struggling with a great deal of irrational fear in their riding. Some amount of fear is good, fear tells us to be careful and to prevent accidents as best we can, but irrational fear is fear that pretty much takes over everything we do.

More often than not if you have irrational fear on the horse you will also have irrational fear off the horse.

You might get a headache, google it, and then convince yourself you are going to die of a brain tumour.

Or you might fear losing people, or failing, or getting hurt emotionally, etc.

Your ability to overcome irrational fear is of course linked to how mentally strong you are. Becoming mentally strong, is about many things.

First, you have to make tough decisions. I was in a toxic relationship, and I had to get out of it. I am very independent, and I need my freedom, without freedom I become more afraid of things that typically don’t matter to me at all.

Two months after ending that relationship I started competing internationally again, this was not a coincidence, I got my stubborn and determined personality back!

Then you have to be around people who take you as you are, and support you even if they don’t understand it.

A non-horsey person can be just as supportive as a horse person, sometimes even more so, because quite often we don’t want people to tell us there is nothing to be afraid of, we just want someone to listen, and not make us feel pathetic.

Then you have to not be so hard on yourself, and accept yourself as you are. To quote Game Of Thrones “You have to wear your scars like armour so that no-one can use them against you”. 😉

My best friend told me recently that my dad’s suicide still affects how I interact with people. After I fought off the urge to clap and tell him he was a psychological wizard, I said “of course it does”.

Mental strength is knowing what you want, who you are, and realising that the people who judge you for that, are not the people who will really support you.

I consider myself to now be mentally strong, but irrational fear is something I still know a bit about. My irrational fear is pain. The doctors told me I had to strengthen my back but when I started to even move it slightly I would panic.

Slowly, I began to be able to work my back in different ways…which of course has stabilised my hip. It wasn’t easy for me. But I am mentally strong enough because I have the right mindset and right support for me to keep going.

If on the other hand your irrational fear is specific to horse riding…

Is it just on the one horse or all horses? If it is just that horse, is that horse right for you? Do you need more help with him?

Often as riders we hate to give up, but my mum always said that a rider who admits they are afraid and gives the horse to a more capable rider, will always be better remembered than the rider known for ruining a good horse because they could not ride it correctly.

If it’s on all horses…Well it comes down to one very simple yet powerful question…How much do you want it?

backMy back is now the strongest part on my body. Because my desire to get back riding was stronger than the irrational fear that it might break.

People fall in love because their desire to feel that is stronger than the possibility they will get hurt.

You are afraid, sure. Riding is dangerous, yes. Life without riding…Is that something you can live with?

If the answer is no, then every time you go to ride you have to ask yourself, how much do you want it? What is riding to you? And how much stronger is your desire to ride, than the fear that prevents you enjoying it…

And then, you have to do everything you can to prevent the bad from happening, in order to enjoy the thing that you are most passionate about 🙂

Mental strength is not the absence of fear…Mental strength is desiring something more than the fear that prevents you from doing it.

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Mind Training and dressage…

When I was first learning piaffe my mum would stop me and say I was doing too much. I was asking the piaffe with my body and the horse was getting confused and tense. She would tell me to take the long side and just “think piaffe”. It is amazing to feel what happens in the horse when we just picture what we what them to do. That for me is dressage. Learning over time to communicate with the horse just by thinking and picturing what we expect from them.

Sure enough the horse started the piaffe with ease. Whatever we think always translates into a change in our body, and the horse learns to pick up on these very subtle signals.

When we are angry or stressed our bodies tense up, so it’s not hard to imagine that if we set our mind up to achieve what we want on the horse, we are more likely to achieve it. You can never truly know how much horses pick up on. I know that there has been two times in the 5 years with Batialo that I was really down, and he got sick both times. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe not.

I have always had a very active mind, which is why I love sport so much. Sport is my release, and dressage in particular is a sport where a persons mental capacity is far more important than their physical strength.

I used to be physically strong, and through injury I had to learn to be much more mentally strong in order to find a balance. I have to tell my body what I want it to do, and be mentally capable of convincing my horse I can do it, even if I myself doubt it.

I am often asked how I live overseas alone, how I cope mentally without the support of my family. Truth is I learnt to be my own support. I mentally set myself up to not let myself feel alone, just as an athlete sets their mind up to not be affected by pressure.

I was talking to someone recently who said she took up acting and through learning the art of acting she gained greater confidence in everything she did. She then said she was very proud of herself for that, and I loved to hear it. We spend so much of our lives waiting for other people’s approval, that I think it’s a fantastic thing for people to just be proud of themselves and their own accomplishments.

My sister had often wondered if I ride in some way just to please my mum, a person who has had the most profound influence on my life. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do anything to please anyone else. I love to make people happy, I love to take care of others, but I do it for me. I took care of mum when I was young and I felt a sense of purpose in doing so.

The problem is many people do most things, to gain something in return, be it praise or flattery.

I ride for the most simple reason in the world, I love it. I love my horse, and my relationship with horses is one that has shaped my life.

Sometimes it’s good to ask yourself why you do something. Do you do it for yourself, or for someone else’s approval?

We all know those people who put themselves down in search of compliments. I used to be one of them. Right now I am healthier than I have ever been, and people can see that I’m happy…This is because I stopped caring about what other people thought of the way I looked, and starting prioritising the way I felt and how the way I felt translated into me reaching my goals.

When I got injured last year my horse stopped going as well, because my mind couldn’t block out the pain. The most effective dressage riders can put aside anger, frustration, impatience, all the feelings that will cause tension in their body, and just concentrate on their feeling on the horse, and their connection to him.

Mind training and dressage go together, and until you can be mentally strong enough as a person off the horse, you will never work as an effective person on top of him.

As I begin riding again it is with that awareness, and of course the strength I have gained mentally during the time I had off!

I can now see that it was definitely not time wasted :).

 

 

 

 

Those That Challenge Us…

When I was around 8 or 9 I had two ponies, one after the other. One was a liver chestnut called Tommy who was just so sweet. He “never put a foot wrong” as mum would say and he is to this day the only pony or horse that I never fell from.

Bobby, on the other hand was extremely cheeky, and was known for his “head down and bolt” character, which he actually did a few times to me in the warmup before a test. He would put his nose right between his two front legs and just gallop off, knowing that with his head down there you had absolutely no chance of stopping him.

You can probably guess which pony had the greatest impact on my childhood.

Bobby was my best friend, and while he was naughty he was equally talented and hilarious.

It’s interesting to look back now and see that some of my greatest rivals at school later became the people I respected the most. They challenged me to be better, and made me work harder for what I wanted.

I was talking to one of my best friends recently about how when you notice a truly gifted athlete who is “ahead of their time” or miles above the rest at any given moment, there is typically one other one constantly nipping at his heels. It is also common to see two greats arise from one sport at the same time, and I find this to not be mere coincidence. How much better can you be if someone else is constantly challenging you?

Australian’s are known for their ability to say very bluntly what is on their mind. This can be both good and bad depending on how the other person takes it. Quite often people don’t actually want your opinion they just want you to tell them what they want to hear. But if you are always told what you want to hear how do you better yourself?

Batialo has challenged me for 5 years, and I have grown as a person because of it. Most riders will tell you that the horse that made them a better rider was never the easy one.

The people in my life that stay there are those that I know will tell me the truth, or at least what they know to be true, and I respect it even if It’s not what I wished for.

Aside from those that challenge me, the people that make me laugh are the ones I love to be around. Audrey Hepburn said that the people who make her laugh are her favourite people and I have to agree.

I also love people who make me feel young, people I can just be myself around. Sometimes, when I’m joking with a friend, or laughing at something ridiculous, I am just there in that moment, and all the other worries seem to just drift away.

I have the same feeling when I’m on my horse, and he squats a butterfly with his front leg, or squeals because he hates the jumping.

If you don’t have someone who challenges you, you have to learn to challenge yourself, but remember that if you push away those you don’t agree with you will never have a different perspective.

So, thank you to the people who challenge me…who don’t agree with me, who compete against me, or who can make me laugh at absolutely nothing.

 

 

 

 

Suicide- The Ripple Effect…

There is a campaign happening in Australia right now to raise awareness to the fact that “The single biggest killer of men aged under 45 is suicide”.

In 2014, 4623 men took their own life in Australia. That’s 12 men every day, 1 man every two hours! 41% of men who contemplated suicide felt they could not talk about their feelings.

Yesterday I was going through some of my old writing pieces and I came across one I wrote when I was 15. It’s amazing for me now to relive the effect suicide had on me and my family, but more importantly for me to understand that I am proof you can completely free yourself from the effect suicide and depression has on you and your life…

Innocence to Adulthood…
When we go through something as a child we lose ourselves. We lose our sense of who we are, or what we are supposed to be. A child’s place is with its family. It’s a safe place of innocence and security. A child can wake each morning without recognizing that the toughest decision they may make that day could be as trivial as what cereal to have for breakfast. They say that no-one holds onto their innocence forever and that at some stage in our lives we essentially ‘grow up’. But who says when that happens? Who says what makes it happen? And who decides what we become after the innocence in us dies?11182777_10205228477903328_8982432323217842689_o

When I was five years old I fell out of my favorite climbing tree and broke my wrist in three places. Not a seemingly massive event but to me it signaled the end of that time where I thought I was indestructable. From that day on every tree that I attempted to tackle I did so with a new degree of trepidation.

At the age of eight, I discovered, to my shock and dismay, that my father was Santa Claus.  Santa wasn’t real. I know this is a stage that every child must face, and as expected this new-found reality brought about a great disappointment. My childlike imagination was already beginning to fade.

At nine, having not put two and two together, I was shocked to witness my father once again playing out my childlike fantasies. This time he was the Easter bunny, and I awoke on Easter Sunday to the sight of him suspiciously hiding eggs around our front lawn. I should have guessed that if Santa was a hoax then Easter bunny was fairly unlikely, but yet again I was hit with a disappointment unlike the youthful ones I had previously witnessed.

When my sister left for boarding school I was 10, and for the first time in my sheltered little life my family circle was separated. When we sat down for evening meals there was no-one there to mirror my look of disgust over the broccoli on our plates, and there was no-one to argue with over who got that all empowering control over the remote. I felt a new loneliness that I did not see coming, particularly since I had often wished that my sister did not exist, and had sworn on many occasions that I would hate her forever.

But the biggest shock in my life came when I was just eleven years old. I realize now looking back that despite the events I have just mentioned my innocence at this stage was still very much in tact. I still believed with whole conviction that I was safe, that my life was lived in a cave of security and I would remain always sheltered from the harsh winds of the outside world. I knew that bad things happened. I was aware of the death and disease in the world, but I like most children that age, believed whole heartedly that those things ‘didn’t happen to us’.
That’s why I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t recognize the signs because I wasn’t looking. When he began to fade, when his mind began to go, when he could no longer look me in the face. I didn’t see it, or I didn’t register it. I saw what I had always seen. My father a vision of strength and perfection, of power and of love. When he got sick I do not know. Perhaps he was always sick. Perhaps the depression had eaten away at him for years but like the fact that the family farm was going under, or that his brother was bullying him to the point of worthlessness, he had hidden it from me, determined to protect the innocence that he saw in my eyes. That childlike hope that he no longer had that things would always work out. When I look back on those last months I see what he had become. Things I hadn’t, as a child, dared to recognize. He was thin and tired and he couldn’t work. Sometimes I think he even found it hard to be around my mother and me, it was as if it hurt him, as if he no longer deserved to be in our presence.
In the days before it happened he said little things, but nothing to trigger any suspicion. Comments like ‘you are the only thing that is keeping me going’. But the most vivid memory is of the night before. He came to my room to kiss me goodnight which he never usually does. He breathed me in so deep, and hugged me for so long. I remember actually thinking ‘will he ever let me go?’. Well he did let go, and little did I realize he wasn’t saying goodnight to me, he was saying goodbye.
My father shot himself the next morning while I was at school. I was called out of class in the middle of maths; certain that I was in some sort of trouble because I was being taken to the principles office. When I saw my aunties face I knew I wasn’t in trouble. Her eyes were bloodshot red, and she, like my father, could not look me in the eye. When she told me I just wanted to run. I cried immediately without knowing why or where the pain was coming from. But it was pain, actual physical pain. My entire body hurt with an agony that I had never felt before in my life. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t stand, and I couldn’t maintain a single thought. I just hurt. My dad was gone. A massive part of my self had been stripped away and I hadn’t seen it coming. I didn’t just lose my dad that day, I lost my innocence, and the immense pain awoke something within me, that hereditary connection I had with my dad’s death, a gene that had so far been dormant.

Depression set in when I was 14, and with it came a pain and an uncertainty that brought fear to everything I did. My doctor said I was under a pile of shit that I couldn’t see out of. I was trapped in a world of darkness and I began to see why my father had felt he had no way out.

 I believed with sole conviction that he had died because of me. Not directly of course, but I was certain that had I been good enough, had I been worth living for, he would not have done what he had done. I was convinced that I had effectively pulled the trigger that day because I was not a daughter that my dad considered worth staying for.
Any trace of childlike innocence I had was most certainly gone. But I didn’t fear the world, and I didn’t fear disease or death. I feared myself. I had become my greatest enemy and I still couldn’t see out from beyond that pile of shit.

It’s been years now and still I struggle with my own convictions. The belief that I don’t deserve a life because I wasn’t good enough to save one. The belief that what I have put my mother through will haunt me forever. And above all the terrifying fear of myself. The immensely terrifying pain that I know I can put myself through.
I live now with the knowledge that I have lost all traces of my innocence, that the person I was before my father’s death is well and truly gone. But that’s not what torments me. I struggle now with what I should go back too. What part of me is the person I am and what part of me is the person I have become. I got depression at a time when a child’s life begins to change anyway, and now I am left drifting between the child I was and the person I would have otherwise become…12715419_10206909387285012_2369107950769953066_n

That was 15 years ago, and I am now the most grateful, lucky, happy, person, who has certainly found herself, and knows who she is and what she wants from life.

Portugal helped a lot, horses helped a lot a lot!!

Reading this is not to dwell on the past, but to realise that no matter how far down you go you can come back up. All the way back up! I wish my father knew that, and I also just wish that someone, and this has happened before, will read this, and write to me, or talk to a friend, or tell someone what they are going through. Just one person, and it makes it worth the while…

Only 20% of people know that suicide is the most likely cause of death for men age under 45. Let’s show men across the world that �#�ITSOKAYTOTALK�…

If you need someone to talk to and don’t feel comfortable talking to your mates, head to:
https://m.lifeline.org.au/
Or…
https://www.headspace.org.au/ if you’re under 25.
Alternatively head in and see your GP. Mental illness is treatable and more common than you think!

 

 

 

Passion for the Sport…

I moved to Portugal 5 years ago to make it as an international dressage rider, without a horse, or a coach, or actually knowing a single person.

Last year I started competing internationally, and it’s now been a year since I was injured and had to take time off.

To say that I’m disappointed would be putting it lightly. I honestly never thought it would take so long to get back into it. The problem is not the injury, the problem is how the injury affected my ability to keep on going. To tell myself that I can do it, because I know from experience that if I get hurt, it can pull everything apart, metaphorically and physically.

After hearing so many athletes interviewed during the olympics I am reminded again that nothing good comes easily.

Australian cycler Anna Meares came back from a broken neck to take the gold last week.

Most of us have seen the interview in which Rafael Nadal’s leg cramps up and later he is asked if he plays in pain and his reaction to the question says well “yes of course”, knowing the question to be a rather stupid one. Every athlete overcomes something.

Sport, at any level, particularly elite level is mental…Equestrian sport is even more reliant on the mind of the athlete, as they must somehow communicate and understand their horse.

Batialo knows I’m worried about being hurt, and so I lose his focus. A year ago I entered an international arena and I was quite literally out of my depth, but I was so determined that I blocked out everything else, and just stayed with my horse.

Why can’t I do that again?

A wise woman (mum) says I have to watch a video of myself riding in Valencia, or Madrid, or Mallorca, and remember how it was, how I set my mind up, in order to overcome the physical hurdles around me.

What did I tell myself in order for Batialo to understand that I was in charge?

A true athlete fears nothing but failing to do the best that they can do, in any given moment.

If you ride alone at home, and you are worried, you will face the same issues. Mentally you have to somehow overcome this, to remind yourself why you do it.

The simplest shift in your attitude, can make all the difference. Unhappy people attract unhappy people. A stressed rider, will surely be granted a tense horse.

One year later, and I’m still a rider, I will always be a rider, I just have to find my way back to where I want to be, even if my goals have changed, or I have to change horse, or direction…The only thing that has stayed, is my passion for the sport I love.

 

 

Saudade…

“Saudade” is a word that only exists in Portuguese. Although there is no direct English translation it is best described as a longing for an absent something or someone that one loves, and carries with it a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.

Referred to as “the love that remains” after someone is gone, saudade also covers the deep sadness that follows after something is lost, the joy of remembering what once was, and even the deep fear of losing what still is.

I think of it not as just the thought “I miss that or I miss someone” but more the physical feeling that goes with it.

I also associate it with remembering the past, but the problem with remembering is we often alter it according to our mood or mindset at the time.

If we are missing someone from our past, we will remember all the good things, and see them in a better light than what would be realistically possible and what we know to be true.

I remember my father as if he was perfect, no flaws or faults, when in reality that is just what I wish to hold on to.

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Mum used to say it to her four years to have another child because she could finally look back at her first pregnancy and forget how painful it was.

When I take time off riding I just remember all the amazing times with Batialo, and then when I get back on he lets me down again, and the cycle continues.

I have found that everyone has that one person that guides them in life. It can be a parent or grandparent or even an uncle, someone that they feel they can say anything to without being judged or rejected.

My mum is that person for me and I miss her when I’m away, but I don’t really miss home.

I only feel “saudade” for Australia when I’m sick and on the other side of the world and as much as I hate to admit it I want mum to be there for me.

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I think that is a positive thing. I used to push everyone away but now I actually appreciate so much when people just ask if I’m ok. They know that I would do the same for them, and that somehow makes me feel less alone.

Someone told me recently that we are all alone, but it’s those moments when you are with someone else, or other people, and for just that moment you don’t feel as if it’s just you and the world, because you are there in that moment, together.

Saudade for all those moments that we don’t feel alone, saudade for the thought of losing that, and saudade for the someones we lost already.

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Freedom…Why I Ride

I grew up on a farm in Australia, and I actually wasn’t particularly interested in dressage. A lady who used to give me lessons when I was little said that she knew I would eventually take up some form of equestrian sport because of the empathy I had with animals.

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There was a time when I was little when I had a magpie (gobble docks), a kangaroo (millie), two dogs, a cat, and my shetland pony Jimbo.

The kids at school would be arguing over Hanson’s latest hit, and I would wait all day to get home and jump on my horse and ride out the back on my farm; alone but never lonely.

Today is my grandfather’s birthday. I adored my father, but it’s possible that my grandfather was the man I admired the most. He had the same empathy for animals as I do, and even more so for the people around him.

He saw the good in everything and everybody. I never heard him say a single unkind word about anyone, and the way he loved my grandmother was something truly beautiful.

I sometimes forget why I ride. It’s because of the relationship I have with my horse, and when I forget I might overlook when the relationship is no longer good for me. I miss being able to ride out on my farm, on a horse that I know would never hurt me, and just enjoy the freedom that comes with that feeling.

Somehow, I learnt to associate animals with freedom. They were always just as they were, no pretence, or bullshit, always happy to see you, and always the same.

If you don’t have freedom in relationships with people, it’s often time to question if it’s right. So if you no longer feel freedom in the relationship with your horse, isn’t it time to do the same? If you no longer enjoy it because you are afraid, or you don’t trust him, is it time to get more help, or find an alternative? I’m starting with the getting more help, but I’m already waiting on alternatives.

Horse riders face these issues quite often but rarely talk about it because they feel like it’s uncommon, or ridiculous. I know many riders who have accepted they just weren’t right for a horse and that horse has gone to a different rider, one which suited him better. Does that make them a failure, or a strong enough person to recognise that they just weren’t the right fit.

Right now I don’t have the answer, and the last few months and even weeks I go back and forth. As horse riders we are often perfectionists and we don’t like to give up on something we have worked hard for.

I would never recommend giving up, but like everything in life it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important…health, happiness, friends, family. My grandfather never lost sight of what matters the most, and I know what advice he would give me today.

 

 

The Power of the Mind, and Expectations…

Yesterday I went out to ride and my mind was preoccupied. I had been talking with home about the struggles of someone I truly adore and when I got on Batialo I wasn’t thinking on him, but worrying about home, and when I should go home, etc.13835460_10208164973153874_1483329956_o

Batialo immediately knew that I was “off with the pixies” as mum would say, and he started to be naughty.

Often we forget how much of our sport is mental. I didn’t realise until the week before I was to go the UK back in 2010. I was so nervous about riding Batialo in front of a huge crowd of people, and I transferred that to my horse. I had to get the vet out because I thought he was sick, and the vet said quite simply, “he is depressed, because you are worried”.

The majority of the pain I feel now is actually because my mind has not caught up with my body. I am strong, and the muscles are recovering, but if Batialo jumps or spins, my mind tells my hip that it should feel the shock, and so it does. This is something I have to retrain my brain to accept, the very real thought that “I am ok”.

The power of the mind has always fascinated me, for the good and for the bad. My mum used to tell me that I could do anything I put my mind to, and I grew up believing that.

I also grew up knowing that if the mind loses hope then a person can cease to exist even if they are still existing.

Right now, I have to firstly, accept that my body is ok, and then, put all of that out of my mind when I get on Batialo.

A rider will feel the horse do something naughty and punish him. A true horseman will feel the horse do something naughty and ask what they themselves might be doing to have caused that tension.

The second thing I have to change is my expectations. I have recently been hit with an overwhelming happiness because I stopped expecting people to act a certain way. I often see people get in arguments, particularly in relationships, because the other person has failed to carry out an expectation that they didn’t even know existed.

If you decide or set a level or a predefined guide for how someone should behave, of course you are going to be disappointed, and they are going to be confused and even angry. If you take away all your ideas and expectations you can just see people for how they really are, and not how you want them to be.

We do the same in training. We expect things of our horses when in actual fact they are just horses. They just want to eat, sleep, and roll around in the dirt, and we get disappointed when they are not listening, or are lazy.

I have realised that, just as I have learnt with people, I have to not expect anything from my horse, and that way I can figure out how my horse is on that day, at that time, without any predisposition of how I think it should be.

That’s the moment when you can train the horse each day, according to how he is, and not just carry out a predefined set of exercises and then get disappointed when he cannot fulfill them in the way you wanted him to ;).

Letting Go…

My most popular article to date was titled “The art of Letting Go” and it was about that moment when a rider releases a little the contact and allows the horse to balance himself, as opposed to a rider who holds the horse up in tension.

to order a polo write to crptruerider@yahoo.com
to order a polo write to crptruerider@yahoo.com

But letting go is a theme that extends well beyond the sport of dressage, and there are many things that throughout our lives we must let go of in order to be happy.

The hardest thing in my life to let go of was the idea that without a certain person I could not find myself again. I held on so tight to the past that I could not see what I had left to be grateful for.

My article on depression was read by 80,000 people, and I have had people writing to me almost once a week since asking me how I overcame it. Truth is I don’t know. All I know is that I had to except going right down before I could come back up. I had to allow myself to just be sad, and for me I had to leave behind everything that reminded me of who I became, and who I no longer wanted to be, and start again.

 

Recently I have been struggling with letting go of an idea that I had. I believed so strongly that I had to make it as a top rider, that I pushed myself past what I could handle.IMG_8269

I was afraid to fail, afraid to let my horse down, my mum down, my self down, etc. Of course all these pressures where ones that I placed on myself, and I am lucky that I own my own horse, and I get to decide his path to the top, a liberty that not a lot of international riders have.

We see it all the time in dressage training but typically it’s the horse that is rushed up to the top and suffers the consequences when he can no longer handle that level of power and expectation.

I didn’t rest when I should have rested. I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. Batialo is a strong character, and I believed that I could do it, and I would do it… alone.

You can’t…I can’t!

There are many things that I am proud to say I achieved by myself, but there are some things that you just can’t do alone.

I have always been very independent, I enjoy my own company, and the truth is I like to be alone with just my horse. But in order to train effectively you need to have someone guiding you.

I saw a sporting specialist recently who said that no matter what your mind tells your body, you can relearn where you place your tension, the reaction you have to fear, which in turn will actually change your entire outlook on the way you live your life.

I hope very much that this is true, and given my life time experience with the power of ones own thoughts, I know that anything is possible.

I got back on Batialo today, and I will get back on him again tomorrow. Two weeks ago I had given up again, but it just took one person to tell me that I can do it, and do it on this horse, to make me believe it, for one simple reason…I still want to believe it! People may give you advice, but it’s up to you to accept it or not, and if I truly ask myself what I am capable of, the honest answer is…anything. 1236235_10206636228176205_2301383747914937441_n

I am afraid. But now I am only afraid to get hurt, not afraid of falling or failing, not afraid to let anyone down. I realised during my time off, that the only person I ride for is myself. I don’t care if I never win, I just care that I get to do it, and of course if I can do it, I want to do it with the horse I have been with for 5 years, rain hail or shine.

Truth is in life, most of the things we love the most bring some kind of fear with it. If you truly love someone you must except the fear of losing them, of letting them down. If you truly love yourself you will overcome this fear, in order to experience everything that life has to offer. For me that is riding, and I hope very much that I get my confidence back, and just enjoy the sport that I love so much.

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Portugal…What’s Not To love?

Last week represented one year closer to my dual citizenship. People often ask me how I ended up in Portugal, and I can only say that once you have been here you will understand.

Growing up I knew very little about the country, just that my father would have a port wine after dinner every once in a blue moon, and I enjoyed the taste and the story behind it. Portugal he said, was on the other side of the world, the land of the explorers.

I have now been in Portugal for over 5 years, and I still have so much to discover.

The Lusitano, is the smartest, bravest, and most willing breed of horse that I have ever ridden, and recently when I was considering ending my journey with Batialo, the training wasn’t the thing that I was going to miss the most. The character that is my horse, how much he makes me laugh, and the amount I value his friendship was the hardest thing to face. Sometimes, our horses know us better than we know ourselves, and when you say that a horse can change your life, well, I have witnessed this first hand.

11411660_10205439596741167_1668263557334878812_o But that isn’t the only reason I stayed in Portugal. When I first arrived here my mind was my greatest enemy, and in Portugal I made it my greatest strength. Why? The people here have an appreciation for the things that matter the most, and I’ve said before that the Portuguese believe “time spent in good company, is time well spent”. I learnt that I didn’t need to worry about what happened next, because the moment I was living was the best one, the only one, and the one that I should enjoy to the fullest.

The food, well, I have eaten all around the world, and there has not been a single nation or national dish that has more history, and more tradition, than that of Portugal. The seafood, is quite frankly the best in the world, and the best kept secret, and for a girl who grew up on a cattle farm in Australia, every time I eat “marisco” I feel like it’s a delicacy, when in fact it is just the norm for the natives of the Iberian peninsular.10256695_10202600707970722_5691497753527609482_o

When Portugal was playing in the Euro2016 final, I felt honoured to be a part of it, and when I saw the Sydney Opera House lit up with the colours of Portugal, it struck something in me that felt very familiar.

The two countries that I call home, united in a sporting victory.13707732_10208051258311074_4800011340586123624_n

In truth I find many similarities in the cultures of the two countries, even them being on the far corners of the globe. Many countries love sport, but few countries will honour the opponent even in defeat, and celebrate their success, knowing that in celebrating the victor, we also honour the defeated.

If you have ever considered a trip to the Iberian Peninsular, if you love Lusitanos, or seafood, beautiful beaches, and a rich history, then don’t just take my word for it!

I was sitting on my favourite beach recently, and I suddenly felt a strong feeling of sadness, knowing that the one person I would love to share Portugal with, who would love much more about this country than the Port wine after dinner, would never know how far I travelled to know the land of the explorers.

One of my best mates said recently that I may not be Portuguese, but I chose Portugal, which makes me even more worthy of the nationality, and while I’ll always be Australian, I am proud to call Portugal my home.

To visit me and have lesson on a Lusitano, you can write to me at warnes@live.com.au, or read this blog for more info 😉

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Warneyswhip Classical Riding Holidays

It’s just a horse…

_20150423_125409What people say affects us, even when we don’t want it to. Even if we are strong enough to know that what they say comes usually from their own set of insecurities, their own set of weaknesses.

When I was little I loved to compete, and I would miss birthday parties and school excursions, and my friends would say, “it’s just a competition, it’s just a horse”.

Their words had little effect on me, because my best friends were the ones who never commented, and even though they new nothing about dressage, they would still ask me “if I won the race” when I returned to school on Monday.

When my dad died I took responsibility for my mum, and believed that if I did everything to take care of her I could make up for the loss of my father.

I went away to boarding school when I was 15, and for the first time in my life what people said affected me. They would say “how can you leave your mother alone?”, “How will she cope without you?”, and these words hit me like fire, and sent an ache through me that I couldn’t shake off. I felt guilty, and I felt selfish, but actually my mum was fine. The people that said this often meant well, but sometimes even good intentions can have harsh effects.

I think through this experience I learnt to actually gain strength from other peoples’ comments. When I arrived in Portugal they said I would never make it, they said I would never ride Batialo, they said I was an amateur on a Ferrari, and I would absolutely never compete internationally. What they said made me more determined.

But I didn’t do it for them, I did it for me. I did it for Batialo, a horse that I feel knows me better than most people do.

Right now I’m thinking of sending Batialo away while I recover, and yesterday when I came to the stable a little girl was patting Batialo. When I arrived and Batialo saw me, he made a noise and titled his head, and looked up like a kid at christmas, and the little girl, who knows nothing about horses, said, “look, he loves her”. It was a nice thing to say, but I swear I nearly broke down.

If the last 5 years has taught me anything, it’s that quite often the stronger you are, the more you feel. I used to believe that strength was found in showing no weakness, no emotion. I know now that true strength is in showing and feeling emotion, and letting yourself just be who you really are, and having the courage to know that the people around you, the ones you trust, will stay there through the good and the bad.

I have been told many times over the last 5 years that “it’s just a horse” and that may be true, but to me it’s not. That doesn’t mean that I will never find another horse like Batialo, or that I am not happy with my decision, and as much as I hate to admit it I feel a little relieved. It just means that I’m honest and strong enough to know, that if I make the choice to put my happiness and health over my partnership with him, when people say “it’s just a horse” I will never believe them.

Positive about the future with this little man, Iota, By Rubi (because maybe he won't spin!!)
Positive about the future with this little man, Iota, By Rubi (because maybe he won’t spin!!)

 

Faith, Heart, and Humility…The Lusitano

Faith is a beautiful thing. Faith in other people, faith in your dream, faith in your horse.
Once you lose faith, it’s very hard to get it back. I have always been a person to place too much faith in the things around me. I often believe that things will get better well past the point when other people would have walked away. This is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand it often means I stay too long and end up suffering, but on the other hand it means that when I eventually do make the decision to walk away I can say I gave it everything I had.
When you lose faith in someone or something, you typically stop respecting their opinion, their advice, their point of view. When you lose faith in your horse, your fear outweighs your ability to teach and learn with that animal.
I have always said that the Lusitano is the smartest horse I have ever known, and as a breed in general the horse with the most heart. If a Lusitano wants to do it, they will give you their everything, and will go above and beyond to please their rider.
There are of course exceptions in other breeds, and I have had horses of all types that show these characteristics, but the Lusitano is my true love.
Recently I was told that the Lusitano is not a brave horse, because they have such a big heart. An animal without a big heart, is an animal who fears nothing, and an animal who fears nothing, is not brave. Bravery comes from overcoming fear, from knowing what you are facing, and being able to forge ahead anyway. The lusitano would run into battle, knowing the danger, but be brave enough, and loyal enough to continue.
I always had faith that I would find my Lusitano, the horse to take me to the top. I believed so much in that idea that it actually helped me change many things about myself in order to reach that goal, that objective. I changed physically and mentally in ways which make me almost unrecognisable today, and yet I’m the same girl, with the same dream, and the same amount of faith.
Batialo, was the horse I always thought I would take to the top. I spend every day building a relationship of trust with him, and everyone says to me that they can see the relationship I have with my horse.
However, that is not everything. You may see the perfect couple, and from the outside it looks like they know each other, but you cannot see when one of them is losing faith.

Humility in sport, is a sportsman greatest asset. The ability to admit when something just won’t work, ability to admit fear, weakness, time to make a change.

I have always been a very driven horse rider and person, but drive can only get you so far, faith and heart will take you the rest of the way. Humility will then show you when it’s time to let it go and build a new way.
I love my horse, he is a part of me, but I have lost faith in him because well, when he spins it hurts, and fear takes away the fun of it, and the reason I ride, the true underlying reason why I do what I do is because at the heart of it all I’m still that country girl who finds freedom, who finds peace, on the back of a horse.

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I wouldn’t change the last five years with Batialo, but I have to really ask myself whether I am doing him justice, because my fear, and my lack of faith, means he will never reach his full potential. If I continue to believe in something that I know will lead me to more pain, I will eventually feel like I have failed, when the truth is I might succeed on another horse, at another time.

The thing about faith is, you can lose faith in other people, in other animals, in your dream, in your career…but the only thing you can never lose faith in, is yourself.

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Warneyswhip Classical Riding Holidays

Want a riding holiday close to the beach that offers non riding activities for your non horsey partner? Or have you always dreamed of riding a Lusitano in Portugal?

Warneyswhip has teamed up with the Cascais Riding club to offer Classical Riding holidays, where you stay at the same facility as the horses, just 5 minutes from the beach.

You can design your own holiday based on the time you can get away, and then put together a riding schedule that suits you.

Accommodation – (pool, close to beach) Prices subject to high/low season changes and a 15% discount for riders.
– Studio Bungalow (room, kitchnet, wc) – from around 50€/night
– One Bedroom Bungalow (room, living room, kitchnet, wc) – from around 75€/night
– Two Bedroom Bungalow ( two rooms, living room, kitchnet, wc) – from around 100 €/night

Lesson each day- choose from one or two lessons a day with me or with Frederico Pinteus judge and classical trainer.

Horses-
-Sensitive horse GP (piaffe passage/flying changes)
-Young calm medium level horse (half pass/ traverse)

-Option for kids or beginners lunge lessons on a very calm schoolmaster for the first ever ride or just starting out

Feel a truly gifted horse in classically trained piaffe and passage on my little man Ulisses…

Optional, day trip to lisbon, with a guide- lunch included

For the non-horsey husbands day activities include..Golf course; Tennis; Padel or Surf transfers. Dance lessons in Bicuda are also available.

Included- Dinner with Sarah Warne (me) and the Cascais Riding Club at an ocean view restaurant

Check out the bungalows here…

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To check the seasonal prices, find out more information, or to book your holiday write to warnes@live.com.au