The Things We Can’t Control


Classical Training – The things we can’t control!

A major part of training is accommodating, adapting, preventing, or avoiding, the many aspects of riding that we cannot control!

The four major ones that come to mind include weather, weakness, pain and time.

Weather is an element that every rider must face, and no matter how fantastic your riding facilities are, there will always be times when weather will effect your training.

Rain is obvious, and for the many who do not have the luxury of an indoor school, rain can cause major training interruptions.

I was once asked…”Why the hell were you just riding in the rain when we have an indoor?”

Whilst I could have ridden in the shelter of the indoor arena, I chose this day to ride in the rain for one major reason…

It can, and MORE than often DOES, rain at competitions, and there is no point arriving on the day of the test, to realize your horse can’t stand being out in that kind of weather!

Not only should you get your used to training in the rain, but also training the TEST in the rain, as we have all seen the horse that trots up on the most beautiful straight centerline, halts to perfection, and then attempts to turn his back end towards the frontward pelt!

The same goes for wind, heat, flies, dust….If you never let your horse experience these kinds of conditions then how can you expect him to go well when you are out, which is already a scene with a more heightened atmosphere.

HOWEVER, while you must allow your horse to be familiar with these conditions you must also be smart about it…

Don’t ride him out in the wind if you know you don’t have solid control!

Don’t ride around in the rain for long periods if it is freezing, and don’t fly around in the heat for hours on end just to test your stamina.

Gently introduce these aspects into training, but never avoid them completely.

The second unavoidable aspect is Weakness, which of course comes in many shapes and sizes, and can be both horse or human related, to varying degrees.

Sometimes a weakness can be so great that the ENTIRE training focus throughout the horses ENTIRE working life must be tailored to accommodate his specific floor… and the same goes for the rider.

If a rider has a weaker left leg, or pulls too much on the right rein, the teaching they receive for their riding career will need to constantly monitor these weaknesses, to ensure the rider can manage them and continually improve on them during training.

On the other hand, a horse’s weakness can be anything from a hollow back, a tendency to put weight in the shoulders, to more simply a mind that is easily distracted…

With all of these weaknesses a rider must CONTINUALLY accommodate and monitor their existence, and while a lot of them can be improved, the minute these aspects are forgotten they will appear, time and time again!

Pain…well, if you ask a rider if they have back pain and they tell you NEVER, I either don’t believe them, or wonder that perhaps they are not really riding!

If you watch professional horse riders walk home after a long day, it is more like a waddle than a walk, often with one hand supporting the lower back!

Pain, particularly back pain, is something we must all accommodate, and sometimes it can be simple things like not riding in the morning, as you know that’s when the pain is at its worst.. etc

Time is something we all seem to run out of, whether it be because our kids have to be picked up from school,  the farrier is coming, we are already late for work… we all have to mould our training around certain time schedules.

A simple way to maximize your time is of course to keep a daily agenda, but if you are not that organized then obvious things like having your tack room well organized to cut down the preparation time, when added up, can actually make a difference.


20140617-203709-74229421.jpgWith the Olympic dressage taking over my world, I love writing about, and learning about, all the superstars of the dressage world, from the riders, farriers, grooms, vets, to the judges, and most importantly the HORSES!

Having recently had my first lesson with one of the WORLD’s top dressage Judges, Mariette Withages, I was more keen than ever to get myself to the top, and work together with my two horses to edge our way closer and closer to GP!
I found that the lesson, while incredibly rewarding, also gave me new direction, new motivation, new LIFE!

20140617-203709-74229488.jpgBut also watching the world’s top riders take to the London arena, rider’s like me, who aspire to one day be in the same position,feel not only the butterflies, but also the victories!

Now when I make the perfect change, or take flight across the arena in extended, I feel one step closer to where they are today, and know that even if I never get there, I have enjoyed every minute of the journey….

Riding dressage for me, is not about the test, but about the training, it’s like teaching a child to walk, or a dancer to flow with the rhythm…

Every small success I have, I feel stronger, my horses feel proud of their own accomplishments, and when I put them in the box, they look to me knowing they have deserved that extra apple!

The great thing about our sport, is we learn everyday in steps, because we learn with a partner, an equal, and what other sport is there where two entities must work so closely, so intimately, in pursuit of their ultimate goal!


Full article on Lesson with Mariette Withages will be up on Eurodressage after London!

The Olympic excitement, also got me thinking about training for different conditions, and made me wonder how much time our top riders must put into planning for the “what could happens?”……

See article here on the topic…. “The Things We Can’t Control!”


This blog is about how I feel when… I drink a Portuguese coffee…

I watch a Horseball match..which is pretty much polo on crack!

I am trapped in a room listening to a child play the recorder…

But in terms of a  horseriders feelings and emotions, these are defined very much by how the ride went that day…

I was thinking that I feel very sorry for the husbands/wives/girlfriends/dogs…etc etc, of horsey people, as after a bad ride they behave much like a football fan who has just lost the match of the season…

The other reason I feel sorry for the significant others, is they are constantly getting left behind….
20140617-183811-67091143.jpgHAVE YOU EVER seen a horse person walking at a normal speed. Horse people walk like wind up toys, and can often be seen marching off in different directions, finding it extremely difficult to actually walk as a pair with anyone!

Horses emotions, on the other hand, are dominated by two things….herd instinct, and their STOMACH….

When a rider says the horse is having a bad day, chances are it is either feed time, OR, the rider is having a bad day and of course it’s the horses fault! lol

Just remember…riding is a game of patience, and just like HUMANS, everyone has their days, and their….


Photos above courtesy of Coudelaria Correia de Mendonça


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20140617-183819-67099369.jpgSo my journey began on an Australian cattle farm, that turned into an Avocado farm, but that for me was always about the horses on the property… and of course the dogs.

I grew up with a pointer named Beron, but the top dog of my life is my (now my mum’s) Weimaraner Maddie (Midori), who is both wickedly clever and knowingly beautiful!

The avocado farm today is run by my sister Katrina and her GROWING family, but my mum is still top dog I’m sure, and has stayed on to watch over the farm as she enjoys training her imported Lusitano ALANCELOT!


The farm will always be my home, it is the place where I learnt to ride, and to dream!,

The Bluestone hut is still standing, the place that started it all…..

But I  have found a home in Portugal, and when people ask me if I am ever lonely i answer a definite no! I think that loneliness is a state of mind, just like boredom is inherent in boring people!

I have my two best friends in the world, training and working with me everyday, and with technology today I actually feel that my relationship with my mother in particular is as strong as ever.

Adopting the role of INTERNET TRAINER, I speak to my mum via Skype every night, and I find the conversations to be ALOT more rewarding than the ones you have when you are at home.

“dinner’s ready…did you get the mail?…. has been replaced by actually sit down, focused, in-depth discussions about my training, my life, her life, the farm etc…

People say technology has made us distant, but I would argue that it actually connects us and makes us more aware of this time, and more prepared to use it effectively!

So my journey in Portugal is never lonely, and the people I have met here have been exciting, passionate, hysterical, and talented, sometimes all at once!

The Portuguese mum, for example, of which I now have several, are like a cross between Martha Stewart and Donna hay, and I realised very early on why so many grown men still live with mummy!

My Portuguese journey is as much about the TRAINING as it is the horses, and so here is where my journey began, my very first classical training article, as I began my riding life in Portugal with the soon to be Olympian Gonçalo Carvalho Conchinhas.

Classical training…the beginning, click here

Photos above courtesy of Coudelaria Correia de Mendonça


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Making the change!

20140617-211513-76513362.jpgChange is something that can be both scary, or exciting, or both!

My greatest change came from shock and incredible sadness…

Our lives are full of change, and while some of us accept it, others try to fight with it, similar to the way horses react during different periods of their training.

Some people spend their entire lives TRYING to change, and some people spend their lives trying to change OTHERS!

20140617-213957-77997715.jpgA dear friend of mine smokes like a chimney, and a do gooder attempted to heal him through acupuncture.

I asked him if he thought this would work…

He just smiled at me and said, I don’t think so, I like smoking, I don’t want to stop!

I agreed that she probably had her work cut out for her, as the main ingredient in most life changes is DESIRE~!

My change of location has been driven by a strong desire… to train and ride in the native land of my dream horse, the LUSITANO!

20140617-214000-78000186.jpgAnd this change has been both rewarding and interesting, as I have gradually come to know and adapt to the Portuguese way of life.

It took me some time to learn the lingo, as often even the most simple day to day phrases had me confused…

A typical Portuguese answer to “How are you?” is mais ou menos…meaning MORE  OR LESS.

I would often be left wondering, more or less than what? More happy than yesterday, less agitated than you were before???

Another good one I discovered was the answer to “How do I get to ???” when asking directions…

20140617-183817-67097171.jpgThe Portuguese reply is sempre na frente…meaning ALWAYS IN FRONT!

Again..Always in front of what?

I soon figured out that they probably just expected you to keep walking forward… until you either got bored, or realised they had no idea where you were talking about, whichever came first!

But aside from life change something equally as difficult to change is someone’s OPINION!

Being a stubborn country girl I tend to give my opinion readily, abruptly, and often when it’s not wanted!

I have learnt that when people ask you for your opinion on a personal matter, they actually don’t want to know what you think, they just want you to tell them it’s fantastic… that their hair looks great, that they don’t look a day over twenty, that you barely noticed the sunglass outline that has been permanently  tattooed to their face!

In terms of animals, giving your opinion is even more dangerous, and telling someone their chihuahua looks like a rat, or that their beloved bunny is roadkill, is like telling a mother her baby is ugly.

It does not go down well AT ALL!

20140617-183812-67092708.jpgHorse people are no exception, and when someone asks you if you like their horse, I have learnt to be very careful.

There is no good way to answer this question constructively in terms of criticism, and the only answer the person is really looking for is “Yes he is simply beautiful!”

Futhermore I have found that even a clever diversionary comment on the voluptuousness of his tail, or the sparkle in his eye, will only warrant further investigation.

Changes once in the saddle come in many shapes and sizes, but currently Batialo and I are making a particular change….the FLYING one to be exact!

20140617-213959-77999062.jpgClick here to read about training the Flying changes from this young rider’s view!

Training the Flying change 

Thought of the day: IF someone tells you you can’t do something, don’t argue…

Just really enjoy proving them WRONG!



In Too Deep

Did you ever think to yourself, ‘I’m in over my head’?

I’ve made a choice, and I really never thought I’d be here, having to face up to the consequences of that decision.

Is it better to swim out and risk drowning, or always stay safe in the sand?

I’m not typically one to worry about being in too deep, and I’m usually the one who realises half way through an intense argument, that she is completely wrong, but will continue to push my point until hopefully the opposer gives up.

When I landed in Portugal, I remember walking out onto the street, the train station behind me, thinking, what now?

I didn’t want to go home to Australia, but I didn’t know a single person, and I didn’t have a single thought as to what I was going to do.

I told mum I’d just stay a week, then a month, and then the months kept on going, and I kept on pushing my way towards where I realised I wanted to be.

After walking onto a lawn one day looking for a cheap room, one of the strongest Portuguese mothers I’ve ever met introduced me to her daughter, and her daughter became my angel who would connect me to Portugal’s Equestrian Master, and now head of the National School of Equestrian Art, Mr Joao Pedro Rodrigues.

Perhaps I was very lucky in that people helped me, but luck didn’t help me at the station that day, and it would have been much easier to hop on a plane and go home.

Truth was, I was ready for a new beginning.

If you’ve never been “in over your head” then perhaps you’re more of a game referee than an actual player?

With horse training, I’m learning that too much control can limit your ability to feel and progress with your partner.

Sometimes you can for example collect the canter, and support the horse so much that he learns to rely on your guidance.

If instead you prepare and then abandon him, letting him learn to support and find his own will and impulsion, you allow him to build his own strength both physically and mentally to carry you both forward.

The best kids are the ones whose parents show them, and then let them learn by themselves.

The value the Portuguese place on family is something truly special, and it took a Portuguese film to really drive home to me just how wise the Portuguese mothers are in raising their sons.

The actor in the film gave her son just a simple look of disappointment, touching the side of his face and lifting his chin up to meet her gaze.

She didn’t stop him, or scold him, or tell him what he should do, but warned him that getting in too deep will have consequences, and that he must learn for himself to live, but live with values and respect.

Is Portugal the place for me?

Is the Lusitano the horse that will take me to the top?

I don’t know if I made the right or wrong choices, we never do. I could have gone back to Australia, and maybe I would be living a completely different life. Trouble with most of us is that we assume we have time. Humans as a whole believe that you have to be sick or old to die, but you don’t. Those two things make it more likely but they are not a requirement.

If you only had today what would you do? That’s the thought I had in my mind when I took the train to Cascais, instead of the plane back to Australia.