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.

TRAINING: The Core Training For Equestrians Program

Sometimes people think that personal or gym training is designed to make you look muscly, or lose fat, but if you are someone involved in a sport and particularly a sport that requires great balance and physical fitness, the ability to work with your body, becomes an essential part of being the best rider you can be.

It is not about building up muscle, however this can help particularly if you are naturally small and need a bit more seat in order to feel comfortable in the saddle, but more than that, it is about learning to control your movements, learning to connect the contraction of one muscle, with the reaction it has to the muscles around it.

We see many riders who lean to the left, or draw up one leg, or pull on one rein, and quite possibly their horse is so used to it that they never know they do it.

“We see many riders who lean to the left, or draw up one leg, or pull on one rein (…)”

The right ‘off the horse’ training can teach you to become aware of where your centre of gravity lies, and you might be very surprised how the simple act of asking yourself to THINK about what muscles are working, and THINK as to whether you are straight, can reveal some very surprising feedback.

I had a trainer who would stretch me at the end of my training session, and I had him convinced that he put more strength on the left leg than the right, when in actual fact I was so used to tilting slightly to the left that I was certain the imbalance was coming from outside.

I began training off the horse for many reason, to strengthen my core (which of course is where a rider finds all their stability), to increase the muscle mass around my hip which is my weak point, but most of all to learn the mind/muscle connection, to achieve a real sense of how my body works and how that relates to my position on the horse.

Do you want to start an off the horse regime, and feel you need help gaining knowledge on the sorts of exercises you can do to strengthen your core, and become a more effective rider?


Are you a non-rider, who would just love to relieve the tension or pain you have that was created after years of bad posture, or compensation tendencies in your daily work?

If you have something specific you would like to get help with, write to us here, Duarte is a qualified personal trainer who is now in touch with the specific training requirements of equestrians, and I’m on the same journey as you, trying to get myself the best I can be for my horse, and for my wellbeing.

For Specific Exercises designed for equestrians follow our Facebook page “Core Trainer”

Insight: Searching For Your Calm…

The things people tell us affect us, even when we try not to let them.

IMG_0262The right compliment can change a person’s day, the wrong comment can ruin it.

Typically I have found though, that the best words or the worst remarks, are only worth the value of the person telling them.

When I was young I had two trainers, my mum, and a friend of mum’s called Marie.

I wanted desperately to be a cowgirl, and thought dressage was terribly boring and in fact I remember once just jumping out of the arena and riding off down to the bush.

As I grew up, and falling off onto a log or into a creek became less appealing, I grew to like the art of dressage.

“The right compliment can change a person’s day, the wrong comment can ruin it.”

I learned to enjoy striving for perfection, for straightness, and accuracy, and all the things that as I child I found particularly uninteresting.

Marie was not one to give away a compliment, and the first time she told me that I had “done quite a good test”, I felt like I’d just been told it was the perfect test of Olympic standard 😉

photo-3Recently in an email Marie said to me that she always thought I would pursue dressage, even when I was flying about in ‘should be’ circles on my pony, as I had a great empathy for the animal that is the horse.

That compliment has stayed with me to this day. Just recently doesn’t need to stay with you to this day because it was just recent???

On the other hand people can say things that may hurt us, whether or not that is their intention, and it is up to us to decide if their comment has value, if their intention is good.

The trick is to pay attention to what the person is really trying to achieve, and be aware if their words can in anyway help you see things in a new way.

If a person on the street calls out at you that you are fat, it’s quite possible they are just bored and insecure about their own bodies, but if a doctor tells you, chances are he is trying to get you to take more care of your health.

Truth is everyone has something they are good at, and something that needs work, and some people might spend their whole lives never working out which is which.

I found that dressage or horse riding was my passion not only because of empathy for the horse, but because it is the one true, and only time that my otherwise very busy mind is quiet.

It’s not nagging me about what I will do next, or what happened before, or who I should be or what I didn’t do. It’s not stressing about the pain in my back, or the chocolate block I just ate, or the things I should be doing.

“Truth is everyone has something they are good at, and something that needs work, and some people might spend their whole lives never working out which is which.”

It’s just there, in the moment, with my horse.

Finding that one thing in your life, that thing that gives you calm, is not always easy, but listening to the right people, people with the good intention, can help you find it.

It might be helping another person to do what makes them calm, it might be as a teacher who teaches others to find their calm, or it might be in the thing that you fear the most, that gives you your window and allows you to think only in that moment, and in nothing else.

Some people I am told have that ability all the time, I am not one of those people, but I consider myself truly lucky to have found the thing that gives me that window, the moment of now.

If you are not sure if you have found that, chances are you probably haven’t, and I suggest you think on finding it, as it may just help you be better in every other thing that you do.

Insight: The Someones that Inspires Us

Sometimes the best gift you can get, is someone to inspire you and that someone doesn’t necessarily have to be human 😉

IMG_0531When I was little I was surrounded by so many someones, which I believe made my childhood very special. I had a magpie named “Gobbledocks”, a Kangaroo “Millie”, a shetland pony “Jimbo”, a Kelpie and a pointer “Eddie” and “Beron”, a cat “pussy” and various stray birds, bugs and insects, that would hit the window, or crawl in unannounced (Australia) ;).

I never needed a toy, or a game, because I had all kinds of friends to fill up my day, stir my imagination, make me smile, entertain me, and teach me how to entertain myself.

Later, when I was going through the lowest part of my childhood, my mum bought me a puppy…I named her Maddie.

She became my reason to get up in the morning, when I couldn’t find another one, mostly because she would drive me nuts until I got up to feed her.

We would do tasks together, to keep my mind busy, like heading out in the bush to collect sticks for the fire in winter. Maddie would run beside the ute and then as I tried to load the sticks into the back she would grab the other end and pull on it.

Not quite sure she got the overall aim of collecting fire wood, but she sure thought it was great fun fighting me for the stick.

It was through her that I started to find a reason to laugh at the things around me, and eventually and more importantly, laugh at myself. She gave me a reason to laugh, a purpose, something to take care of besides my mum.

When I got my determination back and headed off overseas, Maddie stayed with mum, and become mum’s dog. I felt so happy knowing that Maddie was there with mum, because I knew that with Maddie driving her crazy and bossy her around, she would never be lonely.

Maddie passed away yesterday age 14, and I started to think about the impression animals have on our lives.

They are the purest kind of being, as they don’t know how to criticise, or put down, shout at, or lay blame, guilt, or anger.

My point is that animals can change the way we think, by us merely trying to understand and lay importance on the way they think.

They are delighted when you come home, they are content if you feed them and care for them, and they don’t ask for anything more than that.

My horse has now become the reason for me to get myself well and strong. It was for him that I got up, and pushed weights, and looked after my body, and felt inspired to be better to myself.

I’ve known many horses throughout my life, and have found something in all of them, but in Batialo, I feel he knows me better than any horse ever has, perhaps this is why I love so much the Lusitano.

The other day we walked out of the stable, and a dog ran out under our feet. He usually would pop in a spin, but this time he didn’t, and he was so pleased with himself, that he turned around and asked me for a sugar lump. He knew that I was surprised and also that he could bribe me in that moment for a reward :).

If you can’t find a good reason to get up, or be a better rider, husband, wife, daughter, or person, look to the other someones around you, particularly the four-legged kind, they may just have the answer if you look them in the eye!

EXCLUSIVE: Who is in Charge here?

I read recently that love is not a feeling, it is an action that you must repeat in order to have the other feel loved.

Ramos Sport Riding Wear
Ramos Sport Riding Wear

I’m not sure I believe that, but then I turned it around, and thought about hatred. I believe hatred is an act, and those who choose to perform hate crimes, or even comments lined with hate, do so as a conscious choice and not through the expression of feeling.

Therefore if you choose to love another, you must choose this consciously, and with intent on acting out that decision, with acts of love.

With animals, kindness is vital, and anyone who can harm an animal in anyway, has nothing but emptiness inside them.

There a lot of things in our lives today that  can be passed off as emotion, when in fact it is a conscious choice that we can choose not to act on.

I am impatient, but if I am disciplined with myself, I can in fact become calm and patient, I usually just choose not to be, I am working on it…

The problem is when we let other people decide our own actions or feelings for us.

Often without even asking for it, people will give you their opinion, and that is fine as long as you can decipher the opinions that matter, from the ones that don’t.

My Mum used to say “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, but I don’t think that covers it.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” by Debbie Warne

I believe you should ask, does the thing I am going to say have the chance of improving this person’s life, or the lives of those around them, or not?

You may tell a person their horse is completely crazy, if you know the person is putting themselves in danger.

However, if you want to tell them their horse will never be any good, when you know that for that person’s goal and intention the horse is perfect, then better just to shut up right?

In dressage, you need to have conviction in your thoughts and actions, so if you’re a person who only ever does things half well, then your horse will do a nice diagonal slide, but never a half pass.

Decide and then carry it out until the end, in life and on horseback, in disciplining your kids, or in devotion to your dog.

When you make a life decision and you can’t figure out whether you wanted it or not, then perhaps you forget to actually hear yourself, as others are very good at drowning out what’s happening inside you.

Some people earn the right to give their opinion, and others just give it anyway, but either way it is up to you to decide if that opinion fits your goal, or not.

I wrote an article about the importance of “Finding the Right Trainer”, because it is so important you find someone that you not only respect, but whose opinion and advice is given in order to fit you and your dreams.

Finding the Right Trainer” by Sarah Warne @ Eurodressage

When my trainer rides my horse, he doesn’t get on and show off to me how awesome he can make him go, he rides him him in a way that makes it easier for me to get the most out of him.

If your not a rider, then the teacher, or boss, or whoever it is that helps you, must be a person who gives you help that you need, and not the help that suits them, and you must use this help and make it count!

I say, “don’t live in halves, live in wholes, and make sure everything you do, you do it with everything you’ve got!”.

“Don’t live in halves, live in wholes, and make sure everything you do, you do it with everything you’ve got!” by Sarah Warne

If you want to steer your own horse, better make sure you are in control of both reins!