The title question is from a reader of Aspire’s newsletter and I thought I would do a quick answer on the blog since winter months have a rather overwhelming influence on many of us. There are many ways of staying inspired and motivated to keep up with training, lessons and rides but there definitely isn’t one perfect method for all.
Here is my key to stay motivated: I choose to fight for something I really want to become. It might seem obvious but many a time we decide we want something or be someone but have no willingness to do the work. We find excuses, obstacles, reasons against. When I want to achieve something, properly WANT it, then the motivation comes by itself. When you really want to improve your skills, your understanding of something, your method of doing something, your ability to change something, then you feel inspired by your own drive…You respect that drive and the journey you already made even if it hasn’t been a long one yet.
Yes, sometimes your motivation might be low but when you want something – really want something – even the low motivation is high enough for you to keep going.
When you chose well on what you are focusing on, I bet you, getting up to run into muddy field won’t be nearly as dreadful. My advice, for what it’s worth, would be to not be too worried about how to stay motivated to do something but how to chose the focus, the “why”. When your motivation petrol runs low, remind yourself your why.
If you can’t see any meaningful why, then you might need to change your focus, alter it a little, seek what really makes you happy – then get into overalls and make it happen 🙂
Please feel free to share you views in the comments – how do you stay inspired and motivated?
Late August in England is a bit like an opening act of drizzles inevitably followed by countless rainy days – you better learn to like them or you enter a season of awaiting for drier months to return. My boots are already saturated and it’s barely started to truly rain 😉 If you know of any good waterproof clothing and footwear that I can try, please comment below! Not many that I tested have lasted continuous battering of wetness over the years but there are so many different brands out there that I may have easily missed the gem that keeps one dry while trekking the arenas!
Now onto the positives!
No flies. You can’t argue with that one and it’s a huge relief not to have horses being eaten alive.
Great opportunities for harder work out for your horse! Simple groundwork over varied terrain improves body awareness, proprioception and muscle tone and is rather fun too 🙂
Test for your grit and determination! I find that the riders who continue their lessons over the winter and in challenging conditions, are the ones who are truly committed to improvement and reap the benefits of their work. There are conditions in which riding is not fun and schooling not really fair on the horse, like high winds and driving rain, but many challenging weather variations can generally be trained through. It certainly brings a special sense of accomplishment and most horses work well in not-so-perfect environment as long as they are focused and kept interested.
To the point 😉 We tend to keep the sessions shorter and certainly very focused when strolling around in the sun admiring the view is not an appealing option. This teaches good planning and tests rider’s ability to maintain focused as well as engaging horse’s attention. It’s also a good chance for an instructor to test the commitment of a client 😉
Working on the posture – both of the rider and the horse…
Rainy days are perfect for biomechanics bootcamp and I am yet to meet a rider who didn’t enjoy our sessions on Racewood simulator. They are intense but fun and allow the rider to fully focus on own body awareness and effectiveness.
All these little indoor spaces that are normally only suitable for very small horses or ponies can now be very handy for in-hand work and groundwork with your horse to help them with their own posture, muscle use, suppleness and flexibility.
Or alternatively just brave the outdoors and come for one of Aspire workshops 🙂 You never know, the sun might come out for long enough to have a great few hours of learning 🙂
What do you do in the autumn (Fall) when the weather becomes challenging? Do you continue your lessons/riding as normal? How do you alter your training? Do you like riding in the rain? 🙂
Today I would like to invite anyone who is up for it to take part in a little “first time when” challenge 🙂 I will start with my own “first time when” video… I can’t even start to tell you how many things I see wrong on it 😉
One rider told me today that she would love to go up a level competing wise but she knew she did not want to feel like a beginner again. Do you stay in your comfort zone of competency to avoid the discomfort of progress?
Let’s face it, raw progress is not particularly comfortable or graceful but it has never meant to be. My first experience of trying to ride passage was a mishmash of trying too hard, searching for the right feel, seeking connection and harmony with the horse and losing it with each step, creating power which I had no idea how to contain, trying to remain relaxed while maintaining tension needed for the movement…it was a mess!
I am quite ok with that for now. One of many riding goals I want to pursue is the skill of riding at Grand Prix level. Finances allow, I would like to compete at that level too. In the meantime, I am enjoying the “beginner” stage at that level and I hope to inspire many riders this year to set their own “progress goals” too 🙂
Your turn! What’s your “goal in progress”? If you have a video, link to it in the comments! Share your “first time when” on the way to the future skill you are working to acquire 🙂
Let’s start with saying this is not going to be a sports psychology advice…Just a simple story…
I’m sitting here with a cup of aromatic coffee next to me ready to write some of my thoughts on the above subject and you know ,that coffee I just made myself, it made me think . I love stories behind the end products and every good rider as well as every good coffee cup have a hell of a story to tell…
This particular hot, delicious, perfect drink of mine started somewhere in east Africa as a vulnerable, green/white, tasteless seed, planted carefully in a large bed in a shaded nursery. A lot of effort then went into making sure the conditions were as perfect as possible for the growth to happen.
The right amount of moisture in the soil, right amount of natural light, not too much not too little…
Isn’t it a little like the first contact we have with a horse? Before we even sit on one, before we even start seeing ourselves as riders, we simply fall in love with a horse. Or not. The seed is planted. Or doesn’t take.
Those first encounters matter and our perception of riding can be formed at that time.
Back to my coffee. Once the little tree sprouted it was moved to an individual pot and given all the necessary conditions to develop into a strong little plant that can grow independently. It then took its time to grow roots in the well prepared soil until it sat firmly in it and was ready for more growing adventures to come.
Whatever age we start riding at we can’t skip our “seedlings” stage. We need the right conditions, right teachers, right horses at this stage when our roots are still weak and underdeveloped, where smallest changes affect us…
It’s our first lessons at a riding school stage, first walk on a beach donkey or just watching horses in the neighbour’s paddock stage. Spider web thin bodies up into the welcoming air of something exciting.
It took my coffee seed 3 to 4 years of carefully monitored growth to start bearing the fruit…How very coincidental isn’t it? Good few years of basic training, having fun, loving horses, learning about them is what it takes to start seeing the fruit of it all. And that’s still nowhere near that coffee cup of mine.
Once cherries are ready, the harvest starts. Labour intensive and in most coffee countries done by hand.
Every coffee maker knows those steps. Nobody would try to harvest immature plants or make coffee out of seedlings. Every stage of coffee has it’s significance and time especially for it. The finished product is nothing without each and every step.
I find that in riding education we have this very same principle. Even our awkward, uncoordinated, sometimes frustrating phase is supremely important. We can be a very good learner-rider at each of these stages like each coffee plant can grow healthily into a supreme cherry barer. This doesn’t mean we are a great horseperson yet but we can derive pride and joy from taking part in the process.
In the life of immediate pleasures required to be right under our noses at the snap of the fingers it might be difficult to be in peace with slow growth of abilities. It’s important therefore that we remind ourselves about it for the good of the horses we ride and for our own enjoyment of the sport.
Where were we? Ah yes, the cherries. Most of the fruit are picked all-in-one-go in a step called strip picking but some finest arabica cherries are picked selectively i.e. only the ripe fruit are harvested by the pickers who rotate every 8 to 10 days. Long job, costly and time consuming.
Once harvested, the coffee cherries need to be processed…it’s a multi-step process in itself, again time and labour intensive…a bit like seat training…
The best advice I can give to all frozen horsey people and one that worked fantastically for me is: don’t fight the winter, embrace it!
The more we moan and wish it away the more it is on our minds and the more hate towards it we feel. That in turn brings us down, makes us into a rather depressed and fed up individual who quite easily finds life in the cold a big nuisance.
Quick Fixes for Short Days Blues
Get up early – as early as possible for you, ideally as close to sunrise as you manage. This will win you some daylight hours. If like me you are more of an owl than a lark, get up 10min earlier each morning for a set amount of days – after 10 days you will be getting up 100 minutes earlier than usual.
Train Harder – many professional riders treat winter as their down time to relax and be with the family but if you are reading this you are most likely a horse mad, ambitious amateur. That means that best thing for you to beat those winter blues might be to release as many endorphins into your blood stream as you can. Structured, intensive lessons are a great solution. Not only that you will feel better afterwards but you will be fit and ready for when the spring comes and you can ride more.
Focus – having lessons makes you think, it focuses your efforts and keeps you interested. It’s nice to wander around the arena in the sun or go for a hack on a stunning summer morning but when cold wind presses tears out of your eyeballs you need someone there suffering with you and spurring you on. Your instructor will always be colder standing still than you working out just in case you needed someone out there to feel worse than you feel 😉
Have a winter fitness regime – find something that suits your personality. You don’t have to run on a treadmill for an hour if you hate going to the gym. Pick something you like or perhaps something that you would like to try. I’ve been taking yoga classes for the last few weeks. Even though I still feel as if someone attached my limbs to four horses and let them run wild in a field during the sessions, I feel fabulous afterwards. Having suffered from some shoulders pain I noticed how much more supple I feel. There are plenty of activities to chose from. Go for it and do it once a week or more.
Winter is for Reading 🙂 – this might not be for everyone and parents with young children might struggle here I acknowledge but dark evenings are simply designed for book time 🙂 (or blog time!) If you agree, grab yourself a cup of tea/coffee/wine and start yourself a Winter Reading Ritual.
Stay Warm – thismight seem obvious but it took me years of trial and error to get this right! If you teach and stay outside for 12 hours a day it is extremely difficult to remain warm at all times. Standing still is the worst but equally, when you ride/muck out/hay up etc and sweat, you are then having to spend the rest of the day in damp clothes. Not great for staying warm.
Technical clothes that wick moisture well and keep you warm are not cheap and usually out of reach for many who work with horses or who keep horses on a shoestring budget.
The system that works for me is to have:
1) Layers – and have a change of clothes with you (the bottom layers)
2) Best wool underwear you can find, you will not regret it – I got a very thin wool vest from friend from Norway and it’s been my best winter friend ever since. It is very soft on the skin and unbelievably insulating.
It so happens that I am helping three lovely riders at the moment who are each battling with their own minds and this has inspired me to write this post.
Unless you are going through serious emotional issues that cause you distress and which might need professional attention, hear me out.
There is nothing fabulous about perfection.
It’s a done deal, end of, static, cold state that cannot be improved upon, that is never developing, never getting anywhere. There is nothing sexy, exciting, intriguing or curious about perfection.
Now, progress is another matter…Progress is “the After” in the “Before and After”, it’s what we have to show for our efforts. It’s our own, sweated out, laughed out, cried out journey. It’s ongoing, dynamic, changeable, unlimited, sometimes painful, sometimes beautiful.
It seems that The Dressage Convention is here to stay and will be a yearly event which I am very excited about as I couldn’t make this one in person.
If you are on Twitter, have a look at #TDCTalk tag for various updates from the event. Horse and Hound Magazine also ran a super tweet-report live from Bury Farm and I recommend having a look at their profile for many thought provoking lines: @horseandhound
Here is a little taste for what happened at the weekend. My resolution is to make the 2014 one in person!
The decision to achieve something we don’t yet have or to become someone we are not yet is only a mere start, a static point at which we plant our feet and prepare to give it a go. Anything can still happen at this stage, we might not move off at all, we might step back, we might step sideways.
The tricky bit here is that to get somewhere we have never been we must attempt things we have never attempted or explore ways we have never explored…and that involves change. The latter is probably the most difficult element of success in any area. Let’s have a little ponder on ways of getting things done…
Goals vs Habits
As some of you will know I write training plans for riders who ride with me. Part of these plans are monthly goals and these can be anything from achieving more suppleness in the rider’s hip, learning how to ask for correct inside poll flexion or approaching a jump in a rhythm and tempo suitable to the type of the jump. The goals are always clear and often simple, broken down into progressive tasks.
Recently, however, I started exploring the training plan in which instead of concentrating on the goal I focus the rider on habits…For example, I write down a goal as usual on the plan overview but don’t really mention this again, or call upon it, as we go. Instead, I ask the rider to follow 2-3 “action habits”…
This is a blog post I had planned for Monday and which got delayed to today due to life taking over! But here it is. I am sure many of you have heard the “no pain no gain” so called motivational mantra and I wonder how many of you believe in it and find it helpful in your own training/riding? Do you hear it from your instructors? Do you apply it to your horse(s)?
Addicted to pain
It so happens that my very tall and lanky brother became slightly obsessed with body building in his mid and late teens. He’d always been a very brainy child doing very own maths formulas and yet coming up with correct answers but one day he decided looking like daddy long legs wasn’t his idea of fun. That’s when I got to learn a lot about building muscles mass whether I wanted to or not!
The reason I am starting this post from body builders is that their obsession with getting bigger and stronger is quite comparable with general horsey person craze about horses.
For a bodybuilder, everything is about your muscles getting bigger. In most gyms you will find ‘no pain no gain’ written somewhere and if not on the wall it will be there as a tattoo on someone’s arm.
Most body builders love DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscular Soreness) – they rejoice in it because that’s when their muscles get bigger, stronger, faster…They also love the slow, increasing muscular effort that hits the hard to bear level – that’s when animal like sounds coming from your brother’s room (that you can no longer enter in a normal fashion because it is filled up with gym equipment and looks like Go Ape/Tarzan movie set) will annoyingly disturb you from watching replays of show-jumping shows…