Creating a Safe Container: Tension & Diffusion

One of the habits I believe we have as riders and trainers is to continually think that any expression of unease or discomfort on the part of our horses  requires us to take action. For the sake of clarity, let’s define action in this context as anything that directs

their feet, with our level of connection, experience and understanding being the determinants of just how subtle that cue or request can be. What we often leave out is the understanding that choosing not to act- to be attentive yet passive- is an option that is equally available to us, and given the right context, more powerful than its alternative.

These days, whenever I go to work with my horse, I allow time for an emotional transition to take place. This period can range from a few seconds to a few minutes, where I check in with how it is I am feeling, allow myself to drop back into my body, and make sure I am in a position where I am attentive and observant. Naturally, there are moments when I’m more integrated than others; during the times I feel off kilter, or upset in some way, I am mindful of staying within the confines of my direct experience, and not exaggerating or inflating the situation with any stories I might be telling myself.

I extend the same courtesy to my horse. Some days, the baseline that we are working from is relaxed and in tune. Some days it’s not. On those days, I look at the level of energy that he’s moving from and ask myself the question:

Is this something I want to add power too?


How can I allow this energy to diffuse?

Adding a directive can have the unintentional effect of increasing the energy rather than diffusing it. For example, a few years back, if I was presented with an anxious horse in the round pen or arena, I typically would have done something to move him around. I would have asked for more, based on the thinking that getting him moving would have also moved that energy through and allowed him to find a more relaxed place.

One of the mantras I repeat to myself now is:

Add power to tension and you just get more tension.

For instance, if I have a tense trot, asking for a canter transition will not diffuse the energy at that point; it will increase it. It will either result in a faster, more unbalanced trot, or a short, staccato canter.

Now I recognize that, I search for ways of directing the flow that allows for diffusion, and in many cases that is moving with the natural rhythm of what’s presenting in the moment. Passivity does not mean non-involvement. It’s deliberate non-action in a physical sense, within the recognition that the energy that needs to be softened in this instance is not physical; it’s mental.

There are many times when I have found joy in the space between; when allowing time for the emotional experience to cycle through is all that is required. And in the instances where I have become an active part in that experience, I have only complicated and prolonged a situation that would have resolved of its own accord or that required gentle and focused attentiveness to disperse.

The mental softening is as much about their reaction as it is about your ability to hold space for it. It’s a merging of focus and dual awareness of both of you as a unit that allows the nervous energy to unravel and the place of peace to return. It’s as much about mutual trust (or the development of); a transmission between you that there is no need for hyper-alertness or concern in your presence. The arena then becomes a safe container for work to begin.

Building the safe container means that you are consistent, fair and reliable, both in your action and your expectations. It means that you act when required, but are capable of attentive inaction also.

Passive awareness is an action and choice in itself. A softening of the edges both of your own experience, and that of your horses and a return to a mutual point of focus.

❤️ Jane

When Uncertainty & The What If’s Come Up In Training

Over the last while, I’ve been sharing snippets of my progress of working with my horse, Dee. Dee is the first horse that I have started under saddle myself (or am in the process of!), and there have been some really interesting questions come up about how it is I am managing my mindset and dealing with any uncertainty or what if scenarios that might arise. Two such questions popped up this week in response to a Facebook video I posted; knowing that they are relevant to so many of us (all?!), I’ve decided to answer them specifically in this blog.

Let’s get into it…

Do you consciously think about any uncertainties as you progress through with him? What goes through your mind?

Whenever we begin something that we haven’t done before, it’s natural that there are going to be uncertainties. Uncertainty in and of itself is not the problem; all that really presents to you are the options that are available and the possible scenarios that might arise as a consequence of actioning those options. The “problems” come about as a consequence of lack of action and indecisiveness.  

If we were to divide it up, there are two types of uncertainty that would typically arise in relation to training or working with our horses:

  1. General uncertainty: A lack of clarity about the overall plan moving forward and where to take things
  2. In the moment uncertainty: When a situation presents itself in the moment and you are unsure how to move forward, such as a response from your horse that is new and outside the zone of what you have dealt with before, or something similar.

Uncertainty is welcome because it invites an intentional pause. It allows us to step back, assess what the situation is and realign with our intention. It’s also an opportunity for growth and exploration around a skillset or experience that hasn’t formed a part of our understanding in the past.

We can avoid general uncertainty by having a clear idea of our path forward, and what is required of us to get there. General uncertainty is something that we can eliminate well away from our horses; it comes with an understanding of where it is you are now, coupled with a knowing of what needs to happen in order to move to the next stage.

It also requires that we adopt a mindset of collaboration and a dedication to ongoing improvement. I have purposely assembled a team around me whose knowledge and support I can draw on during the moments where I am unsure or need the next step along outlined for me. I listen to them, I implement their suggestions and constantly express how appreciative I am of their help.

Ambiguity inevitably leads to frustration and confusion, both in horse and rider. In order to cultivate an atmosphere of confidence and trust, you don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to have a clear understanding of what your intention is and have taught your horse the answer to the question before it is required. The establishment of a common language and a dedication to mutual understanding ensures you stay empathetic and compassionate to any misunderstandings that arise- to yourself, as much as to your horse.

Uncertainty in the moment gives me the chance to step back and reflect on what it is that is going on.

Am I asking him to do “x” thing in a way that is clear and fair?

Does he know the answer to my question?

How can I break this down to even smaller steps?

For the most part, answering those questions softens the edges of the situation and creates momentum in a forward direction.

If it doesn’t, I don’t ruminate or brood for too long. Instead, I reach out and ask question of those more knowledgeable in this situation than me, and then focus my attention on what needs to happen next time around.

As a disclaimer: there will always (and forever!) be those moments where the plan that you have for the session is not appropriate for what your horse is presenting you with that day. And that’s ok. You can still hold your intention in alignment with your higher vision of where things are going, whilst maintaining your attention on what needs to be worked through in the present moment. That’s a natural and welcome part of the dance of training.

Do you have ‘what if’ scenarios in your head and a get out plan? Is it not so much that you are afraid, but more mindful preparation?

For me, that What If’s are an expression of our self-protective functions and can be useful if we use them constructively. Where we go off track with the What If’s is if we fail to understand them the motivation behind them and instead allow them to flood our brainspace with future projections that immobilize and impair us.

The facts of my situation are that I am working with a big, young, powerful horse who hasn’t been ridden before. There are a number of very real What If’s that I need to pay attention to in order to make sure that it is a happy and safe experience for both of us. I understand that even with the most meticulous preparation, things happen and there are no guarantees, but that’s something that I know to be true about life as a whole also.

The What Ifs are nothing more than a call to get prepared. The way that I approach this is to only go as far as the next good step. What that means is that with everything that I am doing, I ensure that I have understanding and relaxation at that stage before I move onto the next thing. If I don’t, I don’t move on.

This means that my training trajectory is more like a ChaCha than a swift movement from A to B. For instance, before I get on, I make sure that I have a calm and relaxed horse at the mounting block. If I don’t, I don’t get on; I only go as far as the next good step. On Tuesday of last week, for instance, we were working on the trot, and on Wednesday, I planned to build on the work from the day before. What happened, however, was that Dee was anticipating moving off as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup, so we stayed put. Our work that day was mostly at a standstill.

This approach keeps my attention firmly in the moment and has prevented me getting to any situations where I have required a “get out” plan, simply because I haven’t moved to a place where I’ve allowed either one of us to get over-faced or overwhelmed. What I do have though is patience. I am willing to take as long as it takes for things to be good and for relaxation to appear. One of the biggest disservices I think we do ourselves is not to allow ourselves that time and instead to have fixed expectations about where we should be at certain points. We have to let all of that go.

That said, I know that if something were to happen out of the blue (like he got a fright from something totally random), I have the capacity to bring him to a stop. This is an important function of the What If’s. I’ve paid attention to what they have showed me, learned what needs to happen in the event of, but redirected my focus to what I need to do and who I need to be in order to create beneficial experiences for both me and my horse.

Intention in alignment with the higher vision, attention to the moment, and only going as far as the next good step.


❤️ Jane


Bullet Blog // Managing Fear When Training Something New

Q: I would like to know how to approach teaching my horse flying changes without the fear of being a flying angel and my horse taking gigantic leaps in the air at the same time as he learns.

Let’s start this discussion with one of the key questions to consider when it comes to any fear-based concern we have about our horses or training; is this fear valid?

The thing is, if the very real potential exists for something to happen that is outside of your ability to competently or safely deal with, your fear is providing you with a legitimate warning signal that you need to find some way to mediate or navigate your way through.

Does that mean that it’s the end of the road for the goal or dream that you have in mind?

Absolutely not.

What it does mean, however, is there is some leg work that needs to happen in order for you and your horse to be able to emotionally and physically manage the next step you have in mind.

That aside, let’s dive in on the assumption that there is no safety issue or concern that is getting in the way, but that the fear is instead tied to an anticipation anxiety about future imagined possibilities and a strong connection to what it is we don’t want to happen.

Consider some of the words that you have used to describe the situation- flying angel, gigantic leaps- and sit with them for a moment. When you say those words to yourself, what comes to mind? For me, I see a vision of my horse cavorting around the arena and me being catapulted through the air. No matter what the specifics of your projection, we create a mental movie of the experience which signals our body to respond in a specific way. While we are able to consciously discern between a projection that is real and imagined, our unconscious mind does not have the same ability. Your unconscious mind gathers all of its information via the sensory systems, and as a consequence, a vividly imagined scenario registers the same way unconsciously and physiologically as if it were happening in real time. That’s why you can start to feel worried, concerned, anxious or afraid just thinking about something, even if you are very far removed from the situation you are thinking about.

The other thing that happens is when you consistently bring to mind what you don’t want to happen, you strengthen the neural pathways associated with those thoughts and make it an easier thought stream to default too.

The beginning of anything new begins with your intention, which is the mental and emotional blueprint of what you would like to see happen in the physical. To elaborate on this a little further, jump over and watch this video on my YouTube channel– it will give you a snapshot of why it’s important to focus on what it is you want as opposed to what it is you are trying to avoid (enter the flying angels!).

What would you like to see happen when you start your flying change training? What will that look like? How will it feel?

Secondly, break the training trajectory down into a series of steps. The eventual movement will come together as a consequence of all the basic elements working seamlessly; how many steps exist between the point you are now and the point where you could feasibly ask for the change?

Set both of you up for success. Manage your mindset by training your thoughts to anticipate success and put together an achievable training plan that keeps you out of overwhelm.

xx Jane

Want to submit your own question? Bullet blogs are quick fire answers to questions you have submitted. This is your chance to share your thoughts with me and for me to give you some ideas about how to proceed. Click here to submit your question! 

Hitting The Glass Ceiling: Understanding Your Success Threshold

When we think about comfort zones, what often springs to mind are all the things that we do our best to avoid. Some examples of this are getting physically hurt, being upset, embarrassed, feeling like we are in over our heads or avoiding situations where we think we may be put under more pressure than we’re happy to handle in the moment. All of these things exist in bottom area or lower reaches of our comfort bubble, and in our preoccupation for doing our utmost to avoid them, we’ve forgotten that we also have an upper limit to our comfort zone that dictates how much success, happiness and positive results we are willing to allow.

In short, the more elevated reaches of our comfort zone dictate how much good stuff we can handle and when we hit this threshold, we can sabotage our constructive efforts and results to cycle us back down to the comfortable limits of what we already know.

I agree that on the face of it, this seems completely nonsensical. Give it to me, you shout to yourself. I can handle all of the success! But the truth of it is, well, you can’t. None of us can. “All the success” feels nice in theory, but when it comes to practice, we need to be aware that acclimatizing ourselves to things going well, to receiving positive results or even the accepting the most basic flow of good energy coming our way- our ability to receive a compliment- takes practice.

You see, discomfort is indiscriminate. It’s not concerned about growth or failure.  It’s not concerned about “good” discomfort (like success) or “bad” discomfort (like being physically hurt). The primary concern of your comfort zone is to keep you within the confines of what is familiar and keep you away from the danger of uncertainty and the unknown. Lack of certainty and the unknown feels risky and dangerous; consequently, we make decisions, engage in behaviours and take action based on what feels known to us, even if what is known does not equate to what we want.

Here are some examples of success thresholds that I’ve discussed working with riders in my membership program, JoyRide:

Example 1:

A rider in competition finally starts to experience the results that she’d always dreamed of. Shortly after, she finds herself getting really busy at home. The busy-ness she creates stops her riding as much as she needs to and she finds herself pulling out of competitions as a consequence of feeling unprepared.

After digging beneath the surface, we discovered that her success was challenging to her social circle. Winning was making her “different” to her friends (who were still struggling to achieve the same results). She felt like maybe they would think she was “full of herself” or “better than them”, and so sabotaged her results through lack of preparedness and half hearted effort.

Example 2:

A JoyRider I worked with found herself not riding consistently- despite wanting to and having every opportunity to do so. Once we broke it down, she was concerned that if she rode consistently, people would expect her to do “more” with her horse, and she wasn’t sure if she was ready for that. As a consequence, she had stopped herself from riding in the first place.

Example 3:

People pleasing or criticism can be a big one. Not allowing yourself to be yourself, to do what you love or put yourself out there can be symptomatic of going out of your way to avoid criticism. It’s a convenient excuse to keep ourselves small as we attempt to shield ourselves from negative feedback or criticism.

All of these are examples of upper limits or hitting our success threshold. We reach the ceiling of how much we are familiar with or feel worthy and deserving of and the only option from there is to cycle back down.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. While the specifics are always individually dependent, it’s important to recognize when the feelings of discomfort creep in and to understand that they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Constantly reframing and elasticizing the edges of our comfort zone involves being willing to get uncomfortable, especially when it comes to breaking through the limits of your own glass ceiling.

xx Jane

Negotiating The Resistance Line

One of the things I’ve been mindful of over the first few rides with Dee is negotiating the resistance line; where pressure is applied, there’s an increase in energy in response, and you begin an energetic conversation between too little, too much, and the point of resistance where both openness and understanding come to a standstill. More often than not, this requires attention to detail. For example, in teaching the cue to “go”, I first start with my intention (holding the ideal version of what I want to create in my mind), gently apply pressure with my legs (usually in conjunction with a vocal cue) and then wait for the response.

The first few times, I applied too much, too soon. I felt a brace arise- the resistance point. It’s physical yes, but it’s mainly mental. Concern, apprehension on the part of the horse- what does that mean and what do I need to do to protect myself? And too much “ask” on the part of the rider (me). What’s important to remember is that pressure is something defined by your horse’s response, not by our own feelings about what is too much and too little. What could be considered a light cue to us, may be too much for our horse according to the mood, moment, environment or level of understanding. It’s a dance of application, reflection and adjustment.

By dropping back and looking for a more refined response, you can begin to negotiate this line to elasticize your comfort zones and increase understanding without entering into conflict. For instance, if I apply a leg aid and ask for forward, expecting a full step at walk- although a seemingly small ask- may be too much in the beginning. For a horse just learning, we might look for a shift in weight, a change in dynamic that suggests their thoughts were forward if nothing else. If we can build and release from that point, I believe we can maximise learning and minimize the need for conflict.

When it comes to our own learning as riders and horse people, it’s important that we become aware of our own line of resistance and dance with it accordingly. I work with the principle of intentional practice- of seeking out the elements of riding and horsemanship that challenge me and actively incorporating it into my training.

Massaging the resistance line- the point at which you feel a physical and mental brace to the task at hand- requires us to be connected and in tune; available to listen to our instinct and intuition and be mindful of when feelings of apprehension arise in relation to an activity, request or offer. It often manifests as the catch point; the point where your desire is squashed down by your concern. The point where you “catch” yourself; you want to say yes, but instead you say no. Where you wish you could, but you feel you can’t. Where you no longer feel resourceful, willing but instead defensive and protective. Resistance.

Negotiating the resistance line, elasticizing the limits of your comfort zone and maintaining open-ness to learning and growth is a dance of peaks and troughs; it’s applying pressure, noticing the rise in tension, sustaining the tension momentarily and then releasing. Your ability to sustain the tension- to relax into what concerns you- comes with the normalization of the experience, with you seeking to include that which you have resistance to as part of what you do until you feel the hard edges dissolve. What you have then is no longer resistance, but acceptance, a new kind of normal.

xx Jane

Want head and heart skills for a trusting, happy partnership?

You can have a riding life filled with clarity, purpose and confidence- and this program will help you have it. JoyRide is an online membership program for big-hearted riders looking to create a meaningful relationship with their horse. Get in charge of your thoughts, master your mindset and your emotions so you can get out there and do what you love together. Check it out here.

The Application of the Aids

The aids and the application of the aids is something that’s frequently discussed and written about. In physical terms, there is no such thing as a universally understood or applied aid; there is only the aid that you have taught your horse to understand. For instance, placing your outside leg behind the girth and inside leg on the girth- an aid commonly taught and applied in English riding to ask for canter- is not understood by your horse to mean canter unless it’s been established as such. The first step, then, in ensuring that you and your horse have a clear line of communication is to ensure that he knows the answer to your questions and you have established a common language between you both.


If I were to ask you what first comes to mind when you think of “applying the aids”, chances are you would jump immediately to the physical; to how it is you organize your body and what prompts you apply in tangible terms to influence the direction, position or energy of your horse. Thinking of aids only in these terms, however, limits us; it prevents us from transcending a line of communication that begins at the most subtle level, and for any physical manifestations to arise from that place.

The application of the aids does not begin with the physical; it begins with thought and intention. Developing an awareness of and stepping into the practice of fine tuning your intention opens a world of potential that maximizes you and your horse’s creative possibilities.

Step 1: Establish Intention

Intention is the mental and emotional blueprint we set up to establish the quality of connection and create a clear impression of what is it we would like to see manifest in the physical. It occurs on the macro and micro level.

As soon as we engage our horses, we’re influencing every moment. Establishing how it is we wish to be as riders and horsepeople prior to setting eyes on our horse and what qualities we wish to cultivate between us is part of our generalized setting of intention.

Who is it that I need to be today? What does that require of me?

Instead of waiting for outside or external experience to inform how we feel or operate, intention calls us to step into the cultivation of behaviors and ways of working with our horses as an active practice. We don’t wait to feel calm. We practice calm. We don’t wait to feel confident. We practice confidence. Intention as the expression of our creative force.

On a more micro level, intention allows us to create an experience of the ideal in our mind’s eye that creates fertile ground for its physical manifestation. For instance, if I am wanting to ask for a transition from walk to trot, I create a sensory blueprint for how I want that to look.

I see my horse effortlessly and softly move into the transition with engagement.

I feel the connection between us and the relaxed way of being we both share.

I hear his footfalls on the ground, even and regular.

I create the ideal vision of what it is that I want in my mind’s eye then wait for the physical to catch up.

When we move from this place, our body reponds in ways that are barely perceptible to us- but not to our horses. When we create a visual template in our minds, our body responds by firing off the neural pathways and muscle triggers that support the physical creation of what we’ve imagined. This is one of the key reasons visualization is so successful in improving physical performance even in situations where the only practice that’s been engaged is an imagined one.

Intention also translates to a purposeful plan, a course of action that clearly and deliberately outlines the way forward. It begins with cultivating a mental landscape that sees what you want come to life, but also outlines the progression of steps necessary to achieving that end.

The application of the aid and the quality of the connection you establish with you horse begins always with your intention.

Step 2: Adjust Energy

Once you have established your intention, the second stage is to purposely direct your energy to support it. Being able to manage your energy also comes with an understanding of your energetic boundaries and those of your horse, your ability to ground yourself and to effectively manage your breath.

There’s a lot of confusion around what it means to “make your energy bigger” or “make your energy smaller” and I believe this is partly because we are only used to recognizing ourselves in purely physical terms. Our boundary, however, extends beyond the actual dimensions of our body. The clearest way to understand this is to think of it as personal space. If someone unwanted or unfamiliar comes close, you are acutely aware of the point where they have breached your personal boundary. This boundary is different depending on who you are engaged with and the level of intimacy between you. The same is true for our horses.

In order to make it more tangible, think of your boundary as extending an arm’s length out from your body- to the side, above and below. Most of us aren’t practiced at taking up all the space owed to us. In addition we have a poorly developed awareness of how our boundary represents our first point of influence and how it’s possible to influence the boundary of our horses without being in physical contact with them.

When it comes to the application of the aids, our boundaries vary depending on whether we are working on the ground or in the saddle. On the ground, cultivating a clear intention and  developing an awareness of the energetic boundary of you and your horse allows you to fine tune what it is you’re asking and seek the earliest point of influence before you come into physical contact.

Adjusting your energy on the ground also corresponds to purposefully directing your gaze in alignment with your intention; utilizing the breath to support transitions, both emotional and physical; and subtle adjustments in posture as the pre-cursor to applying a more direct physical cue.

In the saddle, the level of intimacy is already established by the physical connection of spine meeting spine; as a consequence, your energetic influence can be much more refined.

Again, a coordination of gaze, posture and breath all blend together to create momentum behind the intention that you have established.

Step 3: Organise the physical

The next stage is the application of a physical aid. In any situation, before insisting on follow through, you have to ensure that what you are asking is understood and that you are clear and consistent. The effectiveness of the aid is directly proportional to the timing of the release. In order to communicate that the answer given by your horse is the one that you’re looking for, the release of the aid needs to correspond with the “correct” response.

If you experience confusion, the first thing to check is clarity of application and understanding. It’s also vital you give your horse time to answer the question to avoid unfair increase in pressure and situations where what you are asking him to do is outside what he can mentally or emotionally assimilate at the time.

Step 4: Thanksgiving

In each and every situation, you horse is fully deserving of your thanks. The fact that they permit us to ride and to work with them in the way we do is an everyday miracle that we often take for granted. Gratitude and thanks are the closing chapter of creating intention that focuses on partnership and connection, is part of the closing ritual of the time that you have spent together and the end point of any successful application of an aid.

xx Jane

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Want head and heart skills for a trusting, happy partnership?

You can have a riding life filled with clarity, purpose and confidence- and this program will help you have it. JoyRide is an online membership program for big-hearted riders looking to create a meaningful relationship with their horse. Get in charge of your thoughts, master your mindset and your emotions so you can get out there and do what you love together. Click here to find out more!

Click! My Journey with Positive Reinforcement Training

I admit that it took me a little while to come around to the idea of using the clicker in my training. Despite my current enthusiasm, I had a long list of largely uninformed and wildly presumptuous reasons as to why I didn’t think it was something that I wanted to incorporate into my training, or why it wasn’t the way forward for me. At this point (which I am thankful to say is a little while ago now) I had done something which I see often in the equestrian world- I’d closed myself off to what is an amazing training tool simply because it was different to what it was I currently did.

Growing up, I was always a very traditional rider and trainer. My entire family rode, we looked after our horses well and loved them very much, but I never really explored outside the box of what everyone else around me was doing. It was only after a break from horses due to working overseas and then the return to having them in my life as an adult that my mind blew open to the various possibilities that existed in terms of not just training, but in developing partnership. And now, just as in the “people training” work that I now do and love, I can see that horse training begins with ensuring mental stability and relaxation also. Create an emotionally happy horse and the rest is just gymnastics.

The biggest difference in my approach now is that I used to work from the outside in. Now it’s from the inside, out.

In my journey over the last few years, Warwick Schiller has undoubtedly been the biggest influence on me, and through knowing and working with him, I have been led to the awesomeness of Robyn Schiller, Ellie O’Brien and Katy Negranti, all of whom I consider to be integral members of my horsey tribe, friends and mentors. There is a long list of things that I admire about these gems of people, but at the top of the list is their open mindedness. They are willing and open to discussion about most of anything and then evaluate it against what they know and what is the best for the horse. I have them to thank for the continual explosion of brain cells that happens regularly now in terms of opening my eyes to how my horse thinks and responds, and I’m blessed to be able to draw on their passionate wisdom.


Most recently, I have come to include Georgia Bruce in the list above; I have been fan girling on Georgia for a little while now, and her ability to pair positive reinforcement techniques with incredible performance results made me reach a little deeper into the clicker training world. More recently, when she sent out the call for a handful of 1:1 clients to work with this year, I applied to be one of them. And fortunately for me, I have begun the journey to incorporating clicker into my training with Georgia to draw on for advice.

I’ve only been going a couple of weeks, but before I tell you of the benefits I have noticed, I want to share with you some of my hang ups about using the clicker and maybe shed some light on some misconceptions that are floating around there also.

Let’s take it from the top.

My horse is too greedy for the clicker. If I start using food rewards, he’s going to turn into a man-eating dinosaur.

Fair play. The first thing that we often think of is the food rewards, and if our horse is currently a bit snatchy snatchy with the treats, then it can seem like an all round bad idea.

What I have since learned is that firstly, having a horse that really likes his food is great! It means he will have a lot of motivation for the reward, so it’s something you can definitely use to your advantage.

Secondly, and perhaps most ironically, the use of rewards or positive reinforcement actually teaches them manners and empties out the anxiety around food. One of the first steps is to establish that the clicker and the subsequent reward only comes with the cue; once the rules are established, then you can start to work with the clicker elsewhere.

There’s no flow to it. It seems really stop-start-stop-start

For a long time, using the clicker to me seemed to interrupt the flow. I also had a really hard time seeing how you could move from working with the clicker on the ground to utilizing it under saddle. I had it all the wrong way around.

In the beginning, there are a lot of repetitions. Whatever behavior you are looking to train and reinforce, you do so with a high rate of repetitions immediately after the behavior is offered. The feeling in practice is much different to what I expected though- I thought I would be pulled “out of flow” but instead, there is a clarity and focus between us when using positive reinforcement that makes us so much more “in flow” than we ever were before. Once we have shaped and enforced the behavior enough, then with any tool we can phase the clicker out.

The other thing is that the physical and emotional transitions are so beneficial. Physically, it’s resulting in a lot more balance and power. Emotionally, the transitions between rest and go are not only reinforcing the behaviors that I want, but creating an emotionally pliable horse who finds it easy to move between being stationary and active without losing his emotional centre.

You either have to be “this” or “that” but you can’t be both.

If we need to get to the nitty gritty, the main approach I have been using up until now would fall under the banner of negative reinforcement (so the correct response results in removal of pressure). I really wasn’t sure how to utilize positive reinforcement within the scope of what I know (and am happy with). What I understand now, however- and I think this has come with my evolution as a horse person- is that everything is based on principles. If you can understand the principles of when to apply what, then the technique doesn’t matter.

Utilising the clicker hasn’t been a departure from what I’ve been doing already, but literally a positive addition. So now when I ask for something to happen as a result of intention, energy and pressure and release, I positively reinforce the behavior that I want. Click.

What I have noticed…

 So far, these have been the biggest benefits I have noticed from incorporating the clicker.

Increase in Motivation

This has been off the charts. Dee is naturally a laid back character and he can tune out if things don’t interest him. The clicker has made him tune in and switch on in a way that’s really lovely to see.

Increased learning speed

Again, it’s been off the chart. For example, I started to introduce the click for the frame that I wanted at this stage, which was long and low. Don’t tell him I said this, but I thought it would take him a while to catch on to what I was talking about, but seriously 3 clicks later and he was totally on to it. It’s now his preferred modus operandi, and I’m seeing many examples of just how quickly he’s picking things up.

Decreased anxiety / increased relaxation

For the first few sessions together, Dee was really busting it out to try and get the right answer. I saw a distinct personality change from being a little bit too chillaxed to being slightly anxious. For example, he started anticipating a lot of my requests and his energy was quite “up”. I talked to Georgia about this and on her advice, just kept on keeping on, being sure to reward the fundamentals of what I was looking for and within two to three sessions he had completely relaxed around the clicker and the rewards.

We’ve only been going a couple of weeks introducing the clicker with diligence, but I’m really excited by how much it has impacted our partnership and learning. I’m excited to keep sharing our journey together with you!

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)…

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



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


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