Brain Maps & The Unlearning Process

Honestly, if you are feeling a bit down on yourself, struggling with your horse, or finding that the Itty Bitty Sh*tty Committee is speaking to you today with particular ferocity, the best antidote I can provide you with is to learn a bit more about what actually makes you tick. And I mean that literally.

Let’s talk about your brain for a moment.

Your brain has a series of maps that are dedicated to a specific set of functions. You have a map for more tangible things, like the position of your bones and your organs, and you have maps for more abstract things, like language, or specific skills, like riding your horse.

To keep it simple, a brain map is a network of neural connections in the brain that are dedicated to a particular function. Scientists used to think that each map or location was fixed and that if that area remained unused or got damaged it simply withered away but the reality is this is very far from the case. In fact, the nerves and neural networks of your brain go out of their way to make themselves useful. So, if you aren’t using them for the purpose that they are designed, they simply… find another job. They go to another part of the brain where they CAN be used, or at least help support the part of your brain that is serving a particular function or purpose.

It’s because of this that some brain maps get bigger (we are simply paying more attention to them and using them more) and some get smaller (for the opposite reason).

This phenomenon actually has a proper, grown-up name. It’s called Competitive Plasticity. It’s the reason that if we have a break from riding and come back to it, it might feel like we’ve lost our edge. And it’s also the reason why the art and process of becoming proficient at a new movement or skill is more about unlearning than anything else.

Let’s break both of those down…

In the case of having a break:

If you stop riding for a while (which essentially is exercising a certain skill), the brain map dedicated to that particular function gets handed over to something else. It’s not that you’ve forgotten how to do it as such. It’s more that your brain is very functional, and uses that brain map real estate for something that you are currently using more.

The question of “how often do I need to ride to keep things ticking over in the same way?” is essentially asking “how often do I need to ride for my brain to preserve its current brain map dedicated to riding before it gives it to something else?

If you or your horse is “rusty”, you’re looking at a brain map change.

In the case of learning a new skill:

In many cases, we think of learning as dropping new bits of information into a container, but it’s moreso about adjusting brain maps. The information that you hold onto and value currently takes up a certain real estate in your brain, and in order to learn something new, we have to be willing to let something go. I don’t mean this metaphorically- it’s very literal. You have to be willing to hand over a part of your brain map to something new, which means letting go of the real estate it currently takes up.

That’s why learning is as much, if not more, about un-learning. The maps that are currently dominant need to move aside to let something else take root.

How amazing, and fascinating, is your brain.


❤️ Jane

Raising Resilient Children

{This week, I asked my JoyRide members if they had any questions or thoughts they would like me to share in my daily posts. My musings this week are based on what they presented & the inspiration they provided.}

“Can you talk about raising kids & helping them to develop a healthy way to deal with emotions from day one?”

In my opinion, raising healthy kids has everything to do with taking care of your own nervous system & emotional health. I really believe that’s the biggest service that you can provide for your children.

This is the trajectory that I consider:

Each child is gifted with their mother’s nervous system. The experience of a natural birth provides a reset of sorts as the pressure & squeezing of the birth canal provides enough stimulus to give the system a reboot.

From there, as my child grows & develops, they are mimicking, copying my motor patterns; the way I hold my body, the way I walk, my gestures, my responses. If I understand that every motor pattern has its own emotional imprint, I can see that as a child bases its physical patterns on mine, they also “inherit” my emotional patterns.

Our children then not only base their own systems on ours, as the process of unconscious development unfolds, but they react to ours also. So as we both move through our lives together, the more, as a mother, I can understand myself; the more I can move myself into a mode of parasympathetic dominance, the greater influence I will be. The more stabilising, the better model, the healthier presence.

So if something is presenting that I find upsetting or challenging, the liberation exists in being able to identify myself as the change agent. & within that, I have to unravel any survival patterning that lives within the people-pleasing realm, or sets up a victim/rescuer dynamic so that I don’t play the part of seeking to “fix” someone or something else; I empower myself, & in that process, I empower others.


❤️ Jane

{NB: I recognize that childbirth & raising are loaded issues. I have mentioned natural birth here from the standpoint of the physiological effect it has on the nervous system; my opinion is that any birth that results in the safe delivery of the baby & the health of mum is the best one. There are also some specific factors that sit differently in this discussion, so please take this as a general overview. & what’s more, the plasticity of our brain & the way our nervous system is wired means that nothing is fixed; everything & everyone is changeable at each & every point).

Honouring Your Thinking Needs

As someone with an active and enquiring mind, an important part of my day involves feeding myself in ways that satisfy my intellectual curiosity. When it comes to navigating stress cycles, we hear a lot about the importance of movement and exercise, but less so about the energy created (and stored) by the build-up of mental energy that isn’t channeled to productive purpose.

Searching minds who love to learn need outlets to direct their energy too. Without them, the residual energy builds in the same way that it does in a body that needs to move and finds it can’t, and then… it mutates.

If you are frustrated, anxious, feeling out of sorts, as part of a holistic process of enquiry, I would ask if you are tending to your “thinking needs” in the way that they need to be tended to? Do you have an outlet for your energies, for self-expression and for creativity?

What I’m speaking of here is very separate to the compulsion to keep busy. Instead, it’s the recognition that for those of us who love to learn and seek and question, the energy that presents is very real and needs to be tended to as such.


❤️ Jane

Letting Go Of Perceived Pressure

This really cool thing happened the other day; my horse got a hoof abscess. It was a beautiful day. Sunshine. Birds. I had a bit of time. I frolicked up to the paddock to feed out with big plans to do a training session together shortly after. My motivation level is usually pretty high, but in this instance I was overflowing with the good stuff. I was still riding the back of post-clinic awesomeness and ready to get out there and put into practice everything I had learned. I was the world champion of my own lunch box.

So you would think that given all of the above, seeing my horse limp gingerly up the paddock on three legs would have changed my theme song from Walking on Sunshine to…. well, a sadder less sunshiny one about lost dreams and someone who ends up alone with the company of a stray cat who really only hangs out with them to be fed. I feel you. I would have thought so too- in fact, not so long ago, you wouldn’t have been far off the mark.

Seeing my horse shuffling around (bless his heart) would have completely thrown me off course. I would have felt worried for him and allowed a series of worst case scenarios flash through my mind. I would have felt frustrated that we had to halt our training plans- again- and possibly indulged some unhelpful words from the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee about how it wasn’t fair and why does this always happen. Potentially, if I hadn’t managed to get a hold of myself, I would have allowed these crappy feelings to infect the entire rest of my day.

Not so now. On this day, I looked at him, quickly assessed that it was definitely an abscess, poulticed his hoof, made him as comfortable as possible and got on with my day. And you know what I attribute this total shift in mindset to? Why I could accept an unwanted hitch in my plans as simply a bump in the road that I was happy to ride out as opposed to a big fat, mental brick wall? I’ve let go of the perceived pressure that I need to be somewhere else, doing something else at a set time in the future. And so now, if the unexpected (and let’s face it still unwanted) comes up, I just tell myself, it’s cool. We have time. Because it’s true.

Let me explain what I mean. When I first entertained the idea of starting my own horse, I picked a date that seemed a reasonable time frame in which to have him under saddle. If I’m honest, I also had a time in mind that I felt that I “should” be out competing by. Although I didn’t consciously realise this at the time, both of these time frames were based on what I believed was expected of me; in other words, I had made an assessment based on how long it took “other people” to start their horses and get them out competing, and what I thought I should (there’s that word again) be doing in order to seem to be doing a good job of it.

Add to this, the decision to document the entire process for JoyRide (my membership club), the “public-ness” of the process led to an internal and completely self-manufactured pressure that I needed to be achieving certain things and progressing towards those markers within a certain time.

For us this year, winter has brought its own set of challenges. It’s been unusually and overwhelmingly wet. My littlest boy has been unwell on and off requiring a lot of my attention. Things have been extraordinarily busy at work. In a nutshell, time has been tight. Life sometimes got in the way of my carefully constructed training schedule and my mind got busy with the should, coulds and what ifs.

Come October, I had a clinic looming on the horizon and I wasn’t near the place that I expected to be coming into it. And that’s when I had my epiphany. You see the thing is, I have horses because I love it. I love working together with them. I get lost in the process. I love the partnership, the joy they bring to my life. I am in for the marathon not the sprint.

In my early days of riding, I was very motivated by competition. Now I am motivated by connection. I used to be inspired, blown away by elite level riders in the arena or pounding round the course. I wanted that for myself. And now I see trainers, so well known, some not showing incredibly displays of horsemanship, of understanding and of partnership that sees everything else fade away and my heart sing out, I want that. That there, that’s what I want.

Competition is still on my radar but I want my competitive experiences to be ones of expression, not for validation.

And with those thoughts, an entire layer of perceived pressure melted away. The switch literally clicked over. If my primary goal is for connection and partnership with my horse, then adhering to external time frames no longer becomes relevant. Sure, I still have goals. I have big goals. Huge goals! But they are goals that are driven by the values I aspire to and the desire to better myself as a horsewoman and person. And whilst I have big goals, I also have flexibility; to roll with the punches, to readjust, reconfigure and resume.

Seeing Dee limping up the paddock, I brought him into the yards. Bandaged his foot. Gave him his feed and hugged him.

Get better soon, I told him. But we have time. We have all the time it takes. The only race we have to run is our own.

Today was a good day.

Kindness, Time & You’ve Got This: Returning to Riding After Baby

I’m not sure this blog is an article that helps so much in terms of my expertise as a mental skills coach, so let’s go with calling it a social commentary. A social commentary on the utter fabulousness that is the female rider that for whatever reason decides to have children… and the things that can come up when those children actually arrive.

In order to get to the point that motivated me to write this in the first place, I feel that it is somewhat necessary to highlight a few key points about what happens to a woman during pregnancy, which in many cases will barely scratch the surface of the billions of possibilities that may befall you when you are actually “taken over”. In case you may have forgotten.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, Tommy, I actually said- and I kid you not- “I am totally going to rock this pregnancy” to my husband (an excellent show of public strength I think from the fact I was so ill with my first baby) and literally four hours later found myself flailing around on floor of the bathroom clutching a bucket that I am not sure that I let go of for the next 9 months. I did rock it, but in the way a large earthquake rocks a tiny town. My body did an excellent job of housing my child but I sure wasn’t pretty in the process.

So there’s that. You may have had morning sickness, you may not have but regardless, your body will have stretched, contorted, forced you liver into your area where your spleen was and moved your lungs into your throat leaving a tiny area of 2mm x 2mm in the big toe of your right foot for you to call your own. It’s amazing yes, but there’s a bus load of action happening in there within a fairly short time frame.

The other thing that is worthy of mention- and I say this because this particular point is pertinent to the whole purpose that I wrote this blog about- is that the exit route for said child ends at the same point your panoonie makes contact with the saddle. Although we like to think we have things under control, the fact is that when it comes to child birth requires a show of gymnastics that is outside the realm of what we consider “every day normal” and thus also requires a period after where we need to look after ourselves and let everything settle into position.

Despite this, what I see, hear and read about time and time again is a sense of urgency from just-had-a-baby-riders to get back on board as soon as it’s humanly possible. I’ve read bios of coaches who state proudly that they were in the saddle only days after giving birth, some of them back to competing. And whilst I am the first to say, full power to you, give you a virtual high five and send you a pair of congratulatory reinforced padded undies as a token of my admiration, this is very far from the case for most of us. I mean lets face it, that whole “physical situation” is the least of our worries when it comes to having a newborn. There’s the tiredness. The lack of independence. And the general tail spin that life is thrown into as you come to grips with accommodating a whole new being in your life.

I’m not meaning to be negative- quite the opposite in fact- but I am here to tell you that despite what you might be feeling at the moment, if you ARE in the situation where you have just had a bambino and are finding it all a bit much, you have time. Go easy on yourself. If you stopped riding in your pregnancy, the time away from something you love can feel endless. If you are or were anything like me you would be ITCHING to get back in the saddle, not only “to ride” but to reclaim a sense of independence, something that is your own, headspace, time to regroup. And just because you love it.

What I see time and time again though is a sense of failure from mums when they are struggling to make it happen. Some even give up. Sell their horses. Feel like their situation has changed for good and riding is no longer a possibility for them. I will never judge these decisions as everyone has done so (rightfully) within the context of what is right for them and their loved ones.

Other get back into riding really quickly, but then beat themselves up when things don’t feel like they did before, or they don’t bounce back as quickly as they had hoped. I get this also. The whole body change thing can be quite the shock.

What I mainly want to say is two things:

  • You have time. You need to take time to look after yourself. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.
  • Your horse is happy just being a horse. Provided he is loved, has company, food and shelter, and a place to adequately stretch his legs, it’s safe to assume he or she will be there for you when you are ready to get back on board. Yes it might take a little bit of work to get you both back up to speed, but so what? You can do that.

So for those amongst you who fall into any of the above, this one is for you. That baby you just had? You grew that little being of awesomeness from start to finish. You’re basically a human growing ninja. If you can do that, this whole riding caper is basically in the bag. You just need to time, some kindness (mostly to yourself) and a good ol’ dose of you’ve got this.

Solidarity sister.

xx Jane

How David Duchovny In Concert Can Make You A Better Rider

This past weekend I have been in Auckland teaching at a show jumping camp. I was driving up the hill, en route to teach and as I stopped at the traffic lights there were a series of promotional posters stuck to the wall. That’s when I saw it. David Duchovny in Concert.

Now there are two things that I want to mention here. The first is that there was a poster alongside his of a very famous singer, but I have no idea who. I can’t remember. My brain was too busy fixated on the fact that David Duchovny was in concert.

The second thing that happens is that I blew a little snort of air out of my nose; the kind of thing you do when something takes you by surprise and you simultaneously find it a little bit amusing.

It’s possible that I am stuck in the 90’s and you have all been rocking it out to David for a really long time. Me on the other hand? David is Mulder. He belongs with Scully! He’s not a rock star. He has rock star status, but that’s because he fights aliens and stuff and has access to really, really secret files. Not because he belts one out behind the mic.


And then I pulled myself up. And that’s when I said it. Bloody good job David. It takes balls to move outside something you are really well known for and reinvent yourself. I gave him a little round of applause (internally; both hands were still on the wheel). I know nothing of David apart from the X files and a few other things the media reported on that have nothing to do with this blog post. But what I do know is that we all have a lot more in common with Dave than we might think we do.

You see the thing is, for better or for worse, all of us have an identity that we use to define us. Sometimes our identity shifts depending on our situation and circumstance; sometimes it makes us feel like superheroes, and other times, it keeps us trapped in a limiting cycle.

I didn’t directly discuss David this with the riders I worked with, but I could have. Instead, we talked about the courage that it takes to “be” something different; to shift identity and become something new. It takes courage even if it’s something that you desperately want.

Our peer groups and riding comrades often have a bigger say than we think when it comes to us achieving our goals and stepping it up to the next level. Take confidence- or a lack of- for instance. Like attracts like. It’s basic physics. Chances are if you are nervous or anxious about your riding, then you will be surrounded by a group of riders who feel the same. There is a kinship in shared struggle. It’s comforting to know that other riders are sharing the same challenges that we are. I don’t want to go as far as to say that misery loves company- I am not implying that any rider who is nervous is a misery or miserable by any stretch- but what I am saying is that sharing our challenges (and perhaps our struggle or inability to overcome them) is very much socially supported. Think about it. Think how easy it is to chime in with or perpetuate negative conversation, to fuel gossip. People love that stuff!

Conversely, sharing a positive spin, celebrating a win, letting yourself be shiny (I have actually so much to say on this particular topic that I am going to create a whole NEW post about it! I know!), sharing the fact you are committing to change… well, not so much. WE don’t go there as often for fear of being taken “the wrong way” or seeming as though we are “up ourselves” or “a bit full of it”. Been reading too many self help books have we, they ask. It’s classic tall poppy stuff. So we cap it. Make fun of ourselves. Dumb down our achievements.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s go back to the original diatribe on nervous riders (and you can substitute anything you want in here). Say all of the sudden someone makes a move to be more confident, to actively cultivate “being brave” in whatever form is relevant for them. Chances are, if you have been nervous or not pushed the boundaries for a period of time, you changing the way you do this or approach your riding is going to ruffle a few feathers. And not just your own.

When you challenge the identity that you have settled into for a while, those around you who feel comfortable with where you are at the moment feel it. In that moment, they have two choices. They can either choose to be inspired by you and use your new found mojo awesomeness as inspiration for their own progress and movement forward. Or they can try to drag you back. Not everyone chooses the latter, but many do. And if you haven’t primed yourself for the consequences of an identity shift, you may find yourself slipping back to where you started from.

The need to be accepted is a dominant human need. The force is strong with this one. And that is why the trail blazers, those fabulous humans that have forged new paths are often so admired- not only have they thought outside the box and introduced us to something that has shaken up more outdated ways of thinking or operating, but they have done so in the face of what other people think. The need to present what they want to offer to the world is stronger than the need for people to agree with them.

Think about it. How do you view someone who has broken the mold of how you know them? How much easier is it to reinvent yourself away from home (for instance)? Are you braver, more adventurous? How are you currently limited by your peer group or those close to you? Are you acting when you really want to be a singer? Or maybe you want both?

The saying goes that you know who your friends are when you are at your lowest ebb, but I actually think the opposite is the case. The real evidence comes from when you are successful. It’s easy enough to feel charitable when someone is in a “lesser” position to you; our buttons get pushed when instead someone has something that we want and desire. We all know this subliminally, and so our effort to maintain the status quo often overrides our ability to become the best riders and people that we can be.

If you are gearing up for a change, ready to embrace new habits; if you are wanting to ride at that next level, take steps to be more positive, embrace a different training style; if you are going to jump at a 1.10, when you have been below a metre, or actually really want to compete but don’t think you are good enough, be brave. Go for it. It doesn’t mean that you have to change everything that you know, or no longer talk to your friends. It doesn’t mean that you whole world will be turned on its head.

But you need to be aware that there might be a shift. A shift in you and in those around you- and you have to be ready to embrace it. People might wobble a bit. And that’s ok. It’s nothing to do with you (although it might not feel like it). The mantra I made for myself that I want to share with you for these moments is this: success is a filter, and everything that is good comes with me. For a while it might be uncomfortable, even if it’s what you want.

Know why you are doing what you are doing. Be humble. Be kind. Be prepared that you shifting and changing might stir the pot. Actively seek out ways to support yourself. Motivation and inspiration needs daily feeding.

And also know that there is much more waiting for you than you could ever leave behind. And at the end of the day, you have to be like David. Just grab the mic and start to rock it out. People will get used to the idea soon enough. They might even put you on a poster.

How To Deal With Other People Dissing Your Dreams!

What to do when you are all excited about setting an ambitious goal for yourself, you share it with someone and they make you feel like a potato! Gah!

We’ve all been there at one time or another, but the biggest thing that I’ve learned? I don’t need anyone else to support my dreams. That’s MY job!

Regardless, holding the belief when others around you are not sold on that same thing happening can be a little challenging. Here’s my thoughts on how to hold tight when others are dissing your dreams…

And if you need to create a cheer squad for yourself or need some support, hit me up. JoyRide is my confidence creating membership program and if you are ready to go next level, check out 1:1 coaching. I’d love to hear from you!

Tally ho!


Video Transcript

Hi guys, Jane here from Confident Rider. How do you deal with other people dissing your dreams? This was a question that I had posed to me in the JoyRide Facebook group this week and I felt it was so relevant to so many of you out there, that I wanted to make a video about it.

When we create a big vision or a wonderful lofty dream for ourselves, what we’ve done is cast a line out into the future and created a point of positive tension that we’re able to move towards. What that allows us to do is then action a strategy so we can reverse engineer from that point and work out what it is that we need to do right now, over the course of the next weeks, months and years that will allow us to expand and develop towards that ultimate goal.

Now in the beginning it can be very difficult that those around you to appreciate what it is that you are trying to achieve and the metaphor that I liken it to is, in the very first instances when we have this vision where we have that dream; this flame is lit and it is strong but it is often very small and vulnerable like that of a tea light candle. So if you think of your dream or your vision being the tea light candle, you wouldn’t just move outside into all manner of weather and allow that to be exposed to the wind and the rain and the elements that are swirling around you, instead you pop it into a jar and you put a lid on and make sure that the right amount of oxygen got in, in order for that flame to really take root and be able to sustain itself moving forward.

It is the same for our vision and for our dream, in the very early stages we have to make sure that we’re taking full responsibility for keeping that dream alive. And often it also is a challenge for us to do so; holding onto that belief that that is indeed possible is perhaps the most difficult part.

So until we have created some momentum in that direction, we need to make sure that you put some supportive structures and frameworks around yourself that allow you to consistently develop the mindset that tells you that that is indeed possible for you.

It is not up to other people to defend and safeguard your dream, that’s only up to you. And as a result seeking out ways that will allow you to get more consistently connected to that and feel stronger towards that vision and goal as the days go by is solely your responsibility. Make sure that you really are selective about who you talk about your biggest dreams and visions with, not everybody is going to be supportive and that’s completely okay.

For the most part, people’s opinion are just perceptions of what they do to be possible for themselves and comes from a lifetime of experiences and conditioning that has left them at the point that they are now. Everyone’s at the right point for them, but we don’t need other people to buy into our dreams and vision in order for that to be possible for us.

What we need to do is just get a very select number of people around us who we really say is our tribe, or our community, we can really fortify and help us move towards that point in a really positive and proactive way. In saying that what you really want to do is to seek out some structures for your life and riding on a daily basis that allow you to step into that mindset continually and that might be reading books, uplifting, inspire you or up skill you, it might be watching YouTube clips or listening to audio material online that do the same thing.

It might be joining programs like JoyRide or something else where you are involved in a community of people who are really positive and passionate and supportive about what it is that you’re doing and what it is that they’re doing, so you’re constantly finding yourself inspired and motivated to move forward.

You don’t have to know exactly how it’s going to happen, all you need today is to create this vision, create this dream for yourself, connect to that as much as possible on a daily basis, and then really safeguard the energy of that in its very early stages until it grows in momentum and the flame grows stronger and stronger, and as a result is able to withstand more pressure and perhaps divisive opinion from outside sources.

I hope that helps. Have a fabulous day guys, and I’m going to talk to you again really soon.

xx Jane

Dealing with Differences of Opinion in Training

Differences in opinion in the horse world- they are many and varied! So how do you deal with situations where you may share a difference in opinion or training methods with someone in your riding life- be that a friend, horsey partner in crime, or otherwise- and forge a way forward without feeling compromised?

Let’s talk about finding shared intentions, being mindful of judgement and creating clarity about those who are in your horsey tribe!

xx Jane

You might also like:

Rider Q&A: How do I stop comparing myself to others? 

Why you need to start recording your wins (and train your focus towards the positive!)

Moving through the worry of what other people think 

Need some support or ready to shed those confidence gremlins once and for all?

Sounds like you should check out JoyRide! JoyRide is my monthly membership program for giving you the skills you need to ride with confidence and joy (and there’s a bucket load of support along the way)…

Over the Stable Door with Warwick Schiller

I consider stumbling upon the work of Warwick Schiller to be one of the biggest lucky breaks I have had along my equestrian journey. The first time I logged into his subscription site, I poured over the videos for hours in a quest to absorb as much information as possible. As with any great horse trainer with a gift for sharing their process, you wish that somehow you could soak in the information by osmosis. Instead, you get something better; the ways and means to recreate the results for yourself.

Along with Warwick’s obvious passion for his work and horses, what is equally impressive is the amount of energy, effort and attention that Warwick gives to those wanting to learn from him. I chatted Over the Stable Door with Warwick, and captured some of his thoughts on what drives him, what he’s learned so far and how his work contributes to a rider’s ability to cultivate confidence.


“What I do now all came out of wanting to share what I’ve learnt so far on my journey. I want to show people how simple horse training can be when you understand what motivates horses and the underlying principles behind everything you do.”

I consider myself a not-very-talented- rider but I feel that if you can really understand horses, what motivates them and understand the WHY’S of everything you do, horse training can be relatively simple.

If I could share only one piece of advice with a rider who was looking to improve their methods and relationship with their horse, I would suggest they become very aware of their horse’s focus and very aware of the need to teach their horse how to control their emotions.

Over the years my empathy for horses has grown a great deal. I’d also say that I used to be very, very good at getting horses to be obedient and it seems nowadays I find myself being more drawn to improving my relationship with them.

A positive mindset is something I consciously cultivate for myself. It has to do with choices. The books I choose to read, the programs I choose to watch, the people I choose to be around and the choice to decide that every day is going to be a good day.

As far as confidence advice goes, I believe knowledge of your horse and what it may do in any given situation is something that will give you a great deal of confidence. I have a saying, “I’m not brave, I’m thorough” and if you are thorough enough in an environment that you control (which will show you what your horse has inside him/her) then it will give you confidence.”

Click here to find out more about Warwick and visit his website.

How to find the “sweet spot”, the optimal training zone

Stay in your comfort zone too much and you don’t see progression.

Swing too far out of it, and things start to get overwhelming.

So how do you know when you are in the optimal learning zone, when you have struck the balance between making things happen and challenging yourself to get to the next stage?

Today we talk comfort zones, finding the sweet spot and keeping out of your survival zone!

Let’s get into it! 

xx Jane



Rider Q&A: How do I stop comparing myself to others?

Hi Jane,

For a long time I have been comparing myself to a lot of riders, both my age and younger. Recently, it has started to get me more and more to the point where I am coming home from lessons feeling incredibly down. Any tips?

Catherine P.

Hey Catherine,

Thank you so much for your question. Rest assured that this is something that is not isolated to you alone- so many of the questions that I field from riders come from similar concerns.

There is a great quote that says that comparison is the thief of joy, and I think we have all felt this to be true at one point or another. The reason that, for the most part, it is such an unfair and biased evaluation process is that we are almost always comparing our weaknesses to someone else’s strengths, according to our perception. Not only is this an excellent prescription for experiencing a drop in self-confidence, it is also not that useful. Even comparing your strengths to someone else’s strengths is a flawed process; there is always going to be someone “better” than us. It’s an endless cycle with little to no value return.

So how do you break the habit of comparing yourself to others? Here are some tips that I have found to be effective.

Get Specific

Ask yourself what is specifically bothering you about the situation- and then use what you come up with to your advantage.

Is it that you want to be more skillful at a certain technique? Do you wish your had more confidence? Do you admire how svelte and polished they are looking? Great! Then do something about it! Celebrate your discovery as a form of motivation rather than deflation and use it to feed into your strategy moving forward.

Want to upskill? Who do you need to talk to? Who can you book a lesson with? How can you learn those skills for yourself?

Want to increase your confidence? How can you incorporate mindset training into your day?

Want to look more polished? Study, learn, implement.

Take what you feel you “lack” and incorporate it as part of your learning.

Increase your awareness

Most of us engage in unhelpful comparisons without even realizing that we are doing so. If you can catch yourself in the moment of comparison, pause at the thought and then simply redirect your focus towards what it is you are appreciative of, or an acknowledgement of your own strengths.

Often, we are very good at recognizing the strengths of others and not so good at pointing out our own. If you find this hard, again, notice what comes up for you. This can be a really great way of identifying any pesky limiting beliefs, such as “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t have enough talent to do what I want” which might be standing in our way.

Become aware, break the pattern, and then redirect your focus.

Aim for progress not perfection

It’s about progress, not perfection. Your riding journey has very little to do with what others are doing and where they are heading, and everything to do with what YOU are doing and where you are heading.

If you get too caught up in other people’s stories, you forget to write your own. Learn to habitually redirect your focus from lack to appreciation and I have no doubt you will start to turn things around!

xx Jane


You might also like:

7 Tips to help you break out of a negative rut

The Magic of Focus 

The uncomfortableness of being outside your comfort zone

Want to kick those confidence issues once and for all? Find out how you can Work with Me. You don’t have to do this alone!

Why you need to start recording your wins (+ train your focus towards the positive!)

We all know the picking out the things that went wrong during training is high on our list of skill sets, which is why I want to encourage you, from this moment forward, to start to record your wins and successes. Not only does it train our focus towards the positive, but it provides us with a “memory refresher” for those days when things aren’t quite going to plan…

So here it is… my most bestest pitch to you as to why you need to start your own success journal!

xx Jane

You might also like:

Why you need to pay attention to what you are focusing on online

Lacking motivation to ride 

In the thick of it: Dealing with criticism 

Fancy working together? Me too! Check out all the ways we can combine forces and make it happen here.

Over the Stable Door with Tania Kindersley

For those of you not familiar with Tania Kindersley, allow me to introduce you. I first stumbled across her fabulousness when I started following her Facebook page, The Red Mare, and from that moment forward was a devoted follower. A talented (and beautiful) writer, Tania manages to articulate her feelings, processes and experiences with her horse in a way that carries you away with them, the same as you would imagine a real life fairy tale.

When I found out she had penned a book, The Happy Horse, I tried to act casual as I maniacally downloaded it onto my kindle and then greedily poured over it for nights on end (actually, not that many nights simply because I couldn’t really put it down; saying I only poured over it “a night or two” simply didn’t have the same affect or adequately convey the excitement I felt for it). 

I know that many of you will share in the fabulousness I feel for Tania’s work, and I believe that there is so much to be gained from reading her book, no matter where you are in your riding journey. I asked Tania a few questions about her horses, blog, book and what she hopes people take away from it…

What was the motivation behind writing “The Happy Horse”? What is it that you hope people will take away from reading it?

I started The Happy Horse because I had discovered a form of horsemanship which was entirely new to me and which had transformed my life with my great red mare. The motivation was very simple. I wanted as many people as possible to know that you did not have to be a brilliant expert, or a natural talent, or a supreme champion, but that you could follow some simple steps and get a happy horse. I wanted people to take away the fact that anyone could learn some simple techniques and plain principles and transform their relationship with their horse.

I grew up with horses and was put on a pony before I could form a coherent sentence. I went away from horses for thirty years. Then, in my forties, I bought a thoroughbred mare on a whim. I thought all those old instincts and old knowledge would come shooting back. Instead, I had a horse who was absolutely mortified to find herself with a bumbling, amateurish human and who had no intention of putting up with the second-rate. I did not know how to help her. She reared, she spooked, she leapt four feet in the air at the sound of a pheasant.

In desperation, I typed ‘how to have a happy horse’ into the Google and the clever internet somehow guided me to the page of a horseman called Warwick Schiller. He has a lovely training plan which is based on the timeless principles of Ray Hunt and Tom and Bill Dorrance, and that was how the great journey with my grand mare began.

Because of this horsemanship, she does things now I can’t believe. She rides out for miles into the Scottish hills like an old trail horse; she does dressage and jumping; she gives me a glorious, rolling canter on a loose rein. We spend a lot of time rounding up imaginary cows and pretending we are in the Green Grass of Wyoming. She is teaching an eleven year old girl to ride like a cowgirl.

I thought that if I can do this, with no special skills, then anyone can. And that was why I wrote the book.

I understand your father and his work with horses to be a hugely influential and inspiring factor in your own love for horses. Would you like to share a little bit about him with us?

My father was a horseman to his bones. I learn a lot now about herd behaviour and horse psychology and he would not have spoken about any of those things. His knowledge of horses and his feel for horses was entirely instinctive. He could not have put it into words and he did not need to.

What I notice about horses and love about horses is their authenticity, and that was his greatest trait. He rode over steeplechase fences and he was not the greatest stylist in the world, but he had one outstanding talent and that was that horses ran for him. Clumsy old Irish chasers with feet like soup plates used to find wings. I think they responded to that authenticity in him, and rose to his great courage and his devil may care. He loved to run and he loved to win and he did not care what anyone said, just like the horses he rode.

He had an instinct for horses and, when he died, all I wanted was a thoroughbred, because they reminded me of him. Getting the red mare was a way of keeping my father stitched into my heart.

He was a very eccentric man. It was not so much that he broke the rules, he did not know there were any rules. He could light up a room simply by walking into it. He drank, and he sang Irish rebel songs, and he never could remember anyone’s name. He broke his back and his neck twice, and the doctors told him he should never sit on a horse again, and a year after that he was riding in the Grand National. He belonged with horses, because he was so like them, and when I ride I carry him with me.

You describe The Happy Horse as “The journey of one rusty human and one mighty mare into new horsemanship. And everything we learnt along the way.” Throughout the course of your journey, have there been any moments or realisations that have really stood out for you?

So many, it’s hard to count. I think perhaps the greatest is learning that I could build a bond of trust between me and my mare, that it was not just about getting on and riding and kicking on, but about building a relationship. I’m slightly obsessed now with watching her and her little herd, with trying to decipher what it is she does with them and how they react to her.

I think a lot about feel and about softness. Those were words that did not mean anything to me before I started on this journey.

What fascinates me the most is that if you really delve into good horsemanship, you find it is a perfect marriage of the intellect and the instinct. I think a lot about this stuff, and I learn new things as if I am back at university, and I cogitate and ponder and muse. At the very same time, I let my instincts come out to play.

I’m getting braver. At the beginning, because all this was so new to me, I wanted to do it all perfectly and get a gold star from the teacher. I did want to impress people. Look at me, with my brilliant red mare! Now, I don’t think about that so much. I let my imagination dance. I try new things. I take the foundational principles and play with them. I’ve learnt that my best lessons come from my worst mistakes. My greatest professor is my red mare, and I have found that if I listen to her, she will tell me the secrets of the universe.

As for a moment, there have been too many to count. Maybe the most glorious was one morning when we were out in the woods and bird flew up out of the undergrowth. In the old days, that would have sent the red mare three feet into the air. On this sunny morning, she flicked her ear back towards me as if to say: are we all right? I told her we were all right. And she believed me. That was an extraordinary revelation.

The other greatest moment was when I started teaching a young friend called Isla to ride the red mare. Isla is eleven and I offered her a ride on a whim. She and the mare fell in love with each other so it became a regular thing. They ride now every Sunday, and we go out into the woods and hills, and they canter on a loose rein, and they do obstacle courses and groundwork and even, as of last week, a little jump. I would never have dared offer a grown-up a ride on this horse in her first incarnation. Now she takes care of her precious cargo with all the sagacity and grace of a schoolmistress.

I would like to talk to the Red Mare now if I may. Could you please ask her, if she had a single piece of advice to impart to us humans, what would it be?


She would say: please, please be reliable. She craves safety and steadiness and certainty. She can’t stand it when I get jangly or distracted or pleased with myself. She loathes it when the hubris angels are flapping their wings at me. She wants consistency, and kindness, and clarity. I suppose what she would really say is: I am talking to you, please do me the courtesy of listening. At the beginning, I did not know how to listen, and certainly not how to respond. She has taught me that. She’s also taught me that it’s not all about me. It’s been a hard lesson, but I have learned to put my ego in my pocket when I am with her.

She would say: we horses are trying our hardest, but we can only be as good as the humans we have.

I did not change my horse. I changed myself. Once I learnt to become the human she deserved, to give her my best self, everything was possible. She is an expressive, demanding horse, in the loveliest way. She could not cope with a sub-standard human. She taught me to rise to her level, and, for that, I shall thank her forever.

You can get in touch or follow Tania on her Facebook pages, The Red Mare and The Happy Horse. Her book, The Happy Horse, is available to purchase on amazon worldwide.

You might also like:

Over the Stable Door with Warwick Schiller

How momentum is affecting your ability to see things through!

You know those times when you are really busting it out and doing your best. You’re being more positive. You’re working really hard to stay focused. You’re trying your hand at something new. And yet things aren’t still coming together?

It can easily feel like things aren’t working out and well, what’s the point?! But I want to tell you a little bit about momentum and lag time… and to encourage you to hang in there that little bit longer!

xx Jane


Why you need to pay attention to what you focus on online

Ever found yourself sharing a meme of someone in a less than favourable riding moment?

Caught yourself pouring over a video of someone in a tricky position? I know, it’s everywhere!

In this blog, I chatter about why you need to be selective about what you feast your eyeballs on online!

xx Jane

Keeping yourself safe and happy with your horse

You may have seen my posts about a training clinic that I attended with my lovely horse Dee on Facebook- did I mention how much I love him? Anyway! Ellie O’Brien from Finesse Equestrian Training hosted the clinic, and I sat down with her to have a chat about something we are both passionate about- how to keep yourself safe and happy with your horses.

I hope you enjoy it, we would love to know your thoughts! xx Jane

The links mentioned in the video:

Finesse Equestrian:


Meaning it with every piece of you

Have you ever been in the position where something wasn’t quite happening with your horse- for the sake of example, let’s pretend that you were having trouble nailing a transition, or your horse was refusing a jump- only to have your trainer, instructor or friend jump on and “get it” on the first attempt?

What is that? Aside from quite annoying! Provided that you possess the necessary level of competency as a rider and your horse is in a position to be able to do what is asked of him or her, a big part of the equation to consider is your commitment as a rider to making it happen- are you truly giving 100 % to seeing it through?

Or is there a part of you that is hesitant? If you are not completely congruent in wanting it to happen- if you body and your mind are even slightly out of alignment in what your intention is- your actions will reflect it and the message, however subtle will be transmitted to your horse.

She’s saying go with her legs, he says to himself, but her seat and posture are blocking me. Does she really want it? I’m not convinced!

This is a very common scenario with riders who have had a “bad experience”; staying with the example, if you have fallen off in the canter previously, or had an accident going over a jump, there can be some understandable hesitancy on the part of the rider when it comes to revisiting it again. You may know that you need to go into canter, you may feel as though you are committing to it physically, but if a part of you feels like you would rather not, or you are afraid of “going there again” for whatever reason, your physical actions will reflect this. Your messages and aids to your horse become mixed, and as a result, the outcome or response will be mixed also.

A huge part of creating consistent success is making sure you are completely congruent in your actions and your intentions, and being truthful with yourself in the times that you are not.

So what can you do if you feel that you actions and intentions are not working as a harmonious pair?

1.     Look at the worst case scenario

I know, I know this may seem slightly left field of my usual groove, but for the most part, we focus on the worst-case scenario (even if we aren’t aware that that is what we are doing), and then, well, we leave it. We don’t think about the solutions or arm ourselves with a strategy. This time, think about the “worst thing that can happen” and then work out how you will respond.

If “x” happens, I will do “y”. Fear and lack of confidence is greatly diminished when we feel as though we can handle what comes up, so handle it in advance. How will you respond if what you are hoping isn’t going to happen happens? And then how will you move forward?

2.     Visualise what it is that you want

Now to direct your focus. What is it that you want to happen? Is it a smooth and glorious canter transition? A scopey and elegant jump? What do you want?

How does it look in your minds eye? How does it feel? See yourself riding it through to a successful completion.

3.     What actions are required to get there?

Now you understand that you can handle whatever comes up, you can see the end result in your mind’s eye, now what do you have to do physically to make it happen? How do you have to ride? Who do you need to be as a rider in order to make it work?

Isolate the qualities that are required of you and then commit 100% to seeing it through. See the vision in your mind, and then bring the vision to life.

Believe it, see it, mean it.

xx Jane

Gaining the Mental Edge

In last week’s blog, I mentioned a five-step process that I work to when training equestrian athletes for competition. The first of these involves developing your “Competition Mindset”, something that is often overlooked when designing and implementing a plan both in the lead up to and on the day of competition.

Creating and optimizing your competitive mindset is so much more than having a “good attitude”. It’s about creating an internal world that fortifies you against outside pressure and distraction and allows you to ride to the best of your ability on any given day. Essentially, it allows you to harness everything that is within your control and leave the rest.

Many studies have shown that if you take a group of athletes with the same level of ability and give only half of them mental skills training, those who received the training will consistently outperform those who haven’t. This proves to us that being able to create the results and outcomes that we want is not just about “working hard”. Time in the saddle is obviously an essential criterion, but making sure you are in the right headspace to really make things happen is crucial.

Creating your competition mindset involves creating an internal space where you can go to mentally prepare yourself and gain the mental edge; it’s about aligning all the components of your inner world- your beliefs systems, your self talk and self-identity- and seeing how they all contribute to creating your external reality.

The foundation stone of your mindset is your belief systems. What a rider believes, what he thinks is possible or impossible to a great extent does actually determine the outcome.

Why is this so? From a biochemical and neurological perspective, when you don’t believe in something, you are sending your nervous system consistent messages that limit or eliminate your ability to produce a result. It’s the glass ceiling effect- you have essentially create a boundary or limitation of what it is the you believe to be possible for yourself, and as a consequence, your mind accepts the limitations and no longer searches for ways break through those boundaries.

When we repeat or reinforce a belief consistently, we give them a sense of permanence that breeds breeds pessimism, procrastination and inaction. Think of yourself when you are in this state. Are you likely to take the necessary action to move you closer towards the situation that you want? When you are feeling pessimistic or like you “don’t have what it takes” are you more likely to look for “ways out” that stop you achieving your goals, or do you create the types of emotional state that will keep you moving forward in times of adversity?

The key to producing the kind of results that you desire is to represent things to yourself in such a way that puts you in such a resourceful state that you are empowered to take the types of quality actions that will create your desired outcomes.

How are your beliefs affecting your outcomes? Do you feel as though your competition mindset could do with a bit of a polish?

xx Jan

Dealing with “brain freeze” in the ring

Jessie asks:

I’m wondering why I can warm up for Show Jumping with no stress but get me in the ring and jumping a round and everything I know freezes and my brain shuts down! This happens particularly with heights of jumps I’m not yet truly comfortable with. I feel reasonably comfortable now with 1.05m, but
1.10m and above, I doubt my ability to meet the jumps at right stride. It is fine at home but when out competing the pressure comes on. What can I do about this?

Hi Jessie, thanks so much for your question! Interestingly, I was having a conversation around this particular topic tonight, and I was talking about how my approach has changed over the years from trying to apply solutions “in the moment” to looking to work with systems and plans that actually give you mental strength and allow you to deal with any outside pressures and distractions that may come up at any given moment.

There are two parts to it that I want to break up individually. The first and most obvious thing that springs to mind in relation to your question is the shift in focus that you will be experiencing in the warm-up compared to when you are out there in the ring actually competing, and this in turn affects your processes. Let me explain what I mean.


When you are warming up, you are primarily engaged in a training situation. Your focus may be on making sure that you are holding form over the jump, or that your striding is correct, that you have your horse in front of your leg; all of the processes and actions that you need to take care of to ensure that you and your horse are jumping to the best of your ability. If you make a mistake, then what most likely happens is you repeat the exercise and you look to correct it. In other words, everything that you focusing on is very much action based and within the realm of what you can control and what you can influence. You are dealing with what is directly in front of you and you aren’t getting too far ahead of yourself.

What commonly happens when you enter the ring, however, is your focus shifts; it moves from how do “I take this jump this in this particular moment” to “I want to get a clear round” or “I am looking to create “x” result”; obviously we may not be thinking precisely those words but in essence, our focus shifts from a very practical, process based platform, to a results and outcome based one. In doing so, we are directing our focus towards that which is outside of our control; obtaining a specific result or even getting a clear round is not something we can necessary control. Feeling the burn, our brain responds to the pressure in an unfavorable manner for the task at hand; on a physiological level, our body becomes adrenalized and consequently the part of our mind responsible for measured and rational thought is ignored in favor of the very primal parts that are revving up to get us out of the situation as quickly as possible. The need to have a good handle on your arousal state- your body and breath control- becomes really important at this point so you can maintain your heart and respiratory rate to a range that allows you to think clearly and easily.

On the flipside, what we CAN control are the specific actions or things that we need to pay attention to in order to maximize our chances of producing the result that we want- just as we were in the warm-up ring.

Secondly, you have highlighted that these feelings are particularly strong when it comes to dealing with heights that you aren’t totally comfortable with, which makes perfect sense. This is where we need to strategy, on the one hand to get you to a level where you feel confident jumping the heights you are referring to (so dealing directly with competency, skill level and time in the saddle at those heights) and then managing your emotional framework so that your self-talk, your focus and the way you are holding and using your body supports a confident mindset. The first is time dependent, but the second is able to be cultivated instantaneously provided you have the tools and are able to make an ongoing decision to constantly redirect your focus to the most empowering context.

I referred to the need to also create mental strength; to me this is the only way to deal with the ongoing pressure of competition, especially as you begin to move up the grades. Practices like focusing on what it is that you want as opposed to what it is that you are trying to avoid, ensuring your self-talk is positive and supportive, and reading or watching books or videos that motivate and inspire you on a daily basis all allow us to update our mental software and fortify us against outside pressures and distractions.

Thanks again for your question, I hope that helps!

xx Jane

Managing Your State in Competition

When it comes to competing, or performing in high-pressure situations, being able to manage your emotional state is critical. In sport, the arousal state refers to the ability to manage your heart rate within a certain range- a range that ensures that we are performing both mentally and physically at our best. Obviously, the variability of this range changes depending on the sport in question, but what we do know is that we are always looking to keep our heart rate below 120 beats per minute.

I understand if this all seems a little specific (and possibly even a little boring if you aren’t into the nitty gritty of it all #geekalert) but whilst we may not be able to measure in the moment exactly what our heart rate is (or even want to for that matter), what we can all almost certainly appreciate is the result. Leaving our optimal zone has consequences on our brain function which yields some common signs and symptoms; loss of focus, clarity and the ability to make clear and rational decision to name a few! Not ideal when we are out there in the ring!

Whilst few of us are gifted with the kind of control that allows us to control our heart rate, what we do have control over is our breath. Your ability to control and regulate your breath then becomes your super power in exerting control over both your heart rate (the respiratory and cardiovascular system are intimately connected) as well as brain wave activity. It’s the most tangible tool that we have to manage our physiology and our emotions to ensure that we are in the optimal zone for training and competing.

One of my favourite breath techniques fit for purpose is the 1:2 breath ratio. It’s very simple to practice. Breathing to this ratio mean that if you means that if you have an inhalation of 4 counts, you want your exhalation to be 8 counts. If you have an inhalation of 6 counts, you want your exhalation to be 12 counts. You are doubling the length of your exhalation comparative to your inhalation.

This is a really easy, invisible and highly effective tool that you can use at any stage. You could use it when you are waiting for your turn in the competition arena, you could use it if you feel like you are getting a little disheveled and off centre in training; at any point that you feel as though your thought processes are getting a little “out of hand” in relationship with what you would like them to be, bring in this 1:2 count breath ratio and I guarantee you that you will start to turn things around.

xx Jane

Creating The Future In Advance

When I started writing this blog yesterday, I was being all very adult about it. I wrote down some stats about the positive effects that visualisation has shown to have in a variety of scientific studies exploring athletic performance, and put forward some compelling arguments as to why you should include as a visualisation practice as a non-negotiable part of your “training workout”. I presented a pretty tight case if I do say so myself.

The thing is, when I read it back, it all seemed a little bit… dry. Boring even. And so I gave myself a stern talking to and deleted the whole lot. You know why? Because visualisation is so far from boring. It’s the polar opposite of boring. It’s like lets-bust-out-an-improvisational dance exciting.

Visualisation is, in fact, your creative super power. It’s useful (nigh on essential) for not only creating our most dreamed about future outcomes but for releasing the shackles of negative or substandard performances that we may have experienced in the past. That’s why when it comes to creating a mental fitness plan for both myself and for other rider, it’s an essential tier that I never, ever overlook.  Visualisation, or imagineering is the process of creating the future in advance and showing our minds how it is that we want things to go. And I certainly didn’t want the gods of visualisation to release a thunder clap on my head for presenting it any other way.

Visualisation is your most powerful ally, and the reason for this is that is has a direct affect on the subconscious mind. Whilst on a conscious level we are able to discern between the real and the illusory, your subconscious mind is unable to make this distinction. Quite simply, it cannot tell the difference between something that has occurred in ‘real life’ and something that is vividly imagined.

Creating or envisaging a scene or movie in your mind, with great clarity and detail, creates a magnetic pull; it quite literally reorganizes your mental software. If you imagine or visualize something often enough and with enough feeling and detail, your subconscious mind comes to accept it as a given- it becomes so familiar to you that both psychologically and physiologically you feel as though this is the norm for you, that you have been in this position, living out this scene as you see it in your minds eye many times before. Then the decisions that you make, the actions that you take all work together to set you in alignment with this subconscious target, with this image that you have imprinted on your brain. It’s essential to creating a targeted and specified training routine to optimize your emotional and physical state for competition.

If you are on the fence about its efficacy, think of it this way. If you are faced with a challenge that you know you have the skillset or the competency to deal with effectively, and yet still feel unable to do so, the only barrier that exists that impedes your ability to follow through is in your head. The place to deal with it then is in your head also. Everyone situation that we think about we create a mental movie for, whether we are aware of it or not. Creative visualisation is simply harnessing the power that we are utilizing unconsciously in every moment and using it to our advantage.

See things as you want them to be. Focus on the outcomes you want to create.

Over and out!

xx Jane

Making It Count When It Counts

It’s funny how you can really, really love something that makes you feel at the same time like you might actually be sick. I think there are very few things in the world where I could safely pair those two qualities together with confidence. Love and an intense feeling of nausea. But when it came to riding in competition that is most definitely how I used to feel. I loved it, but the enjoyment was always something that came later, once the plaits had been taken out and my horse was peacefully munching his hay by the side of the truck. It was then, when I finally took a breath out, peeled off my jacket and plucked out the two million bobby pins that were required to keep my mountain of hair in some form of control under my helmet that I allowed myself to unravel. This usually happened at the same time as I was eating some sort of toxic looking sausage from the nearest food van, but details details. Enjoyment at competitions for me was like a mist; it was all around me but I couldn’t never quite grab hold of it.

It’s not that I didn’t experience success, or that I felt like I didn’t have what it took to make it happen. I did. I really did. I believed in my horse, I worked hard, put in the training, got the lessons. There was really no viable reason for me to feel so nervous- but that didn’t stop the fact that I did.

As I competed from an early age, I had a lot of time to think about this. And to notice the effect, not only on my enjoyment, but also on my ability to ride the way that I knew I was capable of. How could it be, I asked myself, that I could ride a test in the morning and a similar test on the same horse in the afternoon and experience a completely different result? What had changed (aside from the fact that I have possibly eaten another sausage) between those two periods? It most certainly wasn’t my skill level. And it wasn’t the ability of my horse. It finally dawned on me that the only thing that had changed from the test that I rode at 9.30 am and the test that I rode at 3 pm was my mindset.

Do a little experiment with yourself now. Think back to a time in your riding or in your competitive life where you were really on the money; a time when you were out there, wishing it was the Olympic qualifier you are so dang hot right now. Got that? Awesome.

Ok, now sorry to do this to you, but I want you to have a quick think about a time when things were perhaps not so hot. Perhaps you were feeling like nothing was going to plan, like your left leg may actually be detached from the central functioning unit of your brain because it was basically doing its own thing and as you rode down the centre line, or jumped the jump or rode the pattern, it was like you were doing so blindfolded, with something in your ear. I might have got a bit enthusiastic there but you get the picture.

These experiences can happen days or even hours apart, within spaces of time where the difference in the result that you are able to produce has nothing to do with your level of competency or your skill set as a rider and has everything to do with the mental and emotional framework that you are operating from. Your skill level hasn’t changed, it’s just that the outcome of that particular ride is compromised because your reactions will be dictated in the wrong emotional language for what is required; things will act and behave differently coming out of you and as a result, everything changes. You are not in a state where you were able to access the answers and produce the results that are required for the environment you were riding in.

Once I understood this- like really understood this- it was like hitting the jackpot. I knew that as long as I continued to put the hard yards in physically, if I continued to ignore the fact that my mental fitness was in fact the biggest impediment to my success, I was never going to get very far. In fact, I was going to be going round in circles.

The fact is if you are experiencing results that don’t reflect what you know yourself to be capable of- and it might even be that they are really good results but you know you can do better- then what needs to change is your mind. You need to take your mental training as seriously as you do your physical training.

Building the muscles of your mind works in precisely the same way you build the muscles of your body; with use and with practice. You wouldn’t rock up to compete at a 10km running race having only ever gone for a quick jog the night before. Or if you did, you would know your chances of producing a stellar result would be compromised. Yet this is the exact thing many of us do time and time again at competition. We know we feel a certain way competing. We experience it time and time again, and yet we continue to just hope things will magically get better. It’s bonkers.

In order to create a change in your experience, the first thing that has to change is you. Investing in your mental strength and developing focus, fortitude and mental power will infinitely accelerate your progress and ensure that you can consistently produce the results you are capable of. You will be in control of your state, and as a result, you can ask the right questions of yourself under pressure to produce the answers that you want on the day.

The beauty is the confidence, optimism, focus, fortitude- these are all skills, skills that can be easily learned with a little bit of dedication and practice. And the learning always starts with the decision to no longer tolerate the challenges that you are experiencing that you know are holding you back. In their place, we are then free to embrace new behaviors and rituals that will allow us to continually manage our mental and emotional framework and as a consequence showcase the skills of both our horses and ourselves when it matters to us most.

xx Jane

Lacking Motivation to Ride

Alex says:

I have no motivation! I still want to ride and think to myself every day “I am going to ride today and we are going to work on something specific”, and then when it comes down to it, my attitude changes to, “maybe tomorrow… it looks like it might rain… I have a headache coming on…” So many excuses! Is there anything I can do?

Hi Alex,

Thank you so much for your question. I know that a lack of consistent motivation is something that many riders struggle with. The reasons behind why this is the case is usually individually specific, and can also trace back to past experiences or negative beliefs and associations.

In this blog, however, I am going to keep it really practical and outline a few “likely culprits” for you in the hope that you will identify with one or a few of them and be able to create a much more inspired path forward!

1. Reconnect with your purpose

Lack of motivation can arise when we become disconnected from our purpose, when we have lost sight of why we are doing what we are doing in the first place. When we are divorced from our “why”, it is much harder to create the “what”, and we need both in order to create an effective, solid and uplifting strategy for the future.

Start first with your why; why do you ride? Why do you have horses? Why is it that you do what you do?

Reconnecting with why you ride in the first place will also give you something tangible to compare your current riding experiences against. For example, if you ride for the pure joy of it, but at the moment you aren’t having much fun at all, you are denying one of the basic values that motivated you to ride in the first place. If this is the case, all is not lost; quite the opposite! Instead, you now know what you need to adjust and alter in order to ensure that those core values or intrinsic drivers are present in your riding activities and relationships.

2. Keep it simple

In order to create momentum and ensure that you are aren’t feeling discouraged or overwhelmed at the thought of riding before you even get there, I would work to ensure that you have a really clear outcome for your ride that was achievable for you and your horse. You can stretch yourself if you feel the need, but for the moment concentrate of creating markers for yourself that are tangible and achievable targets. Essentially, set yourself up for success! The more “good” rides you have, the better you are going to feel about your riding experiences and capabilities. I’m not suggesting that you don’t aim higher in the future, but for the moment make your aim to create momentum; having enjoyable rides with successful outcomes is the best way to make that happen!

3. Have a talk to your future self

Usually, when we make a decision and create a strategy for the future of our riding, we do so from a very reasoned and intelligent position. We have looked at the facts, understand what is needed and are committed to following through with what is required. If we find, however, that the moment we step outside are are failing to put that plan in action, then we are allowing our current mood to override what it is that we ultimately want, and it is in this moment, in this moment of decision that our greatest power lies.

If you go outside to ride and you find you are talking yourself out of it, assess whether this is something that your future self if going to want and be proud of. We have made a decision to get out there and ride based on our dreams and aspirations, and we have an idea of what we want our future selves to look like or be capable of.

If in the moment you decide, uggh, I know, I know I should ride my horse but I really don’t feel like it, take stock of the moment and think intelligently. Think about what it was in the past that led you to decide that you need to ride in this moment and what that is going to create for you. Connect to something bigger than the present moment. Refuse to allow your mood to cast the ruling vote in a situation that ultimately you know you are going to regret later.

4. Make yourself accountable

Create a situation where you make a commitment to someone outside of yourself, and then arrange to report back to them once you have followed through. In many instances, it becomes easy for us to become a bit faffy because there is not immediate consequence to our actions; so no one will really see whether we ride or not, and maybe we even keep it to ourselves just in case we don’t actually ride when we say we will. Enough of that! It’s not about becoming militaristic, but it is about setting an intention and then developing the consistency of action that allows us to follow through. Tell someone your plans and then let them know once you’ve done it!

Let me know how you get on!

xx Jane

7 Tips to help you break out of a negative rut!

I’m all for Super Heroes. Those that work with me know that I bandy the old super hero phrase around a lot. I’m all for a bit of fun and frivolity when it comes to our riding and our life, and I think that the ability to maintain a sense of humour and to smile in the face of challenges is one of life’s greatest skills, and one that is well worth honing.

In saying that, I am not perkily unrealistic. Sometimes, life can be really tough. It can throw stuff at us, that we don’t know how to deal with, much less want to deal with. And then there’s the times when nothing in particular is *wrong*, we just feel kind of…. Blah. Like instead of donning the cape, we want to hide behind it, use it to block out the world.

We’ve all been there. Nurtured the feeling of inner crappiness. Woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Taken a large dose of the grumpy pill. It can come for a variety of reasons; you get a bit run down, you have a run of illness, you get overtired, a run of “bad luck” hits and you find it impossible to break free of the cycle. Sometimes, the feelings are just fleeting, but sometimes, not so much.

So what if you feel that negative mindset creep in, and you just can’t shake it?

What if the cloud over your head is constantly raining while everyone else is frolicking in the tropics?

How DO you pluck yourself out of the arms of the god of crappy thoughts, and dive back into the soothing waters of awesome-ness?

1. Re-establish what it is that you want

Redirect your focus away from what it is that you don’t want and towards the things that you DO want. Remember, what we focus on, we gravitate towards, so take some time out to revisit how you want to be on every level. The way that our minds are hard wired mean that we can only move towards something, not away from something.

If you are focusing on what’s wrong, then you are doing so at the expense of what’s right. If you are focusing on what you don’t want, you are favouring that over what you do want, and as a result, you highlight it in your mind as a object to move towards.

It’s a choice. If you are here, you can’t be there.

 2. Be flexible

Things happen, you know? Plans change, horse’s get lame, there are changes at work, the kids get sick. You have to include flexibility as part of your plan and acknowledge that setbacks are inevitable. Learn to adapt to a new reality.

As Zig Ziglar says, when obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, not your decision to get there.

3.  Give yourself a break

Sometimes, the best thing to do is give yourself a few moments to come up for air. Giving yourself a break allows you to regroup, refresh, and recharge your emotional batteries! It’s also a good opportunity to redesign your direction, reflect on what hasn’t been working and think strategically on what needs to be don’t to bridge the space in between.

Taking some time out also gives you pause for recognition of the big picture. What you are riding at the moment is one wave of many, so remind yourself that you are made of the good stuff, and ride this one through to the shore!

4.  Surround yourself with the good stuff

Make a list of things to pull out when the suckies strike, your feel-good, go to list! Put on some great tunes and rock it out, have a shower, book a massage, take yourself out for a coffee, listen to inspiring podcasts, watch some uplifting YouTube clips! Put yourself on a mental diet and feed your mind with only the good stuff. Nourish your brain cells with things that uplift, inspire and support you.

5. Break the pattern

All behavior follows a pattern. If you are noticing that you are in the routine of feeling blue, analyse what you are doing with your days and how you are spending your time. Is there something that you could do differently to break the cycle?

Could you get up 30 minutes earlier and go for a brisk walk, or have half an hour more horse time?

Could you book a lesson to get yourself out of your funk?

Could you be eating better, doing more exercise?

Could you read something uplifting instead of watching something mindless on TV?

What could you do to inject some lovin’ into your day and project yourself onto a new course?

6.  Don’t be an Island!

Rally forth strength and support from others. When we are feeling crappola, it’s really easy to maroon yourself on Camp Crap and cut yourself off from the outside world. Don’t do this!! Lean on your friends, your family, the people who care and support you. And if you feel like this doesn’t exist for you at the moment, look for ways to find that for yourself. Get creative. Get active. But most importantly, get out there!

Find someone with the expertise that you need, someone who can listen to you, or someone who can distract you from your woes and give you and alternative to the reality that you feel inside you head.

Commit yourself to getting your mojo back at any cost. Make it your number one priority.

7.     Give yourself time for the good stuff to kick in

Don’t be disheartened if you are putting all this effort in and not seeing instant results.Understand that momentum takes time to build and it starts with really small and achievable steps. Think of yourself running a marathon a few kilometres at a time. You want to break it down into bite sized pieces so that you can essentially do something every day and establish that ongoing fluidity of action that will see you moving forward.

xx Jane

The Magic of Focus

Your focus determines your reality.

It might sound simplistic, but it’s true. The basis of it is this: whatever you choose to focus on you give meaning too, and as soon as you assign meaning you assign power. Experience only becomes positive or negative once you assign meaning, and the meaning that you assign is a direct result of your focus.  Meaning either lifts you up and drives you forward, or brings you down.

The real skill then, lies in your ability to continually control and direct your focus and to put every situation and event into an empowering context. 

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. If you are choosing on a regular basis to focus on what isn’t working in your riding or your life, then more of what isn’t working is going to appear. Why? One of the universal habits that we have as human beings is that we are creatures of deletion. Our unconscious mind is capable of processing so much information from our environment (it’s something crazy like 3 million pieces of information per second), that it would quite simple send us loopy if it all filtered through to our conscious awareness (which conversely can only manage 6 or 7).

As a consequence, we pick out only a handful of things to bring to the forefront of our minds, and what we pick out is based on two primary components; our focus and our underlying belief systems about who we are and what we are capable of. If we choose to direct our focus on all the areas of our riding where we feel lack, displeasure or discomfort, then all of the existing forces that would ordinarily naturally oppose this- ie the areas where things ARE working- seem to magically disappear. That don’t support the framework that we are choosing to operate under and as a result we delete them from our conscious awareness altogether.

That’s the power of focus.

Let’s talk about some ways that you can apply the Super Power that is Focus to your benefit and not to your demise!

1.     Focus on what it is that you want

Most riders that I work with are exceptionally gifted at articulating what it is that they don’t want and not so good at clarifying what it actually is that they do want. As a rule of thumb, think of constantly directing yourself towards that which you are looking to create or manifest, rather than moving away from something that you are wanting to avoid.

For example, if I was to ask you what it is that you are wanting from your horse at the upcoming competition, and your answer was that you didn’t want him to be tense or anxious, you have already formed a negative focus. What you are actually wanting is for him to be calm and relaxed. How you choose to phrase what you desire will determine your focus as well as the associated images that play over in your mind when you think about the event.

Move towards something rather than away. Focus on what it is you want.

2.     Focus on what’s happening right now

If you want to harness a super power, harness the power of being in the moment. If you focus is too much in the past, or projecting into the future, you can’t be offering forward the best version of yourself in the current moment.

Set your goals and work towards them with determination and dedication, but as soon as your bum hits the saddle, deal with what’s in front of you. Be the rider that your horse requires you to be from moment to moment, and focus on responding to their needs with leadership and compassion.

You can’t be two places at once. You can’t be here and there at the same time.

Always focus on the next right move for you and your horse.

3.     Train yourself to focus on the positive

This doesn’t mean becoming Mary Poppins (although, frankly, she had a lot of good things to say!). Positivity is not a fixed state, but rather continuous positive action. It’s the ability to draw on the resourcefulness that you have inside of you and the means to continually ask yourself empowering questions.

What do I need to do in this moment to move forward in the best manner possible?

How do I need to behave in this situation?

What resources can I draw on that will help me progress from where I am now to where I want to be?

Positivity. Self-belief married with consistent positive action.

Getting in The Zone for Competition

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I went to a competition last weekend, and it takes me a good 20 minutes or so before I really get it together. I get completely thrown off course by everything around me- people warming up, looking at other coaches and riders on the sidelines watching me ride. How can get my head in the right space so I can produce the results in competition that I am experiencing at home?

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Start by thinking of every emotion that we experience as a form of energy. Getting in the zone, or getting our head in the right space, involves concentrating all of the energy that is available to us at that particular moment and directing it towards our ultimate outcome. When we do so effectively, it gifts us with the ability to ride with focus and clarity and the means to continue to make effective decisions in the face of outside pressure.

Everything that you have going on inside your head has everything to do with how well you end up performing.

When you arrive at a competition, the emotions, pressures and distractions of your environment becomes interspersed with what it is that is going on inside your head. We begin to mix the energy of the outside with the energy of the inside, and the potential result of those two forces combining can form any number of possible results. Depending on your mental skill base, what manifests on the outside could be feelings of nervousness, anxiety and loss of focus- or it could be confidence and clarity. It all comes down to the ability to consistently direct your focus in a way that empowers you and have the mental strength and skills that will enable you to harness the energy and use it to your advantage.

This is what riders and athletes who perform at the highest level know how to do. They recognize the forces that will be outside of their control and influence but have developed the mental fortitude that allows them to continue to perform at their optimum in the face of it. Across the board, it is those riders who learn and practice mental training techniques along with the physical training techniques that are consistently able to produce the highest level of results.

So how is this possible? How do you develop that kind of mental strength for yourself? With my private clients, I work to a 5 step program that embodies the following elements:

1.     Developing your competition mindset. This encompasses several elements that involves analysing your underlying belief systems, self talk and aspects of self identity which feed in to your ability to create the results you desire.

2.     Breath work that ensures you can effectively manage your emotional and physical responses to stay in the optimal arousal zone.

3.     Visualisation techniques

4.     Effective pre and post competition strategy, as well as a plan for competition day

5.     Anchoring and mental programming techniques.

Just as you would visit the gym or hire a personal trainer to create optimal physical fitness, creating the type of mental strength that we need to deal effectively with competition pressure requires some training and pre-planning. You get out what you put in. Expecting to ride and perform at your optimum without training your mental muscles means that you launching off an unstable foundation; sometimes it will work out, sometimes it won’t.

The key lies with developing an effective mental training plan that will allow you to simultaneously stay positive, resourceful and focused whilst deflecting outside pressures that could potentially detract for your overall purpose and outcome.

xx Jane


In the thick of it- Dealing with Criticism

I’ve been trying to think of a specific example to share with you of times where I have been deflated by criticism- and there have been many times- but I couldn’t actually remember exact words or conversations. Instead, I remember feelings. That sensation in your gut when it gets all tight and you feel like you might be sick. The stinging disappointment of someone interpreting your well intentioned efforts the “wrong way”. The prickly heat in your cheeks when you have put yourself forward and experienced judgment or ridicule as a result. There’s no two ways about it; it really sucks.

For a while there, I thought that maybe I needed to develop a thicker skin. Toughen up. Care less. Maybe develop my own gang sign and say “whatever” a lot. But the reality is, that’s not who I am. And what’s more, it’s not what I want.


When people say to me, “I just need to toughen up” or “I need to get a thicker skin”, part of me yells no! We don’t need riders who are tough, uncaring, thick skinned and irreverent. It’s ok to care what other people think; it’s shows compassion, empathy, kindness, concern. All excellent qualities. The problems arise when we allow the thoughts and opinions of others to inform our decisions and our actions; the problem arises when we allow the dreams that we want for our riding to be unduly influenced by outside forces.

The reality is, as soon as you move outside of your comfort zone; as soon as you do anything that involves expanding yourself as a rider, competing, riding in front of others, taking lessons, you open yourself up to criticism. It’s the nature of the beast. Do more, experience more- the good, the bad and the ugly.

The funny thing is, there have been times where I have been the target of criticism and it has had very little effect. Water off a duck’s back. And there have been other times where I have wanted to go and hide in a cupboard. In a large box. On the back of the truck driving me far, far away. When I think about why this is, it usually has very little to do with the person doing the criticizing or the actual criticism itself; instead it taps into a part of my psyche that is already feeling a little bit fragile. It taps into the part of me that thought maybe I wasn’t… enough.

For instance, if you attend a competition or clinic and harbor thoughts that you are out of your league, don’t deserve to be there, or aren’t good enough, chances are any criticism that highlights this part of you is go to hurt. Why? Because it’s scratching up against an unhealthy thought process that you yourself have been nurturing and cultivating.

Criticism itself is not the problem; the problem is the negative, limiting and destructive beliefs that we hold. The criticism simply shines a light on the parts of ourselves we like to pretend isn’t there.

The solution is actually very simple and very challenging; to develop into the kind of rider who can deal effectively with criticism you have to feel good about yourself. If you can get to the point where you feel good about yourself, your intentions and your riding, criticism becomes like oil to water. You can see it, it’s distinct, and you can separate it out from the main body of liquid beneath. You can separate it from the core of who you are.

Originally, when I started writing this, I was going to give you some tips about dealing with criticism- and I am going to do that in a separate post now- but to really get to the stage where you aren’t derailed by the thoughts of others and still get to keep you softness, you have to dig deep. Find out what is really irking you. And then find a solution for it.

It can be helpful to separate yourself out from the immediacy of the situation; view yourself from the perspective of a third party. If you were giving advice to this person, dealing with this criticism, what would you tell them? What is it that they believe about this situation that is really causing the problem?

And what’s more, what could they do to move forward?

Be the guardian of your own mind. There is infinite strength in kindness and sometimes the person we forget to extend it to is ourselves.

xx Jane
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.87″ text_font_size=”19″ text_line_height=”1.8em” background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” border_style=”solid”]PS. If you have read this and are thinking, well yes, that’s all well and good and I would LOVE to feel that way, then I can actually be of help. Lacking confidence, getting derailed easily by criticism, not enjoying riding or competing as much as you should be…. well, it gets pretty boring after a while. And it’s not like there isn’t anything you can do about it- there is! Don’t settle for ho-hum, come and join JoyRide. It’s only $30 USD per month and I will take you through a progressive, practical process that will get your head on straight so you can ride and feel the way you want.

You can check out JoyRide by clicking the button below!