What Animals Understand?…

I talk to my horse. In Portuguese of course because he is a Lusitano, but I do talk to him. You would be surprised at how much animals understand.

They say that animals can actually interpret what we visualise. Mum would always tell me to go through my test in my head before bed, and I just thought it was a great way to get sleep quickly the night before a competition 😉

A read a study today by Jennifer Viegas who found that horses also understand words better than expected, according to the research, and possess “excellent memories,” allowing horses to not only recall their human friends after periods of separation, but also to remember complex, problem-solving strategies for ten years or more.

She added that “horses are able to learn and memorize human words” and can hear the human voice better than even dogs can, due to their particular range of hearing.”

It’s amazing what animals tell us, if we are up to listen.

I’m the only one who can tell when Batialo is mad at me. Valdeni would notice too, (Batialo’s second best mate), but others would not.

When I was 13 my grey horse got sick, and he pushed me with his nose, following me around the paddock, and I knew exactly what he was telling me, he was not ok.

I think that knowing animals all your life, and even having the ability to create a partnership with them through training and riding, actually helps you with people.

My mum isn’t a very emotional mum. She isn’t one to directly tell you things, so as her daughter I can interpret what she is saying, without her having to actually say it.

I can hear in her voice when she tells me how all her friends ask after me and say they love my articles, and they follow my journey, that she is proud of me.

When she messages me at midnight when I’m sick to see if I’m ok, or she gets grumpy with me when she hasn’t received an email for two days, this is because she is worried.

My father never told me he wasn’t ok. My greatest regret is that I didn’t see it. Because I wasn’t looking for it.

I think we live in a world where people waste a lot of time telling people how they feel without showing it, or noticing it. I care a lot about the people that I care a lot about, and I make sure they know it.

I learnt early that you just never know when it will be the last time you see someone, and I have kept that with me always.

So, now I go everyday to my horse, and I imagine it’s the last time I will ever ride him. Sometimes it’s good to just be grateful for the ability to do what you love.

We spend so many hours thinking on how we should be better, without truly enjoying what we have right now.

I’m not back competing yet, but I’m closer than I was a month ago. I tell my mum everyday how lucky I am, because I know that my happiness means the world to her.

I tell the people whose happiness matters to me, that it matters to me.

I tell my horse, that I have faith in him, and that I think we are a brilliant team, and although he says nothing back, I know that he hears me :).

 

 

The Lusitano Girl…Home is Where the Horse Is

 

I received a message yesterday asking if I was the Lusitano girl that lived in Portugal.

I often get asked if that’s who I am.

Often riders don’t want to be catagorised into a certain breed of horse, but I feel proud of the association.11411660_10205439596741167_1668263557334878812_o

I have ridden all types of horses since before I could walk, but the Lusitano is the one that “captured my heart” so to speak, and is the reason I flew 16,000km across the world, and stayed there.

Home is a concept that I have discussed a lot. People place too much importance on home as a destination. Home for me is a feeling…

I feel at home when I’m on my horse, when I’m in the arms of someone I love, or someone that loves me…When I call mum on Skype and argue about why Batialo won’t get off my left leg, even though she is on the other side of the world…I’m home.

Last week I admitted that I have been missing dad a lot lately, and it’s strange but I feel at home when I miss him. I have known that feeling for the greater 14341390_10208569097696735_1096585623_npart of my life, and it somehow keeps part of him with me. It’s not sad…People say “how sad”, and I feel lucky to still have “saudade” for someone who was so important to me, because the alternative is to feel nothing, and that would be like he never existed.

I wrote a post recently that said “it’s nice to look back now and realise that Portugal was the right place for me”, and someone asked if I ever doubted it.

Of course I did!! Moving overseas alone, without family or friends, is not like moving to a different suburb.

I still remember my first ever meeting with SEF (immigration) where I was sent to the line for South Africa, because the lady thought Australia was in South Africa, and I spent 20 minutes trying to convince her (in Portuguese and without saying “you are an idiot”) that Australia was in fact not part of South Africa at all.

Big day for her…tough day for me.

Then the finance notices would come, in Portuguese, and I would receive warnings for taxes I didn’t even know existed, or turn up to training an hour before I was suppose to because no-one mentioned the clocks had gone forward an hour.

Then the questions from strangers…”you are here alone? No family? No man?”…

Followed by the awkward moment where they would stare at me in pity, and I would stare back in pity at them!

The first time I asked for directions and they said “sempre em frente” and I replied “Always in front of what?”

I have done interviews with other riders who moved overseas and they say the food was the hardest. Well, have to say I found that pretty easy to adjust to. I would eat Portuguese Tarts for dinner if I could, and if you ever get invited into a Portuguese home for dinner, just say yes, don’t ask questions, you’ll thank me later!

I can understand the food troubles though, after being in Germany for a short while before landing in the land of the Lusitano. I honestly have not eaten a sausage since leaving there 5 years ago, and I don’t think I will anytime soon.

Aside from the tarts, ice-cream and the seafood, it was of course the horses that kept me in Portugal, plus the people made it easier.

People that help you even though you can’t possibly repay the favour. My Portuguese mum, and my Portuguese aunty, Maria Luisa, and Piedade, whom I have negleted lately, but to whom I am so very grateful.

I have talked to other Australians who have lived in both countries, and they agree that in terms of cultures that clash and those that don’t, the Tuga/Aussie mix is quite a good one…After all they most likely founded Australia right? 😉

So why the Lusitano? Well, Batialo is the reason why I write articles. He is the smartest horse I have ever known, and teaches me more than any trainer ever will.

He taught me that if you are mentally strong, you can overcome anything physical. He taught me that if I don’t listen to him, he will not try to understand me later. He showed me that unless I fix my weaknesses as a person, I will never be a good rider.

Ask me if it’s easy? Well two months ago I had actually told people I may sell him. I was at the end of what I thought I could handle. Then mum asked me if I sell him what I want to do with the money. I said buy a horse like Batialo…

But you can’t!!

I have people writing to me sometimes saying they want one like him, for a small amount of money, and I feel like responding “and what colour would you like that unicorn to come in?”

So I couldn’t give up on him, because the truth was I didn’t want another Batialo, I just wanted the one I had.

The smartest people I know are never easy, but you don’t give up on them.

I’ve always been told that while it’s difficult to win an argument with a smart person, it’s impossible to win one with someone who is stupid!

So I stuck with my smart horse…

I could sell him and go home, but if I was going to do that I would have done it years ago. Truth is I am the Lusitano girl. If I went home now I would take Lusitanos with me, and while I’m often told I don’t really fit in in Portugal, Portugal certainly fits in with me 🙂

 

Admitting Your Own Truth…

This week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had in the year that I have been injured. Mainly because I finally felt like I could do it, like the 5 years I spent on the one goal wasn’t for nothing, and that I will get back competing internationally.

Of course whenever you have an awesome week it brings up other feelings. Sometimes I wake up and I feel so grateful for everything that I have that I worry it might vanish. If someone asked me how I would change my life if I could have anything I wanted, I would ask for no hip and back pain, and that’s it.

Five years ago I would worry about everything, and my mind would race and I would have 1 million thoughts, and I was never just there in the moment. One of my best friends showed me a Portuguese song recently about a man who could never be present because he was always in the next moment, and I feel so glad to be free of that.

But sometimes, our mind wanders off even if we don’t want it to. On the horse I have learnt to control this. My riding is actually what changed me.

I’ve also realised this year that being around those that are peaceful also gives you a greater sense of peace…Like you steal it, but they get to keep it also.

This week my uncle sent me a blog that was really well written, about a girl who lost her dad when she was 18…After reading it, my first thought was, man she was lucky, I wish I had 18 years with my dad.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/emma-german/my-father-died-when-i-was-18-and-this-is-what-it-taught-me/

I talk about my father’s suicide a lot, but like it’s a different life. I can discuss it openly without getting upset, because I’m talking from outside it. I do this often because it’s a topic that is stuck and until people can open up about it it will continue to affect families around the world.

The Blog above brought up something interesting, which I never really admit to anyone. It’s not very often but I have weeks were I actually am more hurt than when he died. I feel more sadness, and more loss. Typically when I’m really happy, or someone says they are proud of me… I realise again everything that he missed, and will miss. He will never see Portugal, he will never read something I wrote, or watch me compete internationally. For my sister he will never meet her kids.

I published a blog recently about my childhood, and then people wrote to me telling me their version of what happened, things I didn’t know. It brought it back, because when it happened no-one talked to me about it.

Last week  I was thinking about my goal and Portugal and suddenly had a thought like “My life is amazing”… It was just a passing thought, and then immediately after that I felt a huge sense of loss.

Then almost instinctively I blamed that sadness on something else, and it wasn’t much later I knew what was really bothering me… for in that moment, the only person I wanted to talk to was my dad.

I lost my father before I really knew him or myself, but he is still a huge part of who I am. And every now and then something will remind me of him and it’s like I miss something that I barely even remember, and then the not remembering makes the sadness even stronger.

It’s strange though that I still worry about being judged, like I’m no longer allowed to have those thoughts. Then I feel guilty because some people have no parents, or live in poverty, and then I feel even worse for being upset about something so far away from me now.

I’m not allowed to miss him. And if I do I’m not allowed to cry or discuss it.

This is just my own restrictions and walls, but they are there, and I never let them down.

Truth is though, I wouldn’t change any of my life, because I am now so much more grateful and I give all of myself to everything that I do, and that makes my life richer.

The last line of the blog above was…”I love harder, hug tighter. Because. Blink. Life. Blink. You’ll miss it.” I learnt this lesson early, and I won’t forget it.

When I was teaching recently the student said she can see how passionate I am and how much I wanted to help her, and it meant so much to me.

My writing is where I admit most things. For Riders it helps them because they can see that an International competitor can go through all the same processes of fear and failure that we all know, but rarely admit to or discuss.

Everyone has weaknesses. Everyone has something that they try to dismiss that affects them. I admit that I feel more at home in Portugal than I ever have. I admit that I don’t miss Australia. It sounds awful. But it’s true.

I miss my family and friends, but I don’t miss what Australia represents to me.

I’m learning to admit things to people, even if it makes me more vulnerable, but I’m still not very good at it.

Everyone has things they don’t like to admit, and you don’t have to admit them to anyone else…

But sometimes it’s a good idea, to at least admit them to yourself :).

 

 

 

Change…

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

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

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

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

He respects me again, because I respect myself.

Everything is the same, and yet everything is different.

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

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

Riding is my escape. What’s yours?

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

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

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

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

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

Turns out, she was right 🙂

 

 

What Defines You?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Personality…How This Affects My Riding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irrational Fear and Riding…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mind Training and dressage…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Those That Challenge Us…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Suicide- The Ripple Effect…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Passion for the Sport…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why can’t I do that again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Saudade…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Freedom…Why I Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Power of the Mind, and Expectations…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letting Go…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

You can’t…I can’t!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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