How it all began
I often get asked how I became an equestrian coach and the truth is that I kind of fell into it. It wasn’t in the career plan – but to be honest in my early twenties I didn’t have any sort of a plan (and in my early forties I still don’t!).
My coaching journey began by accident. I had just finished working on a well-known International show jumping yard and had returned to my hometown of Leek to study for a degree in Journalism at Staffordshire University.
I gallantly maintained that I was having a break from horse owning during my university years, but it won’t come as a surprise that before I had even started my degree I had acquired an amazing but quirky semi-retired 3* event horse who I kept at a local livery yard. It was at this point that people started asking me for advice which quickly rolled into planned lessons.
I quickly found that I really enjoyed being able to help people work through problems and see progression, but although it was rewarding, in my heart I still got more pleasure from being the rider. I found certain situations quite challenging and sometimes even a little frustrating, but I also welcomed the income and the challenge of working with the horses which kept me wanting to learn more.
As the years progressed and my skills developed, I began to understand that these challenges actually said more about me as a person than it did about the individual I was ‘helping’. As soon as I realised that my expectation levels were far too high I began to relax and my love of being a coach really blossomed.
Over the years the tables have very much turned – I now get more pleasure out of coaching someone to achieve something they had only ever dare dream of than I do when I am competing. I don’t think there is anything more rewarding that being trusted to be a small part of someone’s progression.
Finding Confidence Coaching
Ten years ago and with my UCKK Caoching qualification behind me, I fell into equestrian confidence coaching by accident…. and how lucky I am that I did (thank you Lou!). In reality I think a lot of coaching is based around growing horse and rider confidence in order to develop new skills and progress – but this time it had a label!!
In my role as a confidence coach I have learnt so much about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses and most importantly a lot about mindset – but this doesn’t even scratch the surface when comparing it to what I have learnt about coaching, especially when it comes to coaching confidence.
I am a huge believer that confidence can be coached and the further through my coaching journey I go, I realise more and more that successful riding is probably about 40% skill, 55% mindset and 5% luck.
Coaching confidence is a really interesting subject because the majority of the people that I coach are so much more capable than they realise. Their skill set is far more advanced than their hopes and dreams – it is their mindset that holds them back.
I wish they could see what I see
I quite often say to my clients – ‘I wish you could see what I can see’ and by that, I mean if they could see how capable they were and that they already had the skills to do what they wanted to achieve, then maybe their confidence would instantly increase.
Confidence is such a complex subject and it affects riders of all ages, stages and experience levels. Everyone has a limit and when nearing their limit they feel the nerves creeping in. Of course this manifests itself in different ways, the feeling sick, the dry mouth, the shakes, the lack of ability to eat anything, the butterflies in the stomach, the going quiet, or being ‘too loud’, the actually being sick – the list goes on.
To me it doesn’t matter if a riders confidence starts to thin at the thought of simply getting on, or by jumping 1.10m – it’s all relative and important to that person and if it matters to them then it matters to me.
It doesn’t matter how a lack of confidence manifests, I’ve had riders who happily jump a 70cm show jumping course but the thought of hacking down a quiet farm road in walk is enough to put them off food for days. Equally another immensely capable rider jumping 1.35m show jumps on grass, and regularly hacks out with confidence, but dissolved at the thought of jumping a 60cm tyre jump on a cross country course.
Is it because these riders weren’t capable of what was being asked? Absolutely 100% not!
If they could see what I see they would be hacking without a problem and popping around BE cross country courses – and making a really good job of it.
At the start of every confidence camp I always remind riders that everyone is there for the same reason, it doesn’t matter if they are stretching their confidence limit is just by turning up to camp, or by jumping fences that someone else perceives to be big. In order to progress everyone still needs support and encouragement.
I believe that we all have so much still to learn, but my journey so far has taught me that confidence is a fragile and very precious gift. Never look at someone and assume that they have their sh1t together because people can be exceptionally good at hiding how they feel and putting a ‘brave face’ on.
Everyone has a confidence limit and it’s important for everyone to know that is perfectly ok….. but remember confidence can be stretched in order for it to grow, so what you do with your own confidence is in your hands.