Change…

Change they say is inevitable. Of course it’s true.  For some people change is easy, for others it’s something they fear.

I have changed so much in my 5 years in Portugal, but more so in the last 6 months. Being injured made me slow down, and question everything, and even though I came to the same conclusion, the process I went through made me even more certain of what I want.

This week I started riding (again) and something has changed. I feel stronger than I ever have. I don’t let people get to me. I don’t take advice unless I ask for it, and I respect the person who is providing it.

I don’t put pressure on myself, and I’m just so happy. That’s what’s changed, and Batialo knows.

He respects me again, because I respect myself.

Everything is the same, and yet everything is different.

It’s amazing too how much better I feel about everything when I’m riding. I don’t stress about the little things, or worry that I might not be good enough, or that I’m failing, or that I should feel guilty for something that I know deep down is not my fault.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a passion in life. One that doesn’t rely on other people. You can be passionate about people or a person, but a life’s passion or goal is something that actually helps you in the rest of your life and in your relationships with those people.

Riding is my escape. What’s yours?

When everything around you is changing, what is the thing that holds you together?

I feel grateful everyday, and I love my life so much. It didn’t used to be like that, so I changed everything. Really everything. Except horse riding.

Once you can get used to change, you can accept when others around you change, and not feel like it’s up to you to make it better.

Change is inevitable. One month ago I had honestly given up on Batialo. Why? because I thought it would never change. Truth is I just hadn’t tried hard enough, and although I’d changed physically, mentally I was still stuck.

My new pilates trainer said to me on my first session that I was strong, I just needed to convince my mind that I was, so that I could convince my horse.

Turns out, she was right 🙂

 

 

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.

halt 5

 

 

 

 

 

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!