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Motivation and Expertise - I want to be the absolute best rider I can be. But I’m also terrified that my best won’t be good enough. What do I do when it feels like it’s not working?

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Keys to an effective horse training session. I’ve trained a lot of horses. After nailing up my sign as a “professional horse trainer” several decades ago, I learned quickly that overhead is high in the horse business so you’d better make some hay if you’re going to pay your bills. Consequently, I rode many horses each day, breaking young ones and tuning up show horses.

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How clear communication and great preparation is your best support for an easy transition.

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Fall fairs, circuit championships, and club awards banquets signal the end of another horse show season. So how did it go? Did your shows, rodeos, or competitive trail rides meet your expectations? For the majority of horse owners, the answer to this question will likely be no. Stuff happens. And so we look toward the next year. But with chilly fall and winter weather looming, we all need some goals to motivate us to get off the couch and out to the arena on those cold nights!

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Have you ever felt like you’re getting in your own way? If so, you are not alone. As equestrians, we can be at particular risk of “self-sabotaging” when moving up a level in competition. This article will explore why this happens and what we can do to work against our tendency to make things harder for ourselves than they need to be. It is possible to tackle each new level with self-trust, confidence, and effective riding. All we need is the support of some mental skills and strategies.

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In January 2003, Penny Woodworth, who lives on Vancouver Island, BC, was taking a jumping lesson. “Smallish jumps, nothing exciting. My long-time error is looking down, which I did that day. My horse stopped, and I tumbled off. Not a bad fall at all, except that I landed with one butt-cheek on the ground pole. I got up and carried on, but I was crooked and stayed that way. After a week or so, still riding crooked and feeling shooting pains down my right leg, I went for physiotherapy. I had dislocated my sacroiliac (SI) joint. Regular physio treatments and exercises finally got it to stay in place and I continued riding.

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When you tack up your horse each day, what are you looking to accomplish? Regardless of your discipline, and whether you compete or not, I’m willing to bet that your goals are always related to learning. As riders we want to learn the physical, technical, and mental skills involved in partnering with a horse. We also work to help them learn the aids, manage their own bodies and nervous systems, and respond consistently and safely in a variety of circumstances. It all comes back to learning.

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Last summer I was watching a warm-up ring at Thunderbird Show Park in Vancouver, BC and noticed a rider who seemed to be having a hard time. Her horse was quite tense and wasn’t paying attention, despite her best efforts to create a contact. The horse seemed very distracted and when they trotted up to a practice jump he refused. The rider was fighting to retain composure, but her tension and frustration were evident. She managed to get over a few jumps at the trot but when they began cantering, the horse rushed the jumps and nearly bolted away on landing. After a couple of jumps she pulled up in the corner of the arena and I could see from her face that she was working hard to hold back tears.

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This issue we will discuss the surprisingly controversial topic of movement. As I consider this subject, an experience from long ago springs to mind. I was invited to ride a dressage horse who was a bodywork client, actively competing in Young Riders and very expensive.

Podcast host Alexa Linton speaks with Lockie Phillips. She says, "As most of you know, I love my mares, but in this episode, we get into the specifics of how we can love the mares in our lives even better, and support them as the fully intact and amazing."