Tag Archives: goals

You are never too old…

Bella and Rudy (owned by Stuart Boyle) before their lesson.

Social perception is an interesting thing. There is a time to go to school, time to buy a house, time to study, time to have children, time to get married etc etc If someone doesn’t quite fit into the structure of that timeline they might feel uncomfortable at best, maybe intimidated, underachieving, silly, irresponsible, selfish, rather mad?

One of the greatest characteristics of equestrian sports is that they challenge that social pathway and free us from many false constraints if only we let it happen. Life somehow thrives on change and improvement rather than on contentment and static…

Perhaps rather than age, social pressure, social norms or someone else’s view on our lifestyle it is our desire to improve oneself that could drive our decisions, plans and goals…

anna and stella
Aspire bootcamp session to focus on riders seat, effectiveness and technique

This short post is for all riders out there who think or were told that they are “too old” for something – whether you heard you are too old to ride a pony in some fun games or too old to have improvement goals or competition dreams. Break the age rule 🙂 Dream high 🙂 Aspire…


Susanna Halonen about Learning to Deal with Uncertainty with Horses

Horses are your love, your energy, your oxygen. Yet sometimes you have moments in which you are so exhausted, frustrated or overwhelmed that all you want to do is give up. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this. And this doesn’t happen only with horses, but also in life in general! This is why resilience is such an important skill to learn and continuously develop.

Psychologists refer to resilience as the ability to cope with problems and setbacks, something which is common with both horses and in life. Some people are naturally more resilient than others, but the good news is you can learn to become more resilient so you can recover from setbacks quicker, overcome challenges more effectively, and have more fun while doing it.

There are two key factors which make up resilience: persistence and flexibility. Persistence is driven by the inner hope you have, whereas flexibility enables you to try different things to overcome things which stand between you and reaching your goals. This is wisely put by Charles Darwin, and is equally relevant to your success with horses than to the survival of our species: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

So how do you make sure you bring persistence and flexibility into your training with your horse? There are a few simple steps that will help you get started.


1. Identify the key goal you have with your horse. E.g. “The one essential goal I would like to reach with my horse in 2014 is…”

2. Avoid distractions from other competing goals. Scratch things off the list which are not helping you reach your number one goal. It’s all about prioritising & focus!

3. List five alternative pathways to achieve this goal. Really get creative here. It’s these pathways that help you remain flexible and think of alternatives when a challenge or setback appears.

This exercise has definitely helped me focus my training with my young horse Mickey (aka Eurythmic). I’ve outlined my answers below to give you inspiration for you to try the exercise yourself.

1. My goal is to finish in the top 10 of a Premier League 5-year old young horse class.

2. Now that the first show is weeks away, I’ve cut down on jumping and upped the number of schooling sessions we do in a week. Every time I get on him, regardless of whether it’s a hack, jump, gallop or schooling session, I make an effort to ride him properly so he’s working through the back into the bit whilst on front of my leg. I’ve also become more aware of my posture as well and how it affects him.

3. – I travel to my dressage trainer Sarah Millis bi-weekly for a focused schooling session.
– I get another dressage trainer to come to me weekly or bi-weekly if I can not make it to Sarah’s.
– If Mickey gets stuck in the schooling sessions too much, I make an effort to school him on the gallops as I would in the arena to get his mind and body in the right place.
– I use pole work and grid work regularly to strengthen his hind end and teach him to use it more effectively.
– If we don’t finish in the top 10, I make an effort to take him to a few novice tests in the fall to get him more familiar to a show environment, making him ready for the 6-year old classes in 2015.

Now I want you to put your resilience into practice. Complete the exercise yourself so you’re ready to persist and remain flexible when you work towards your main riding goal for 2014.

Would be great if you wanted to share some of the exercise in the comments below – the other readers can help you come up with other pathways too!

Guest Blogger Susanna Halonen about Riding for the Love of the Sport


The main competition season is approaching and you are training hard to prepare for your first show. You start to feel those very familiar nerves from last weekend. What if I make a mistake in my riding? What if my horse spooks? What if we forget the test? These are only a few of the million questions that are probably floating around in your head. And I’m here to encourage you to forget about them all. You can choose to stop worrying, and instead ride for the love of the sport.

And why should you focus on doing that? You have goals, you have ambitions, and you want to improve. Of course these all play a role in helping you enjoy the upcoming competition season and perform at your best, but these are only possible if you remember why you ride: for the love of the sport.

Research has shown that the biggest predictor of burnout or loss of an athlete’s performance is due to the interest in their sport decreasing. Of course there will be times you love the sport more than others, but constantly reminding yourself of the positives will help your focus, performance, and enjoyment. It will also help you to bounce back from defeat quicker and adapt to new challenges better. So what are some of the positives of riding? I’ve outlined some of my favourite points below.

  • It allows me to build a special relationship with a horse.
  • It makes it possible for me to experience those special moments of harmony when I’m one with the horse.
  • It enables me to keep forever learning & growing as a person and rider.
  • It keeps me healthy and fit.
  • It allows me to exercise in fresh air.
  • It helps me connect with nature.
  • I find a sense of belonging by socialising with the other riders at the yard.

These are only a few of the many things which remind me why I love the sport so much. Now I want you to come up with your own list!

Think of at least 5 things which remind you why you ride. Have this list somewhere handy and have a look through it when you’re feeling unmotivated or getting too stressed out about competing. Keep going back to it, and adding to it. It’s a great tool that will remind you to ride for the love of the sport and enjoy your riding more!

Good luck in your riding adventures & until next time!

Susanna Halonen is a Finnish rider based in Southeast England. She offers positive psychology coaching to help you to get the most of your riding, be it enjoyment or performance wise. You can follow her blog here: http://shdressage.co.uk/ 

Winter is coming…If you create the right habits they will take you beyond your wildest dreams…

meme colin powell
I took this photo a week ago in Poland – beautiful golden autumn in one part of Europe, deluge in the other!

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”…

Continue reading Winter is coming…If you create the right habits they will take you beyond your wildest dreams…

What’s all the fuss with aspirations and passion…

Hello there 🙂 Everything I post on here is inspired by conversations I have with clients, friends; by things I read or hear about on daily basis.  Today, a chat with an old friend who is having a hard time juggling life with a small child and a partner who is rather negative about her aspirations have both inspired this post.


I don’t want to sound like I’m telling people how to live their lives so please take it or leave it but here it goes…If you have a passion for something do everything to immerse yourself in it. If you read this blog right now and have some shy goals of starting to ride or setting up an Etsy shop for your creative product, or go on a world tour or starting a process to prepare yourself and your horse to an event a year from now, make a step towards it today. Why?

Continue reading What’s all the fuss with aspirations and passion…