Sharish Gin…Gin for those friends who “don’t like gin”!

Have you ever found yourself sitting around a dinner table, and you ask your friends if they would like a gin and tonic and one or two of the people say “I don’t really like gin”.

After you make a note not to invite them again, you then ask them what gins they have tried and they list the most common gins like Gordons or Bombay.

Neither of these are bad gins, but for me it reminds me of avocado. I grew up on an avocado farm and my friends at school would say they hated avocado because they had tried to eat it straight off out of the skin with no seasoning. Typically you increment avocado slowly into things; on bread with salt and pepper, or in smoothies with honey, until gradually you find the taste itself to be delicious!!

Well, Sharish gin is like the toast, the salt and pepper, or the honey. It’s the gin that eases those ‘non gin lovers’ into loving gin because it is just so refreshing that you can’t tell you are drinking alcohol. Like a good Alentejo red wine it can be dangerous as the taste is so good you can be three gins down before you realise you are tipsy. But as far as Portuguese gins go (and world gins for that matter) this one is unique and very good.

Started in October of 2013, Sharish Gin is produced in the Alentejo by António Cuco and gets its name from the nearby village of MONSARAZ.

Used during the Muslim occupation, the Arabic term “sharish”, means xara or jara, the term for estella alentejana (Cistus ladanifer), which is a scrub found in the region, known for its wonderful scent that is often used in perfumes. (pictured right)

Sharish gin gets its unique taste and smell from a range of uniquely Portuguese ingredients, from Apple Bravo de Esmolfe DOP to oranges and lemons from Alentejo, passing through fresh Lúcia-Lima, together with the traditional juniper and coriander seed, complemented with cinnamon, clove, and a soft touch of vanilla.

All these ingredients are distilled separately in a traditional Portuguese alembic,(pictured left) and then submitted to a final blend.





I approached the founder of Sharish, António Cuco, for a chat recently, and he said the project started quite by surprise, and took a lot of work to get off the ground.

“I was challenged by a group of friends to create a gin at a dinner at my family restaurant. They wanted to try a new gin and we didn’t have any, so they suggested that I should create one,” says 35 year old Antonio.

“It was not easy in the beginning. I needed to make lots of research into gin and gin making because I had no background in the area and gin making is not a Portuguese tradition.

I started with an initial investment of around 100.000 Euros.”

With a degree in Tourism from the University of Évora, Antonio was formerly a professional teacher, and without assignment for the academic year, he took advantage of IEFP’s support to create his own job, and became a distiller of Sharish Gin.

Antonio says that his goal during the research phase was to create a gin and brand where everything was chosen for a reason, and everything added to the overall concept and idea.

“Even the shape of the bottle fits perfectly to the silhouette of Monsaraz, chosen for the logo. Nothing was left to chance in this production, everything has a reason for being, and the main one is a passion for gin, linked to the conviviality among friends. As they say in the Alentejo, “que vos faça bom proveito!“.


Currently the best-selling Portuguese brand in the world, and in the top 5  in sales in Premium Gin in the Portuguese market, Sharish exports 65% of their annual production overseas, to nations such as; UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Macau, Hong-Kong, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Vert, Sweden, Norway, São Tome e Principe, and Australia ;).

With a number if different varieties of Sharish Gin, Anotonio says that Sharish Gin Laurinius is his favorite.

“It’s a special edition with 12 months aging in Oak barrels previously used in Aguardente da Lourinhã aging.”

My personal favorite, and the gin to turn those non gin drinking friends into believers, is the Sharish blue gin…which magically changes colour as you add tonic water.

“To create the blue gin I knew that the Clitorea Ternatea reacted to citric acid because a French friend introduced me to the plant, I simply used this principle as a base for the gin.”

Antonio hopes that Sharish will continue to grow and increase their exports of this unique and tasty gin all over the world…

“And from this May forward we will be having our visitors center fully operational.” adds Antonio.

Carbon Offsetting: An attempt to increase positive business public relations or a way to actually help solve the issue of greenhouse gas emissions?

I always wondered whether when I clicked on the “offset my carbon footprint” option when booking flights whether or not the 6 euros (or the relatively low addition to the overall flight cost) was actually worth while…

Did the money actually go towards offsetting my carbon footprint or was it a scheme to make me feel as if I was doing something good when the reality was that the money wasn’t helping the environment, or worse it was actually being counter productive?

By definition “Carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) and may represent six primary categories of greenhouse gases:[5] carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).[6]

One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.”

There are two markets for carbon offsets, and both have both good and bad elements.

On a larger scale big companies, governments, or other large entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with limits placed on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. This exists to comply with obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, and the Emission Trading Scheme.

On a much smaller scale,  individuals (like me and you when we choose to fly) or smaller companies,  purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources.

This money is then supposedly put towards financial support of projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in the short- or long-term.

I always thought that the money might be spend on planting trees and thereby offset the carbon footprint that way but there are a number of reasons why tree-planting to offset carbon production is not a viable choice, but mainly because trees reach maturity over a course of many decades and it is hard to guarantee the permanence of the forests and because often in an effort to cut costs, some tree-planting projects introduce fast-growing invasive species, that end up damaging native forests and reducing biodiversity.

So instead the 6 euros you choose to pay to offset your carbon footprint on an individual level typically goes towards renewable energy sources such as wind farms, biomass energy, or hydroelectric dams.

Carbon offsetting has gained momentum and appeal on both an individual and corporate level, and the Kyoto Protocol was set up to keep a check on governments and private companies, who can now earn carbon credits that can be traded on a marketplace.

Basically, organizations that are unable to meet their emissions quota can offset their emissions by buying CDM-approved Certified Emissions Reductions.

So basically you can buy your way out of having to reduce your fossil fuel consumption…

While the scheme is at least raising awareness to the fact that companies need to measure and effectively be charged for the damage they do the environment, this doesn’t actually solve the problem…

One website outlines the element of the ridiculous in the scheme., makes a clever point by drawing a parallel between the scheme and infidelity…

 “When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere,” the website explains. “CheatNeutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and not cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.”

Others liken it to those who use religion as a way to be forgiven so they can go out and commit more sins…

On a global scale it’s a money business where companies can buy themselves more tickets to produce more emissions…

On a personal level it comes down to the question…Does the money I am spending actually achieve any carbon savings as promised? Truth is no-one can say for sure…

But here some questions we do have answers for…

Why is the offset price so low…can 6 euros really offset my long haul overseas flight?

The carbon offset price is low because there are all kinds of ways to reduce emissions very inexpensively, and so yes theoretically even a small amount can make a difference.

Why do different companies quote different carbon offset prices for the flights of the same distance?

Companies quote different offset costs because often they estimate the impact on the environment using different measures.

If carbon offsets do work, shouldn’t these projects be financed by governments anyway? Are the two really related?

“Even if offset projects do work as advertised, some environmentalists argue that they’re still a bad idea. If we’re to tackle climate change, they argue, the projects being rolled out by offset companies should be happening anyway, funded by governments around the world, while companies and individuals reduce their carbon footprints directly. Only in this way – by doing everything possible to make reductions everywhere, rather than polluting in one place and offsetting in another – does the world have a good chance of avoiding runaway climate change,” such critics claim.

However, those who support carbon offsetting programs say that the projects that are invested in with my 6 euros are long term, and may actually offset my carbon footprint 3 or 4 times over, meaning I might not only offset my footprint but reduce it even further…

The truth is I am not sure if this is the right message to send, that we can buy our way out of the pollution we cause, and yet, when I see the option on the flight website to offset my carbon footprint I click yes, and I pay the 6 euros, because well, I am hoping it ends up doing even a small amount of good.

Jet Lag…Is it All in your Head?

After taking a few long-haul flights from Europe to Australia during the last 7 years I often wondered whether jet-lag was a real thing or whether we just made ourselves believe that we would feel pretty rough after being stuck that long in a small flying box breathing the same recycled air for up to 15 hours.

When I was young did I get jet leg? I can’t remember. The first time I flew from Australia to Europe I was 13 and I can’t say I noticed feeling tired, but I was most likely fairly excited and preoccupied by other more interesting things!

So is Jet-lag just in our heads? Or is it a physical thing the body experiences? And can we prevent it?

For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind but studies have since shown that it does actually result from an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones.

Our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “Circadian Rhythms”…This is why I start yawning at 10 minutes to 10pm and I wake up promptly at 7am without an alarm (note that some peoples clock is more persistent that others), and while my body clock is fairly set in its way I know some people who can push the snooze on their body clock and it doesn’t seem to notice.

This circadian rhythm flexibility (or lack there of) does have an impact on jet lag!

If you are a “morning person” who wakes up promptly it is most likely that you find it difficult to sleep in past 9am, and for those “morning people” jet-lag is probably going to hit you a lot worse!

The  “circadian rhythms” in our body are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.

Cristina Ruscitto (PhD) has done extensive research on this topic after completing her PhD in Health Psychology, at the University of Surrey in England.

Last year Cristina led two major studies into how to reduce jet lag: 1) Ruscitto, C., & Ogden, J. (2017). The impact of an implementation intention to improve mealtimes and reduce jet lag in long-haul cabin crew, Psychology and Health, 32(1), 61-77, and 2) Ruscitto, C., & Ogden, J. (2017). Predicting jet lag in long-haul cabin crew: The role of illness cognitions and behaviour. Psychology and Health, 32(9), 1055-1081.

Cristina says she chose this topic for her research because of her previous work as a member of a long-haul cabin crew (experienced jet lag and sleep disruption) together with her interest in Health Psychology.

“The study particularly showed the importance of mealtimes for alleviating jet lag in long-haul crew. There is plenty of evidence in animal research that feeding times affect the body clock but this evidence in humans is limited:  e.g. a study found that late eaters lost less weight than early eaters. In my study, the group of crew who made a meal plan (to eat regularly, breakfast lunch and dinner) before a long-haul trip,  had reduced jet lag symptoms after a long-haul trip when compared to a control group (no meal plan). The results showed that planning ahead your meal times by eating in line with the local time help adjust more quickly and reduce jet lag levels.”

So basically, if you are flying to the Uk from America you should put your self onto the UK meal and sleep time as soon as possible.

“These findings are new because traditional countermeasures look at improving sleep or taking medication to deal with jet lag but this study shows that ‘when’ you eat can also help reduce jet lag levels.

This is particularly useful if the person in question is unable to take sleep aids as in the case of a crew member, who must be working during the flight.”

However, as I mentioned above not everyone suffers from jet-lag, at least not to the same degree.

“Not everyone suffers from jet lag,” says Cristina. “This depends on different factors, but one of the most important is a person’s chronotype, whether one is an ‘evening’ or ‘morning’ person.

Evening people, or people who can easily sleep in past noon, cope much better with jet-lag because they find it easy to prolong sleep.

“Their sleep is more flexible (e.g. they can extend their sleep) and therefore can adapt more easily than morning people following time zone transitions.” adds Cristina.

So how then can meal times help us adjust more quickly?

Well of course when we eat our blood sugar levels spike, and our blood sugars plays a role in regulating our body clock.

So if you are planning a long journey, and you are a morning person like me, the best you can do is get onto the new sleeping schedule as soon as possible by adjusting your mealtimes accordingly!

Want 3% better rates and no Fees when Transferring Money Overseas?

When I first moved overseas 7 years ago I was often shocked to see the transaction costs and rate of exchange offered by the leading banks when transferring money from Australia to Europe. It wasn’t as if they actually had to rent a boat and ship it over, and yet the click from their computer to a computer somewhere else seemed to cost a small fortune, and the larger the amount you were sending the more they seemed to take.

My mum was told about Forex Sport by a good friend of hers and we have been using their service ever since. Offering a 3% better rate than the banks, CEO and founder Dion Ciavola started the company ten years ago, and is happy with the growth of her business as it expands into new markets.

“When we started ten years ago we were looking after the foreign exchange needs of international athletes. (Hence the name Forex Sport)

Since this time the business developed a need to do foreign exchange for individuals and business  and for the last 10 years we have had  a strong commitment to our customers providing them foreign exchanges rates that are close to market as possible, “ says Dion.

While the business still looks after over 400  Australian international athletes, Dion says that personal and business customers have far exceeded expectations and is now the majority of work that the company does.

“The company is regulated in Australia and has an AFSL (Australian financial service license). We are based  and owned in  Australia, but we employ people that have lived abroad so that they better understand the costs of sending money around the world, and have experience with it personally.” adds Dion.

Saving their customers, myself included, a large amount of money on foreign exchange transactions Dion says that her company is the better choice for a few major reasons, but mainly because they offer excellent rates and no fees on transactions over 1000 dollars.

Using a very simple online platform, customers simply need to register online and then begin…For my first transactions I actually wrote to Dion personally and she was able to help me through the process. I received the money in Portugal within 2 days which was quite a shock considering I was used to the ten day lag time when dealing with the big banks.

“It’s important for expatriates to get locally domiciled accounts so the transfer on money can be electronic. Most of the transfers arrive within 24 hours!” says Dion.

For transactions under 1000 dollars there is a 10 dollar transaction fee, so it is better if you are living overseas to transfer in larger sums.

My only question was, given the great rate and no fees on larger sums of money, how does the company make a profit?

“We get close to market rates and we show the customer a worse rate than we get, but as an individual the rate that we give them is a lot better than they would get stand alone!”

In my experience with the company we often had savings of up to 400 dollars on transactions over 4000 dollars, (this is including fees, bank rates and exchange rates), and after using Forex for 5 years I wouldn’t consider ever putting my business back in the hands of the big banks!



For more info contact

Dion Ciavola
Forex Sport Pty Ltd

ABN 22 147 363 175
AFSL 401379

T  +61 3 9008 1880 / 1300 36 99 73
M +61(0) 435 966 957

Level 2, 100 Collins Street
Melbourne Vic 3000

or register online at and start saving money on your international transactions!!

If you are looking to move to Portugal or invest in property here I work with a real estate company for a more personal and fun approach to finding your dream home…contact me at for more info, or any advise on living and loving this great country!

Second Chances…

I have always been really fascinated with the power of  the mind, but this weekend was all about realising just how powerful the human body can be.

I headed to Copenhagen to visit my Danish sister and friend of 20 years and I was fairly anxious. My first MRI in two years and my first bone and joint evaluation in forever.

At age 20 the scans showed bipolar pelvic fractures, oestepenia of the lumber and hip, and ruptures at the insertion of the hamstring.

I was not kind to my body for many years. I did things that I feel ashamed to even remember, and did not take care of the fractured hip or myself, at all.

I was punishing myself for my fathers death, and felt that I didn’t deserve to be ok. Course it was more complex than that but that was at the heart of it.

I carried that with me for a long time. So I was worried to see how much degeneration had occurred in the last 12 years since that evaluation as the doctors at the time said that you cannot reverse any of the bone degeneration and it will only get worse.

But you can slow it…

Sitting in a room with some of Denmark’s best bone and joint specialists looking at my results and their faces looking at me like, why are you here?

They said that because I broke the bone so young it has completely regenerated, and in the right place.

Amazing isn’t it that almost every cell in our bodies is completely new again in 4 years. Every single bone is completely regrown. However if you break a bone after a certain age it regrows with degeneration in the cells, like an instruction manual with spelling mistakes.

The doctor who evaluated my oesteopenia at age 20, said there was nothing I could do, but that for sure the bone would continue to slowly decline. Well, it’s true it didn’t reverse itself, but instead almost stopped time completely, and I have now almost no degeneration or less for someone my age.

“You have the hip and back of a 20 year old”…is the exact way they put it!

I felt so incredibly grateful, and for the first time without that other feeling of guilt for something good happening to me…I don’t remember how long it has been since I felt that. Like I deserved it.

Such a simple concept and yet for me such a complex one.

They said there is still a way to go because I have to continue the work I am doing to balance the muscles and tendons that took all the wear and tear over the years while my body did the hard work.

They also said that in 6 months time, if I continue as I am doing, there is no reason why I can’t make a full recovery and enjoy riding for quite some time!

They said though, that there is a big chance that I may always have pain in my hip. There is still so much we do not know about the connection between mind and body and after over ten years of pain it’s hard for the brain to forget it. He said then I will need to look at other avenues to better cope with pain, or he  said “learn to love it”…I didn’t understand at first but he meant learn to appreciate it, it’s part of who I am, my past, my life, my character. I have a childhood trauma printed in the cells in my body, as a reminder that happened, so it’s still a part of me.

I thought it was an interesting way to look at it and wondered why it couldn’t be something awesome like telepathy, but I guess you can’t choose how your scars form and how long they stay there ;).

But the best part was that now I can do the muscle and tendon work knowing that I am on the right path…and I will get back riding. I also am lucky to have the help of Ana luis Martins from ALM pilates, and Jorge Pereira from Clinica Benfica and oesteo Patricia Trigo da Silva…Three of the most amazing, humble, talented, and fun professionals I have ever worked with.

I have been told so many times that to get the right help I need to go to Germany, and see “Dr somebody” who is supposedly “the best in the world”, and I truly believe that I am actually in the best hands because they actually are extremely good, but also for one major reason.

You can go to the supposed best at something, but do they really give a £$%^ about your specific case?

It’s like a dressage rider going to the best trainer, only to find out that that trainer doesn’t find much potential in their horse, and the lessons are like reading off a script.

My mum is my best ever trainer because she is passionate about it. We have all had that amazing lesson with someone who supposedly hadn’t done that much, but was just so enthusiastic and passionate about you and your horse, that you got a lot out of it.

Ana and Jorge are that good, and yet still passionate, and more than that I feel that they think I deserve to be helped.

I got so used to telling myself that what I had done would stay with me forever and that as I grew old I would feel it more and more. A physio last year said I was limited in my riding years and possibly by 40 I won’t be able to walk, and then a surgeon tell me that I need to fuse the hip bone together with metal.. Because of all the work I have done to stabalise the joint the pubic bone that was not aligned, now is, with no sign of any chronic inflammation, and the fluid in my spine is also gone…I dedicated myself to my recovery, and did everything I was told, and then some, and well, hard work pays off!!

It took a doctor saying to me that I am physically younger for my age than I am, by a lot, for me to realise that I have a second chance, and I will take it!

But more than that, whatever I still blame myself for is irrelevant, because if my body forgave me, then I can. I am allowed to be happy, and I deserve good things. I know a lot of people who struggle with that concept, so I don’t feel weak for sharing my story.

Sometimes I see people empathising with me, but they don’t have a suicide, or a specific trigger, and they feel even more like they don’t deserve to be happy and the cycle continues. To those people, it’s ok to take too much on board, as long as you learn from it or use it to make you a better person.

So I learnt a lot this weekend. I was also reminded of a lesson that I learnt when I was travelling the world alone, and people would ask “you are by yourself?”. It fascinates me that people don’t realise a very simple fact of life, so when they ask me this question I reply “No, I am with myself.” Course they probably think I am nuts, but my point is that enjoying your own company is one of life’s greatest lessons, because if you don’t enjoy it, why should you expect anyone else to?! I am also lucky in that I come back to the best person in the world, 🙂 🙂 , but I do feel sorry for people who can’t do things alone, and think of that as valuable time spent with you…you’re the only you you’ve got!

When I got back, someone I admire and cherish said that I look younger. She is someone who really sees people, and what she is actually seeing is that I am lighter.

For the first time I don’t feel lucky, I feel extremely grateful..and there is a big difference between the two.





Equestrian Cyber Bullying…

“Tis the season to be jolly”…Or is it?

“Tis the season to be jolly”…The famous line from one of the most well known christmas carols, and yet the reality of christmas leaves many people feeling less than festive.

When you are young christmas is the most exciting time of the year. I still remember waking up at 5am to check the end of my bed to see if Santa had been. I got to spend the day with my cousins and my grandparents, and everything that I remember about that day was bright and shiny and exciting.

Is it that as adults we miss that sense of pure joy? Or it is that at this time we evaluate our lives? We think back to the image we had as a kid of what our lives would like like, and think…oops!

When I moved overseas I didn’t have any family living here, and for me christmas represented a day where I could go to my horse and there was no-one, and I loved it. To be the only ones in the whole world on that day just doing what I love to do. But other people got in the road of that. They would ask me, sometimes up to ten different people a day, starting from about the week before christmas, “What will you do for christmas?”. I would reply “ride my horse”, and they would look at me like “You poor sad pathetic homeless girl”, which was not the case at all, as I was perfectly fine. There was one time I even made something up, just because I didn’t want the pity, but then I thought why should I?

I believe more than anything it’s the expectations people put on christmas that ruins it, for them and for others. The expectations that the meal be perfect so the person cooking has to worry about it for a week before. The expectations that family will need to get along, which inevitable ends in a heated family discussion/argument between two people who never liked eachother but were forced together for the occasion. The belief that if you are alone you are somehow to be felt sorry for, when in reality it’s just one day…What about caring if that person is alone for the other 364 days of the year?

A study was released that reported “People say that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.” (psychology today)

This I know to be true.

Anyone who lost a very close family member early on will tell you that christmas after that, even if they were still a child, was never the same.

In fact, it became a day where you would sit around a table, decorated and warm, full of people that you love, but somehow instead of seeing all the people you love, all you would feel was the absense of the person that you once loved, who was no longer there, at that table. The table was full, and yet it was empty.

So actually I loved christmas in Portugal even when I was alone, because there wasn’t suppose to be anyone there that was missing. Yes my family were in Australia, but that’s where they were suppose to be.

It sounds strange, but I felt a sense of freedom from the expectation, and I could just enjoy the day.

Truth is though, if my dad hadn’t died when I was young, I would be one of those people with the tree warming up towards the end of November. The type of person who asks you in late august if you thought about what you want for christmas, and the person who, with absolute pleasure, cooks christmas dinner for everyone she knows.

A part of me is still that person. Recently I had dinner with a couple who I genuinely admire, and the wife was asking me “where my christmas tree was?”. I could see in her eyes everything that is still good about christmas. Forget the commercialism and the overeating, and the waste from the commercialism and the overeating…She had that warm excited child look, which I think every adult is lucky to hold to, even in just a small way.

I have that when I am with animals. Animals were the part of my childhood where I was free from everything else. At one point I had a magpie (gobble docks), a kangaroo(millie), two dogs ( beron and eddie), a cow (goosebumps), and my pony (jimbo) and so when I am with animals I feel like I am 6 years old again.

That’s what I saw in this beautiful person, that sense of warmth and care, and for lack of a better way to put it “christmas spirit” that I think is what still makes a part of this holiday truly good.

I worry about all the people that are alone this christmas, or are alone for the first time after a breakup or divorce, or are at a table where someone is missing… And to those people I think the best you can do is to be kind to yourself. Don’t expect it to be a miracle magical day, but instead just enjoy the best bit…Maybe it’s the dessert that you only have on christmas, or your crazy aunt that keeps things entertaining…Maybe it’s your dog who enjoys the turkey you cook more than you do, or maybe it’s going to ride your horse on a day when there is no traffic, and no noise…Focus on that one thing and who knows, it might not turn out as bad as you thought it would, or better still, you might even enjoy it!


What type of Horse Rider are you?

I have thought about this a lot recently as I face not riding again. The question why do I love riding so much comes to mind…What is it about being on a horse that I crave, as I do crave it, it becomes almost like an addiction. Ask any person who has lived and breathed horses all their life and they will tell you. The thought of not riding is almost unthinkable.

I have read on this subject, articles that outline the different types of riders, and throughout my many years watching my mum teach all sorts of different students, I came to see that there are many many different ways to love and be drawn to riding.

The most common I see is the rider who is afraid of the horse, but loves him anyway. This is the person who typically spends more time grooming than actually riding, and I have grown to admire this person the older I get. The person who spends countless hours with their horse, just in his presence, only to pop on for ten minutes, praying it goes ok, and then return to the stable to again pamper him as if he was the king of her world. A person who in spite of their fear finds comfort and purpose in being near this wonderful animal.

Another is the competitor. This person started off with a deep love of horses, and gradually it became their job. They still love the horse, but don’t get the luxury to spend as much time with him as they would like to and sometimes find themselves missing the days when they didn’t have clients and calendar commitments, and they could just use riding as their escape from life, not as their life itself.

The next is the passionate learner. This rider has spent their entire life on and off the horse reading and thinking and arguing (often heated at it times) over the correct training principles. They love to discuss the horse as much they love to ride him, and they find huge reward in the teaching of the horse, the lifelong journey of finding harmony with mans best friend. They are saddened today to see what the competition world has become and often feel puzzled or even angry watching the warm-ups of some (not all) of todays top riders.

The next is the thrill seeker. They love the more adrenaline filled disciplines and may or may not care for the accolades at the finish but more the out of control feeling they get on the course. They love to let go, because perhaps in other areas of their lives they are particularly organised and strict, or maybe the contrary, they are always a bit on the messy side, and this allows them to bring that out and make something of it.

You may not fit into any of these categories, in which case you would be like me. I am a combination of all of these. I grew up on a huge farm, and still to this day my favourite thing ever to do on the horse was to gallop across the paddock at home and bring the cattle in from out the back, with my Kelpie at my side. There is no greater feeling than that where the only two people in the world are you and your horse. You can create this in the competition arena, or in a crowded training ground, and this is the feeling that we as riders crave. When the rest of the world disappears and it is just us….I also have a piece of every other category. I love to fly across a cross country course my heart beating. I love to teach my horse piaffe and feel him learning and getting excited that he knows and understands what I want. I love to ride into the competition ring, to the sound of applause, and feel my horse grow a little underneath me. And I love to talk to my mother for hours on end about impulsion or collection, and watch videos, and discuss scores or tests, or what exercise would help best with our latest conundrum.  And I also love to just be around the horse, and quite often I am scared…scared to fall, scared to be injured, scared that he will fall or be injured.

Horse riding becomes an addiction, it’s a passion that overtakes us and drives a huge part of our lives. I know before I even begin a conversation with my mum how her ride went that day, and I am sure many horse riding husbands have learnt when to just keep quiet…

So if the major part of your day is spent thinking about horses, and training horses, and getting back in the saddle, then which type of addict are you?

You Might be Looking, but are you Seeing?…

I have now lived away from my home country for almost 7 years and I feel lucky to have embraced another country and allowed it to be my home…

Because that is actually the bottom line, you have to allow a new country to become your own, travelling is a choice and so is your decision to travel with an open mind, or a closed one.

I worked two summers at the top of Australia, on some of the most beautiful islands in the world, and what I witnessed from nature was breathtaking, and what I witness from tourists…equally astonishing in all the wrong ways.

People who had travelled 16,000kms or more to look at something, without ever really seeing it.

Some I still remember quite clearly. The French couple who would go for hours without eating until they found something “French” to eat. The American who threw a fit at the end of a diving excursion because I told him that “no he could not take some of the coral (protected natural habitat for thousands of amazingly rare and beautiful species) home with him.

“But I only want to take a little bit”…He said to me, as if in his own ignorance he couldn’t imagine the impact it would have if every single person who visited the reef took “just a little bit”.

The guy who told me the tourist walks were too clean and would dissapear off into the national rainforest and then tell me how “untouched” it all was when you went into the areas where humans were not allowed to go.

Sometimes I didn’t have words, and I am typically a person who knows what she wants to say.

But there were other people who kept to the rules, and were polite and felt grateful to witness such a beautiful part of the world, and yet I felt they took nothing away from it.

I can relate to this in some way. When I first arrived in Europe I travelled a lot. I looked at many different countries and cultures and things I had never seen before in Australia. But I am not sure I saw that much.

I think at that time in my life I was trying to get away from the old, rather than actually see something new.

We can look at something a thousand times without ever really seeing it.

By the time I got to Portugal, I was ready to see something, to embrace something, and to start again.

It was a decision to love this country, just as much as it was luck that it happened to be such a perfect fit for me.

At the moment I get slightly frustrated most days when I read the expatriate facebook pages. While often they can be quite helpful, they can be sometimes rather frustrating for someone who actually let another country in.

People message the page asking why they don’t fit in, and then go on to complain about just about everything. It’s like asking why your partner isn’t happy, while constantly telling them how awful they are.

Often I find people that move overseas and then compare everything to what they had a home. “The beaches aren’t the same, the food isn’t the same, the language is hard”, and they go on and on, and I wonder if they spent that time going out and seeing something new, whether that might be time better spent.

I understand that a part of us does it subconsciously, we compare what we know to what we are yet to experience. Imagine though if every person you met you compared them to another person that you already knew?  That every time you had a  beer you compared it to that one time that beer was so good and so you were forever disappointed… I am guessing you would end up in a loop of the same, and never really be open for something different, or maybe even something better?

I don’t have the answer, but one thing that travelling, and working with foreigners, has taught me, is that we do have a choice as to whether we just look at something or whether we actually see it… and to whether we allow ourselves to see something for what it is, rather than for what it is not.

I have started working on my book “North of Everything” which I hope to finish by the end of next year…Stay tuned 😉 




Give Yourself a Break…

Our mind can be our greatest weapon, or our biggest weakness, depending on how we control it.

And we do control it…

I have always been fascinated with the power of ones own mind. I have seen it destroy someone that I love, and I have also seen it keep someone going through impossible odds.

We witness it everyday. The person with depression who forgets why he loves his family, the grandfather who holds on just to see his grandson being born, the cancer patient who refuses to give up.

There is an aboriginal folk story that I read about when I was little, where the tribe leader would “point the bone” at a man who had deceived the tribe in some way, and that man would be dead within the week. It wasn’t a special bone of any kind, just the regular sort, but because the man accused believed in the ritual…he died.

I used to say that “If you strongly believe something, it’s already happened…because even if it hasn’t happened, it might as well have.”

Truth is you can convince yourself of pretty much anything if you set your mind on it. And once you convince yourself you unconsciously make it true. You can wake up and decide that you hate your life, and let that destroy every good thought you have.

My mum would always say to me “don’t let your mind go there”…and there is so much truth in that…Everyone has good and bad thoughts, it’s whether or not you choose to explore them that matters.

The second part about the mind is how it affects those around us…We project so much onto other people without even realising it…

In 1964 Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal, performed an experiment with students and teachers to prove that  “If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ from certain students, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ,”. This theory has now been proven many times over, that what we expect from people we often create for them.

I believe this…The less you think of someone, the more they prove you right to be suspicious.

But can you do this for yourself?

I am facing this at the moment. I can’t and most likely will never do the thing that I dedicated my life to. My writing, and teaching, and my dream…the reason why I moved across the other side of the world, was in a large part to start again, but in the most part it was to pursue my dream of international competition, specifically to continue my life with horses and make something from that.

It has not been easy for me to face up to that reality. I feel like I have failed in every possible way, but the reality is I have not. I believe that my physical inability to do the thing I love has actually just uncovered something that needs to be dealt with…I still have not forgiven myself for things that I did, or things that I had nothing to do with, from years ago. Sometimes I have to actively tell myself just to give myself a break, because not everything in the whole world is actually my fault.

It’s a freeing thought actually. The thought that regardless of what I do, and what I achieve, I will be ok, because I deserve no more or no less than anyone else. Learning to see myself with the same amount of care and affection that I give to everyone else.

It seems so simple..Just don’t be so hard on yourself. But the truth is I have spent a lifetime trying to make up for something that in reality I had nothing to do with.

You may think me weak for admitting it, and I don’t really care, over 100 people wrote to me last week to say that they admire me, or I inspire them, and a part of me is proud of that, and a part of me wonders…why? Why do I inspire them?

I think it’s because in my articles, both in life and in horse riding, I say the things that people think, and as one lady said, I “say it like it is” and not in a way that would make me sound better, or more knowledgeable.

In training I say how much trouble I had with an exercise and suggest a new approach, instead of saying how well I can do it and then explain why I can do it so well…

People also were writing to ask what happened? Basically I have an injury that has been getting slowly worse for 20 years, and a specialist had told me that surgery to lock the pubic bone together is the only solution.

I have since then seen other physicians who say that fusing the pubic bone of a 30 year old woman, cutting off her chances of ever..riding, or havinga family, or even running, is ridiculous.

I am trying again with the physio from my favorite football team (Benfica) and a pilates trainer who is just the the best, and who knows what the future holds…But one thing is certain, this experience has reminded me of the things I still need to work on, and I am finding that “giving myself a break” is not such a bad thing after all.

What’s Next….Becoming Portuguese? and Getting Back Riding…?

I have now received my last residency permit (I hope), because in 9 months time I can apply for Portuguese Nationality.

I have been asked why I want Nationality?

In truth I don’t actually need it, and it would probably be easier just to keep applying for residency because of the paperwork required to actually become Portuguese.

Someone told me recently that just because I am granted citizenship it doesn’t make me Portuguese. They were right of course, but for me it signifies more than a dual passport or the right to be here as long as I wish. To me it’s more than that.

An important thing which we all crave, even if we deny it, is a feeling of belonging. People find this sense of belonging in all sorts of ways. Some people belong to a church, or belong to a book club. Some are part of a sport or sports team, similar people who share a  similar drive or passion. I feel I belong when I am on the horse, like it’s normal, like it’s where I am meant to be. I feel I belong when I am next to someone who makes me laugh and with whom I love and admire.

And, I feel, and have felt for 6 years, that I belong in Portugal.

I do not know why. I love this country for many reasons. But more than that I love who it allowed me to be. People romanticise moving overseas and I am not going to do that. In the beginning it’s lonely. But then again I know people who are surrounded by the familiar and they are far more lonely than I have ever felt here in Portugal.

The weather here helped a lot in the beginning. It’s hard to be down when you are on a beautiful beach lying in the sun, even if you are there by yourself.

Portugal is becoming more and more popular as a tourist destination and I believe  it’s because of the feeling that you get when you are here. Aside from the food, which is delicious, and the landscape which is unique and diverse, Portugal has a relaxed and welcoming feeling that can’t really be described. It’s a feeling that I needed because my mind runs way too fast. The people that I admire the most are those that have mastered the ability to be in the present moment, a feeling that I have only in the last two years come to truly appreciate or understand.

I am trying to use this now, as I give horse riding another try…I have given up the thought of competing for now, for now I just want to ride, and to enjoy riding not just for being on the horse, but for being with the horse. Horses have been my best friends since before I knew what friendship was, since before I could actually walk or talk. They got me through the worst times in my life, when I wanted the world to dissapear, because when I was out on my horse, it felt like it had. It was just me, and my horse, and nothing else.

I think everyone needs their own thing. Their own escape. I was talking recently with someone about how often that escape is part of who we are, the lighter side of our character, the side that makes life fun…and when you stripaway all the ways we have to let that part of us come out, then often you are just left with someone who resents the person who took that away, and themselves for allowing that to happen.

Portugal gave me the freedom to understand that not everything that happens in life is your fault. Despite knowing this I am still hugely self critical, and often really harsh on myself.  I judge myself on a scale that I would never in a million years expect others to live up to, and for some reason riding is my escape from that also. It’s funny that in a place where you are judged, you feel free from judgement, but I guess that’s just how life is ;). I am sure I would find another way to escape, to feel like I have a thing thats just mine, that I enjoy, and I feel proud doing, but I feel that won’t be until I truly give up the idea of riding …

As for Portuguese nationality?…No I don’t need it… and no it won’t make me Portuguese. I am Australian. I will always be Australian, and I am lucky to come from a nation that allows me dual nationality. But I do have this feeling that I belong here, and that is a hard thing to describe sometimes to people, particularly my family who love Australia so much…I still love Australia, but gaining nationality is just something for myself, something to say… I came here, I stayed here, and this is where I belong.




CRC…Design Your Own Riding Holiday

I once heard a friend of my mother’s say that she wished there was somewhere she could go, near lisbon, near the beach, where she could have her own small apartment at the horses, do Piaffe and Passage on a Lusitano, see the

Australian Lauren Gretgrix on her Riding Holiday…Passaging on a GP Lusitano

Portuguese school of Equestrian art, and also be shown around Lisbon and it’s surrounding areas by someone who knew where to eat the best Portuguese tarts, and could explain a small piece of Portugals very vast and interesting history.

I set out last year with my mates at the Cascais Riding Club to make that happen, and having now had successful trips with riders from Ireland, Finland and Australia, we have worked out that riders want a flexible holiday, that they can design themselves, and they want everything to be accessible and simple, so they can just enjoy it.

The Cascais Riding Club now allows you to organise everything yourself before you come, and offers a range of different extras so riders can create their own riding holiday.

Once you book the flight, I organise transfers to and from the stables, and the apartments (via this link) are located at the horses.

The accomodation, with kitchenette, television, and ensuite bathroom


Mini Apartments at the horses with pool for the summer months 🙂 🙂




For a more luxurious stay there are many lovely hotels around the corner, and if your husband is more for golf than horses the golf courses in the area are quite famous.

The lovely groung at the CRC (Cascais Riding Club)
Cascais Riding Club

Non riding family members (sisters, kids, parents) can also head off to the beach that is 5 minutes away, and choose from surf, paddle and a range of other activities on offer.

Once the family is entertained, you can choose between one to two riding lessons a day, given by me and the team at Cascais Riding Club, and you can inform me beforehand what you wish to work on, and also send video of your riding so I better understand your horse, and your own journey.

To see the surrounding area we then offer day tours of lisbon and or Sintra with ‘Amazing Discovery Tours’ to see the old castles and the very unique lisbon centre on a private tour with a portuguese local guide who is also a very good friend of mine.

Castle in Sintra
My favorite city in the world






Tour guide Carlos From the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art 🙂 🙂




We now also offer a morning trip to the Portuguese school of Equestrian art to watch either a training or a show depending on your preference, and you will be taken as a guest by one of the riders of the school itself.


For more information, write to me at and start designing your own dream holiday today 🙂 🙂 .

Full list of prices for the CRC package, including lessons and accomodation, below…

Individual Pack

(Bungalow studio)


Normal Season

High Season*

3 days (2 nights)



5 days (4 nights)



7 days (6 nights)



The Individual Pack includes the Bungalow Studio, with capacity for 2 people, and 1 riding lesson per day, beginner to intermediate level, for 1 person.
To the prices above it will be added VAT at the legal rate in force.

Double Pack

(Bungalow with 2 rooms)


Normal Season

High Season*

3 days (2 nights)



5 days (4 nights)



7 days (6 nights)



The Double Pack includes the Bungalow with 2 Rooms, with a total capacity for 4 people, and 1 riding lesson per day, beginner to intermediate level, for 2 people.
To the prices above it will be added VAT at the legal rate in force.

Family Pack

(Bungalow duplex)


Normal Season

High Season*

3 days (2 nights)


1 Half-day kids entertainment


1 Half-day kids entertainment

5 days (4 nights)


3 Half-days kids entertainment


3 Half-days kids entertainment

7 days (6 nights)


4 Half-days kids entertainment


4 Half-days kids entertainment

The Family Pack includes the Bungalow Duplex, with total capacity for 4 people, 1 riding lesson per day, beginner to intermediate level, for 2 people and Kids entertainment as indicated in the table.
To the prices above it will be added VAT at the legal rate in force.

*High Season – June 15th to September 15th and Easter Holidays

Kids Entertainment can include the following games: traditional, water, science, football, treasure hunt, cooking, artistic expression and gymkhana.

Click here for the prices flyer….

Thank you Batialo!!…


I set out 5 years ago to compete internationally, and in 2015 I made that happen. People read my classical training articles in most part I believe because I don’t sugar coat it. I don’t say “and then you just pop the horse into a shoulder-in and it’s easy”…I explain that each step in dressage is one step forward, and it takes patience and resilience to continue through the ups and downs.

I don’t say that you just arrive in Europe and get a good horse, and go to a competition and smile all the way, because that is just not going to happen.

It’s now more than 18 months since my last big competition, because I was badly injured and I damaged some tendons, and tendons can take a long time to recover. This was made worse by the fact that I continued to ride, and to persevere, even though I knew, in my gut that that horse was just not right for me.
This horse had been my best friend, partner, and reason for being in Europe and ,when I was with depression ,my reason for getting up at all.
And yes, that was very very hard for me to admit.

I have learnt throughout a lifetime of riding that there are two things that make a top sports person, and neither have to do with physical talent, or technique.

One is a passion for the sport. A drive that can take you beyond all the disappointments and set backs…A drive that will make you get up at 3am and drive 6 hours to a freezing cold competition in the rain, and stick  at it through all the times when you messed up, or forgot the test, or finally actually did a good test and didn’t get the marks that you possibly deserved.

The second thing is humility. Being humble enough to say I didn’t do well today, the judge was right, and most importantly, this horse, no matter how much I wish him to be, is never going to reach his potential, with me as his rider.


For whatever reason…You might be too small, or too tall, or yes even too much of a women, because some horses just need a man!

Having this mix of passion and humility will not guarantee you get there, but it will put you ahead of all the people who waste their time on a horse that just doesn’t suit them, or that they are afraid of, or that they just don’t connect with.

Unfortunately for me, I did click with Batialo. Sometimes I honestly believe he knows me better than anyone, and I will never forget the day that a little girl at the stable said to me that she knows nothing about horses, but she could see that that horse over there was mine, and that he just adored me.

But I can wallow in self-pity all I like,  that won’t change the fact that I have spent the last 18 months trying to recover on a horse I am afraid of, a horse that knows I have lost my faith in him, and my faith in myself when I am on him.

It’s not because he does anything, he doesn’t. It’s because I lost my confidence on him, and I can’t get it back.

Einstein says that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

And I was quite honestly going insane, but worse than that I was losing my own sense of pride and achievement, because I felt like I had failed my horse.

And that is something an athlete can never do.
I have thought a lot about giving up riding. But I can’t. It’s not just a sport to me. It’s also something that I share with my mother, who taught me to ride before I could walk, and who has shared my journey since the beginning. It’ my reason for calling her at 6am before a competition and asking her what do to if this happens, or why I can’t get the left half pass in the test. It’s true I ride for myself, but I also love that my best friend (mum) shares it with me.

So first I will enjoy teaching, and I have a lot of people booking for the “Warneyswhip classical Riding holiday” which is an all included horse riding holiday, complete with airport transfers and tours of Lisbon and Sintra :).

It’s true that Batialo will never be “just a horse” to me…and as I write this blog I am in tears that I know are not going to help anything. But he is at the peak of his career and I can still take pride in knowing that if he gets to Grand Prix I was a part of it.
I have learnt in life, when you fall off the horse, you have to get back on…But this time I will be getting on a different horse, but with all that I have learnt from the last 5 years, with a very talented friend of mine…

Thank you Batialo ❤ 🙂







This is NOT Lightness!!

 “The relaxation of the mouth alone is not enough. It can be deceptive, because it does not necessarily lead to lightness. It has to be accompanied by the relaxation of the entire horse. When he relaxes the back, it will definitely have repercussions in the mouth.” (Nuno Oliveira)

In order to demonstrate this point I had to use a fairly “cowgirl” shot of me and Batialo…but my point is that lightness, is not about having loose reins, or even a forward hand…Lightness is about the whole thing, about 100 things coming together in unison allowing the rider the room to give the rein without the horse losing the…engagement, rhythm, balance, uphill, tendency, cadence, and forwardness of the movement.

This is lightness…

This is NOT lightness…

Even though his nose is in front of the vertical he is not engaged and he is hollow in the back, so therefore he CANNOT be displaying lightness!

I am constantly being shown pictures on social media, with comment after comment praising the rider for “lightness” and I look at it and think, sure the rider is letting the rein loose, but anyone can do that if you pick the right moment.

Lightness is not the rider’s ability to loosen the rein, is it “the consequence of impulsion and collection.” (N.Oliveira (1998, 43).

So how do we tell if a horse is truly light? And how do we achieve this?

The common mistake we see is a horse that is simply bouncing up and down and therefore not into the contact…

““The great mistake about lightness is to have a horse ridden on floating reins neither round nor full of impulsion. This is not equitation, it is trail riding. We should only release the contact when the horse is round and in impulsion.” (Nuno Oliveira)

Alternatively riders think they can just push the horse into the rein, and then allow…and so we end up with two ends of the spectrum, with lightness lying very neatly in the middle!

“Many riders in the name of impulsion, put too much tension in their horses. Others in the name of lightness, have their horse “abandoned” (without a sufficient connection). The truth of equitation is in between those two extremes.

So how do we obtain true lightness?

Well first we must have our horse in balance, and this can only be achieved when he can bend as easily to the left, as he can to the right.

Then we must have our horse round and on the bit, and this can only be achieved when he is in front of the leg and moving alone.

Then we must achieve collection, and true collection, which is not to be confused with just squishing the horse into a ball of tension…




LIghtness in the stretch!

“The difference between a compressed horse and a collected horse is that he collected horse can put his nose toward the ground (stretch) while staying round.” (Nuno Oliveira)


Lightness is not something that magically happens when we give the rein. It is something that is achieved over years of training, with the use of exercises and transitions and a system of correct reward and timing.

“We must obtain a horse that is round and light by the nuance and delicacy of our techniques, rather than by using “legs like a wrench” to obtain by force some flashy immediate effects.” (Nuno Oliveira)

So the next time you see a picture of a horse and rider, and you think, wow lightness…check again…this is not to criticise but to learn and understand…to differenciate true equestrian art and appreciate it were it deserves the merit.

Relaxation and Energy…Finding the Right amount

A great principle for the entire conduct of dressage is to have the right dose, first of relaxation and second, of the necessary energy. In fact, the horse is not a machine, but a living being. Therefore, riders must know what dose of relaxation and degree of vigour to employ with each horse.
What we often see is a rider who is asking for more impulsion WITHOUT first establishing relaxation and instead of watching an artful dressage test, we see a boxing match as the rider attempts to bang and crash their way through a test aboard a stiff plank.
We cannot ask a horse for more expression until it is relaxed and the most obvious sign that a rider is asking for expression without relaxation is that the horse becomes tense in the neck, comes back off the contact, and the rider then begins to pull on the horse’s mouth and push with the legs in unison, generating more and more tension, and a less and less happy horse.
Often we see riders pushing the horse forward in the walk by thrusting the torso. I don’t like this, and I find that riders who do this actually override the walk. A rider with feel should go with the horses walk, and allow the horse to walk out by thinking of relaxing the hips and taking the thighs off the horse.
The rider can then use flexion to the inside, with a relaxed inside leg to help the horse engage and become more loose through the body.
The signs that the horse is relaxed can be seen in transitions. A horse that is released will come easily to the halt, just off the riders seat aids, without the rider needing to pull the reins…The horse will then remain at halt until the rider asks him to move off!
Then if you feel that you can do relaxed and forward transtions, you can start to add collection, but not keeping the horse in collection for too long.
It is not enough to get a relaxed trot and then think “Oh great, well that’s done now I can do all collected work,” as a good rider will constantly adjust the horse, maintaining the relaxation throughout the session by adjusting the position of the neck, the degree of impulsion, the tempo, the rhythm, asking the horse to engage both mentally and physically in order to employ all its muscle at different stages and at different degrees.
So, how to first get the relaxation and recognise that the horse is relaxed?
Carl Hester spoke at the Dressage Convention about first getting the horse relaxed at the walk. This is a crucial part of training and a rider should not begin to trot until the horse will stretch out in a relaxed, rhythmic, walk.
However, if your horse begins the lesson a little spooky, it is often best to do a little trot first and then come back to get the horse relaxed at the walk.
A relaxed horse will allow his rider to let his frame come out and open, without rushing or charging forward and without falling forward on the shoulders.
If a horse can walk out in a longer frame and maintain the swing and push from the back to the front, the horse is relaxed and you can begin the trot work in the same relaxed attitude.
If the horse can not walk with his neck stretched out into the contact, I would start with a nice contact, elastic to the horses mouth, even if he is a little behind, and then use a little leg until you can ease the rein out and he understands that you are asking him to take the rein out. This takes time, and gentle aids, and must encourage the horse to find the stretch.
Nuno Oliviera used to stress the point that a rider should not work physically hard on the horse and so the key to a good riding technique, is to engage the horse, and create impulsion, without looking like you are running a marathon uphill.
“The criteria of a good rider is a rider that we cease to notice, and we only watch the horse.”
So how then does a rider employ the necessary energy, without increasing their force or physically work load employed on top of the horse?
By using the aids effectively and at the right moment, so that the horse will learn to carry himself.
My trainer often tells me not to be afraid to let the mistake happen, meaning that I sometimes need to let Batialo loose his impulsion for a second and then touch him up, in order to prevent my pushing him all the time.
Sometimes a rider needs to test the limits so that they can push forward that bit further each time, allowing the horse to grow strong without the constant push from the rider.
A rider that we cease to watch, is one that can touch the horse at the exact right moment, and then release the aid immediately, so the horse learns to keep his own momentum and engagement without the constant “crutch” of his rider’s aids.

“Dressage consists of finding a way to get the horse to employ itself to the maximum in the chosen exercise and then maintain the work without the help of the aids.
A trained horse is a supple horse, pleasant to ride, happy and not a horse that gesticulates.” (Nuno Oliveira)

A rider with effective aids, does not necessarily need to be strong physically, but must have the timing, and accuracy of mind, that sends a clear message to the horse.
“The best judge to appreciate the quality of the rider’s aids is the horse. Look at his attitude, his ears, his eye, that tell the truth by their expression.” (Nuno Oliveira)
To achieve a horse that can go along alone and a rider that we cannot see because their aids are subtle and efficient, we first need to relax ourselves, so we can feel what our horse is doing. And to relax effectively you need a balanced position yourself.
Then, when we can feel that our horse is relaxed, and we can give him a touch to say “come on, a bit more please”.
This is not the important part. The important part is after the touch and too many riders then touch again, and again, and again, until their touch is just one giant pronounced constant push, that tells the horse he does not need to respond to a light aid because the aid will just stay on all the time.
If your horse doesn’t respond to a light touch, touch again a little firmer, and release when you get a response.
If your horse stops when you release your aids, something is not right, as you cannot increase the impulsion or engagement if your horse cannot first keep himself in a forward movement when his rider is relaxed.
The degree of vigour we must employ on each horse does vary, as some horses are naturally more sensitive than others, but the golden rule is, first relax, both horse and rider, then ask once and collect information.

Sometimes the most important thing to remember for both rider and horse relaxation, is to focus on breathing. You can do this at home when you start the lesson, big breathe in, and big breathe out, and try to feel the horse underneath you. Another good relaxation exercise is to ask for shoulder-in or shoulder-fore on a small circle, as this engages the horse, and helps him to listen to you, and thus relax in the process.

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