Classical Training-Finding Relaxation In a Position of Strength…

Finding relaxation in a position of strength…

This was something my Pilates instructor said to me recently, that the key to most top level sports is training the body to relax in a position of strength, or endurance, or speed.dress

Dressage therefore can be defined as just that…Finding Relaxation in a Position that requires Strength, both in terms of horse, and rider.

Think about it…The horse must be strong enough to perform the exercise, but be able to relax within it.

A rider must be strong enough to hold their posture, their seat, their legs in place, strong enough to position the horse, to provide the necessary pressure for the aids, but to be able to relax within that position of strength.

It seems so easy, find your position, then relax. But in terms of both horse and rider this concept is extremely difficult to achieve.


Because both horse and rider often fall too far on either side of the relaxation/strength spectrum…14543895_10208740951272967_306353955903842219_o

A rider will either use too much force (strength) without the necessary relaxation, and produce a horse that is tense, and being moved around the arena by the use of harsh aids, and strong hands.

Or the rider will be too relaxed in the saddle, will seem to flop about with the horse, without being able to let the horse balance, because their own weight is being distributed unevenly and without any correct posture or balance themselves.

In terms of the horse, a horse is often either too strong, leaning on the hand, and has not learned the value of strength and relaxation in correct posture to establish self-carriage and balance.

Alternatively a horse may be too relaxed, and thus not have the strength to carry himself, and will therefore rely on the physical effort of his rider to sort of drive him around the arena.

So how do we find the right balance between strength and relaxation? How do we find that “Relaxation From A Strength Position” that is so hard to find, yet is at the heart of all dressage training, from young horse to Grand Prix?

First in terms of the rider…Well this comes down to body awareness. Often as riders we have muscles that overactivate. This means that when we want to do a simple movement, our muscles go all in and use more than the necessary strength required.
This also means that when we think we have relaxed a muscle, we actually have only relaxed it partially.

If you don’t believe me sit down with your feet together and your knees out to the side. Relax your adductors. Then, think about whether they are really relaxed and try to really let them go…

Typically you will have one of those, oh, moments, where you realised that your idea of relaxed, and actually fully relaxed, are two different things.

Once we can learn how to fully relax, often yoga or pilates helps a lot, we can learn how to hold and balance our own bodies evenly, and then relax maintaining that position of strength. Doing it on the horse is more difficult, and it takes patience and work, and thought, and help!

For the horse, well Nuno Oliveira used to say that “the horse is not a machine, but a living being. Therefore, we must know what dose of relaxation and degree of vigor that we must employ with each horse.”

What he meant of course is that the dose of Strength Vs Relaxation required on one horse, will be vastly different to that required on another.

We must learn to set the horse up for the movement, and then let him do the work, allowing him to relax into it, move alone, and build the strength to carry out said exercise with ease.13568999_10207987024585271_9110582066519524617_o

He will then learn to not only relax physically in the exercise but also mentally, because his rider is not banging and crashing about with every stride.

Finding relaxation from a position of strength, poise and balance, is about patience, and feel, and adjustment. All the elements of dressage that we must incorporate into every training, until things become effortless.

“The criteria of a good rider is a rider that we cease to notice, and we only watch the horse,” Nuno Oliveira.halt

Are You A victim?…

“Everything always happens to me”, “Why Me”, “I have the worst luck”…

Last week I was told again that the likelihood of me getting back into competition is slim to none…And my initial thought was “it’s unfair”, or something similar to that effect.11144950_10205995678002851_6937707197164708269_n

But that is bullshit…

For every person who makes it in the sporting world, there are 100 who could have made it, but they didn’t have the support, they got injured, they had bad timing, they didn’t have the mental capacity to cope with pressure etc etc.

For every one singer that makes it, 100 have the talent, but are not slim enough, or have the wrong image, or the wrong support, or are too like someone who already made it.

It’s human instinct though to play the victim… I hear it all the time, and it’s one thing to think it, it’s quite another to verbalise it…

I do feel like every time I get almost to the point where I feel recovered, that I fall almost as far back down, but that’s nothing particular to me, that’s just life in general.

Yet, people make themselves out to be somehow the only one who faces tough times, like it’s the world against them, and everyone else has it easy.

They don’t, you aren’t special.

I talked for ten minutes to the person I talk the most to, and she said “and what do you want me to do about it?”…I laughed because it’s so true…

People tend to share their problems, as if that might solve them, but that time might be better spent looking for a solution.15233550_10209207006444055_1453880822_o

So I am making more changes…in the hopes that each time I get almost better, the better will last longer, and the fall back down will be less, until one day when people say that my injury will stop me, I won’t even have the thought that it is unfair, or even possible.

Mental strength is so much more important that physical strength in so many ways.

I was thinking about this on the weekend…The physio asked me if the pain was as bad as when I first tore the tendons…and I tried to think about it…

The interesting thing about pain is, that if you think back to the worst emotional pain you have ever been in, you can still remember the physical feeling of it…BUT, if you remember back to the worst physical injury you have ever had, you can remember how that made you feel emotionally, but you cannot remember the physical pain.15515835_10209375636019689_649566707_o

I read about this yesterday, and found that “Memories Trigger Emotional Pain But Not Physical Pain: Recalling the time you broke your leg will not make your leg hurt but recalling the time you felt rejected by your high-school crush will cause you substantial emotional pain. Our ability to evoke emotional pain by merely remembering distressing events is profound and stands in stark contrast to our total inability (thankfully) to re-experience physical pain.” (psychology today)…

So my answer was, “I can’t remember”…and it was true.

Normally I can block out pain, I learnt to do it. You have to train your mind to focus on something else…But sometimes the pain is so strong I can’t, and then my emotional strength for everything else is also reduced. If I burn the toast, or spill my coffee, it will be the worst thing that could have happened ever…and I will overdramatise even the simplest situation…

Also human nature…

But there is one thing about human nature that is stronger than all the rest, and that is our mental capacity to keep going, if we really want to!

So if I can’t remember the physical pain, then it never really existed, and if I want something badly enough, then there is always an exception to the rule…

Don’t play the victim…As my mum says, “just get on with it!”

“quando nós queremos muito uma coisa, fazemos tudo para o conseguir! 🙂 🙂 “


Control…Do you ever really have it? And do you need it?

Do you ever really have control? The short answer is no!

Of course you have control over your decisions, but that’s about it.

People fool themselves into thinking they have control. They think because they planned something it will happen that way, they think because they have money that they can control other people, they think that a wedding ring means the person they love will never deceive them, they think they have control over other people’s decisions based on how they themselves behave.

But they don’t.

The worst thing you can do for your own happiness,  is try to control everything around you.14459856_10208669431445016_458653945_n

A lot of people feel the need to control a part of their lives, because they feel helpless and possibility inadequete in other areas of their life.

This may come out in many ways, a desire to be perfect, a need to have everything around you in perfect order, a need to plan everything to the very last minute, a need to make sure other people do as you want them to, or to have others under your control.

I used to get on Batialo and be so afraid of getting hurt, so afraid of letting him slip out of my control for even a second, that I would end up in trouble because Batialo would react to the petrified blob on top of him…I had to retrain myself to just let go, to trust him,to lose control.13568999_10207987024585271_9110582066519524617_o

Depression,  for me, is when you lose control over your own thoughts, you lose the ability to say, “thats bullshit” when you tell yourself you are worthless, and life is meaningless.

Being out of control is one of lifes greatest gifts actually, but not many people know how to really enjoy it. I have always loved to just let my horse go, to gallop on my farm in Australia, out of control…Maybe that is why horse riders feel like riding is a part of them, because they love the idea that you cannot control the horse, but you must work with him…a partnership. And the best partnerships are honest, and equal :).

My mum always said that if people don’t like you for who you are, they won’t like you any more for who you pretend to be. And yet in life it is often that people try to act a certain why around you until they feel they have you figured out…

People control, and manipulate, using status, or shared ideas, and nod along like a  puppet, to earn other people trust or approval.

People often think it is manipulation, and it is, but it is also a form of control. People like to put you, or keep you, in a certain position…

I remember when I first started competing on Batialo people would tell me how lucky I was to have such a great horse…They told me so often that I almost believed it. Then I would remember that I had trained the horse for 5 years, so he was in part so great because of me…Everybody knows you can ruin a good horse in less than one month.

Learning to control how other people effect you, is about controlling your own thoughts, and having the self-belief and self-worth to separate the bullshit from the truth.

Learning to control how life affects you, is understanding that everything you get, you have to work for, and then learning to deal with the things that happen by not playing a victim, but accepting it and overcoming it.

Because in a world where nothing is really ever in your control, the one thing you can control, is how things affect you, and how you react to the things that happen, when they happen…

“It’s about learning to

love all the wonderful parts of life, that are out of your control…”

below in Portuguese…

Serà que alguma vez chega mesmo a ter controle?

A reposta mais rápida, e não!

Claro que você controla as suas decisões, mas não mais do que isso.

As pessoas enganam-se quando pensam que têm controle. Pensam que controlam porque fazem planos para as coisas acontecerem de determinada maneira. Pensam que por ter dinheiro podem controlar as outras pessoas, pensam que por ter um anel de noivado, significa que a pessoa que amam nunca as irá enganar, pensam que controlam as decisões dos outras, baseados no seu próprio comportamento.

Mas não controlam.

A pior coisa que você pode fazer para sua própria felicidade, é tentar controlar tudo ao seu redor.

Muitos pessoas sentem a necessidade de controlar uma parte de suas vidas, porque se sentem impotentes e inadaptadas em outras áreas de sua vida.

Isso pode acontecer de várias maneiras, o desejo de ser perfeito, o desejo de ter tudo ao seu redor em perfeita ordem, a necessidade de planear tudo até au último minuto, a necessidade de se certificar de que as outras pessoas fazem o que você quer, ou ter os outros sob o seu controle.

Eu costumava montar o Batialo e ter muito medo de o magoar, medo de perder o controle sobre ele e de o deixar fugir, mas isto iria trazer-me problemas porque o Batialo ira reagir à bolha de petrificada que estava em cima dele. Eu tive de aprender a confiar nele e deixa-lo ir, de confiar nele e perder o meu sentido de controlo.

Para mim, depressão, é quando uma pessoa perde o controlo sobre os seus próprios pensamentos, a pessoa perde a capacidade de dizer “isso é um disparate”, quando a pessoa diz a si própria que é inútil e a vida não tem sentido.

Perder o controlo é na realidade uma das melhores coisas que a vida nos dá, mas não há muitos pessoas que o saibam apreciar. Na minha quinta na Australia, eu sempre gostei de deixar o meu cavalo galopar sem controlo…Talvez seja por isso que os cavaleiros sentem que montar é uma parte deles. Elas adoram a ideia de não controlar o cavalo, mas há que trabalhar com ele, é uma parceria…E as melhores parcerias baseiam-se na honestidade e na igualdade.

A Mãe sempre me disse que se as pessoas não gostam de nós por aquilo que somos, não vão gostar mais por aquilo que nós pretendemos ser.

Mais as pessoas manipulam e controlam, usando o seu status, ou partilhando ideias, e acenando como marionetes, na tentativa de ganhar confiança ou a aprovação dos outras.

As pessoas muitos vezes pensam de que é manipulação, e é, mas também e uma forma de controlo. As pessoas gostam de colocar os outras ou mantê-los debaixo de olho.

Lembro-me de quando comecei a competir com o Batialo, as pessoas comentaram a sorte em que eu tinha em ter cavalo fantástico….disseram-me tanta vez que eu quase acreditei. Mas depois lembrei-me de que era eu quem tinha treinado aquele cavalo durante os últimos anos. Por isso a sua grandeza era muito por causa de mim.

Aprender a controlar o efeito do que os outros têm sobre si, é controlar os teus próprios pensamentos e ter o autoconfiança e autoestima para separar a verdade da mentira.

Porque num mundo em que nada está realmente no seu controle, a única coisa que podemos controlar, é a forma como as coisas nos afetam e a forma como vamos reagir ao que acontece.

E sobre aprender a amar tudo o que na vida está fora de controlo.

(Not perfect, but better than google 😉 )

Breast cancer awareness month…Finding out early gave someone I adore 20 more years of life….and she continues to fight it everyday

One In A Million…

I was always told that you were lucky if you found a ‘one in a million’ anything.

Yesterday I was watching Iota (my young Lusitano) going and my trainer/mate said that I have two, ‘one in a million’, horses. 15537076_10209375587378473_541122431_o

Maybe it was luck.

Mum said it is because I just wanted to find that one in a million horse more than anyone else.

Maybe there are actually lots of one in a million everythings, but it’s just up to the person deciding, to determine if it’s ‘one in a million’ or not.

On Tuesday I got a rather big scare, when a truck hit a tree just metres from Batialo’s nose. He reacted on instinct, but then did that thing that makes a rider feel so amazing, he waited for me to tell him what to do. Some horses lose their mind, while others, if they know the rider, will in situations where they are really afraid, put their faith in the rider. They will wait, and listen, until they are told what to do.

A ride on Kaptain, we got threw ok, but the others following us all fell off…Kaptain new the creek would be deep, he knew me 😛

Other horses go that one step further and protect the rider on instinct. My quarter horse Kaptain, used to keep me safe from anything, and it was lucky I had him growing up because I had absolutely zero fear, and I never thought about where I went on him, I just went, and I went as fast as I could.

On Tuesday my confidence took a beating, until I woke up the next day and the physio said my hip is “impeccable”, and I have to actually start to believe that the year of work I have put into my body, (pilates and stopping all my instincts to push myself too hard), actually helps me!.

Physical injury is one thing, mental recovery can take forever. I miss the way I used to ride, like nothing could touch me. I miss just being able to enjoy it. But I guess everyone misses some sense of their younger self, and everyone has something they lose when life gets in the way.14711397_1095663517135495_7348025929303919205_o

Animals teach us so many things. Empathy, trust, love, friendship…People ask me why I am in Portugal, and there are many reasons, but when I arrived here I was weak, and then I got Batialo. I knew that I was lucky to have him, so I had to get strong, to ride him. And my desire to ride him and be the best for him was greater than any bullshit in my head about not being good enough, in life or in riding.

Sometimes we are better for other people. I became the person I am today, because my instincts said to take care of my mum, and I learned to love being there for someone else.

My Pa would say that my nen made him a better man, because he wanted to be strong for her, she would say the same.

I am often asked how to become stronger, how to overcome injury, or most often I am asked how do you overcome fear?

You don’t.

You just have to want to do it, more than what stops you. There will always be reasons not to do things. If I didn’t ride I would not have pain, yah, and I would be miserable.

We all go to the same place. We can’t take a perfectly formed bone structure with us. So we ride around all day and our muscles ache, and our neck cracks, and our back gets blocked, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

dressIf you want it badly enough, then all those reasons won’t matter, and then you have to work so hard that no-one will make you doubt that you are not the one in a million rider, for that one in a million horse.



Can You Put Things In Perspective??…

Sometimes I wonder if people really know what is important. Of course not everyone places the same importance on the same things, but regardless of what you want in life, there are times when you have to take a step back and make sense of it all.

Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness! Get your boobs checked!!!!

Sometimes it is other people give us perspective. I used to get really down about my injury, and then I would talk to my aunty who battles cancer everyday, and has done so for over 20 years, and my mind automatically finds some perspective on my own pain.

Other times new people show us a new perspective…On the weekend a friend told me I am very maternal, because I love to take care of people…I never thought of myself like that, so it took me a bit by surprise, and it was certainly a new perspective.

It can also help to have someone who asks you “Does that really matter?”.
Sometimes we get caught up in the bullshit of it all, or we focus too much on things that are not at all important, and forget the bigger picture…

I am learning to put things in perspective…I have a bad ride, and I feel like I am going no-where, and it’s all a waste of time. But it is one bad ride, and the road back to competition is not a straight line, not at all.

This week was the first big spin in over four months. I asked Valdeni what was going on, because it was really strange, and he told me that Batialo usually has a nap after breakfast, but I rode early, without said “very important” nap, and Batialo let me know that he was rather pissed off about it! I laughed because my horse is too smart, and also too spoilt! 14954278_10209031161208034_1150393346_o

It was at the start of the ride when he spun, and I took deep breathe, and kept going, and he ended up going really well. I used to freeze and then wait for the next spin to happen…

I have learnt to put things in perspective, and to move on from that moment or that thought.

I was told recently that people often get stuck on the one thought and then play it on repeat…I thought about it. It’s true. We often recycle a thought in our brain, and we lose sight of the fact that we can think the same thing 100 times, but that won’t change it!11144950_10205995678002851_6937707197164708269_n

Learning to tell yourself that yes that might happen, but why not wait until it does happen before you worry about it unneccessarily!

I have days where I still feel like it’s all a big waste of time. Then I remind myself that I have come this far, alone, and Valdeni says that my own ego was always my own worst enemy. He is right, and I hate to admit it.

I am someone who learnt very early to do everything by herself. When I would have trouble a false sense of pride would kick in and I would tell everyone it was fine and I could handle it. I still remember the day when I was hanging with my arms and legs wrapped up around Batialo’s neck, and the gardener walked past and asked if I was ok and should he go get someone, and I replied “no, it’s all good!”…

Ego and pride, are two very different things, but they can often get mixed up together. I am proud of how I rode this week because I rode through it, and I didn’t get upset about it. 14509413_10208677768813445_770818149_n

I have always said that self-awareness is one of the greatest assets to any rider, and any person really. How much better are the conversations we have, where we know the person will actually hear us, without their ego rejecting our opinions, and with the self-awareness to at least acknowledge we might have a point?

People that can reflect on life without judgement, or criticism, knowing that there is no right or wrong answer, because everyone is different.

Portugal actually helped me find perspective, because I took a step out of everything, and into something entirely new. We live in a world where everyone is so concerned about what will happen next that they miss out on what is happening now. 

Sometimes it helps to take a step back, and ask yourself, “Am I being realistic?” This week I thought about my back up plan and what I want out of life if my first plan doesn’t work out. The most important thing to remember is that we only have right now, and regardless of who you are, all that matters is that you  are happy.

The second thing to ask is…”Is that really important?”

If it is not important, forget about it!!

If it is really important, “am I putting everything into it?”, and just in case my everything isn’t enough, to make sure that whatever happens, I am and will be happy…

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Huge shout out to my new sponsor Derriere Equestrian…like their page to find out more…


Below my mare for sale…write to me at for more info






Are You A Strong Person…??

They say that you cannot build strong castles on weak foundations.

A person with a weak character will rarely appear strong, at least not to those that really know them.

It’s interesting though that strong people can become weak, if they are pushed to their absolute limit.

Some people think that if you never show weakness you are strong. Quite the contrary. When I was weak I would show nothing of my true self to anyone.15491838_10209366304186399_1063649507_o

Now that I am strong, I don’t let unimportant things affect me, but if it is important, I will show that I need help, or advice, or just someone to be there.

Yesterday someone tried to insult me, and I said, “you are right”, and they were not sure where to go from there. The truth is if you know your own weaknesses, you can except the truth, and deal with it.

“Wear your scars like armour, and they can never be used to hurt you.” (Game of Thrones 😉 )

No Sugar Lumps For you Today?

The best thing I did was to admit I needed help with Batialo, because just being humble enough to say it, made people respect me more.

I think too that strong people react to things differently. When Batialo used to spin I would get very upset, and afraid, and worry about the pain. Now I just shrug it off, and move on. And because I don’t react, he doesn’t do it as much.

When he does, like he did yesterday, I don’t let my mind stay stuck on it, but I ask for help. Not from a place of weakness, but a place of honesty, and humility, that way people actually want to help you!

I talk a lot about suicide in my blog, because for many years I felt so ashamed of my father, mainly because there is a huge stigma around suicide, and the belief that people who commit suicide must be weak, or crazy, an outsider, someone who does not fit in with society.

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday, and I feel a bit alone…I was remembering today who he was. To be honest I wish I knew him better…I can just remember the way that he made me feel, things he said, the way he looked at me. But I do remember that more than 700 people turned up on our front lawn for his funeral, and cars were parked some kilometres up the dirt road to our house.

He was loved by many…a popular, sporty, community man. Not a single person who came that day knew him as anything but happy and strong, and grateful for his family that he adored.

But he committed suicide.

Do I understand it? I never will. Is there anything I wish to know? No there isn’t. I am so grateful for everything I have, and everything I had, and everything that I went through. It made me a person who loves everyday, who cares so much about people, who would do anything to make someone smile, because I learnt early that you just never know when they won’t be there anymore.

I write this not to dwell on the past, but to acknowledge that life can change people…Or destroy people. I was told recently that you don’t get to choose how you react to things, and I don’t believe that. I think who you are shapes your reactions, so there must have been a lot happening underneath the strong image that my father presented, but he never admitted it.

We all have stuff that we deal with. Some deal with it better than others. But if there is one thing I have learnt in my life, it is that showing weakness, or asking for help, actually makes you a strong person!


Just Enjoy it!!…

I read today that there is no difference between a weak person and a strong person, just the weak person knows how to control their own mind, and they don’t give up on what they want…

They also don’t make excuses…sun-7

Everyone has stuff they need to deal with, I love listening to people explain why they behave a certain way, or aren’t where they want to be in life, by starting out with…When I was younger, or 20 years ago, or my dad did this, or my mum did this, or my wife does this, or I didn’t get this, and I think…Wow, that is so great, now you can use that for the rest of your life as a reason not to change!

I never wanted to use my injury as an excuse not to keep going.

Four weeks ago I was having one good ride in ten. My friend said to me this week that I have been saying “that was the best ride ever” a lot lately, and I realised that now it’s more like one bad ride in ten!! 🙂 🙂

I stopped worrying about where I should be, and took the advice of my mother which was always, “for god sake Sarah just enjoy it!”. Even when I was little I would worry about things, about how other people felt, and what might happen…Gradually you realise that how other people feel is up to them, and it’s up to you to make yourself happy.

It’s amazing how much it helps, when you just learn to enjoy the right now!

Today my trainer/judge was watching me Piaffe and he said that he was “surprised how good it was”, and he genuinely was! He even wrote me a message afterwards saying the same!!15368967_10209297132577152_513538420_o

I love to surprise people. Particularly if it’s a good surprise.

I left the arena on cloud nine, and a person at my gym was joking with me and said… “You know Sarah, most girls mood depends on whether or not they are having a good hair day, your mood depends on how your horse went!”

He was kidding, but I laughed because it’s true. I can tell how mum’s horse went that day, just by the tone of her voice on Skype when she says hello!

I have a long way to go, but the small victories are important, and this week I had a week full of amazing rides, on a horse that was trying hard for me, and while that isn’t a big achievement in a wider sense, for me it feels like the best Christmas present I could ask for ;).merry