Are your excuses bigger than your dreams?

I had many reasons to skip out on the appointment my friend made for me to try horses at a top barn.

–> I could have slept in, claiming I was too tired to get up that early.

–> I could have said it was too cold to go that far, especially since I had left my shell jacket behind.

–> I could have let fear get the better of me, saying I wasn’t enough of a rider to see those horses (let alone try them).

–> I could have said that since 2 of them were so far out of my budget it wasn’t funny and there was no way in &*(^ I’d ever be able to afford them, that it would be a waste of everyone’s time seeing them.

–> I could have also said that there was no way I’d be able to get home from the barn and no way I’d walk to town (~2mi) in my (pull-on) tall boots.

Or– I could look at the appointment as a gift to make a new connection and maybe see a good horse.

I pulled on my breeches and boots and called an Uber.

(Yes, I did end up walking the ~2mi to town in my tall boots to call my Uber home. But it was worth every step.)

We self-sabotage ourselves far more frequently than we realize.

We look at ourselves and get caught up in the stories about the muchness and many-ness of our own self-worth and how we think others perceive us, that we so often miss the point of it all: we show up and push through the discomfort because there is someone waiting for us to step up and show it can be done.

The best thing that I did for myself last year had nothing to do with horses– it was to surround myself with people committed to playing bigger.

Watching my mentors take risk after risk pushed me to do the same.

Choosing the gift of the appointment over my insecurities brought an even larger gift with it: the new fuel of seeing what is possible and within reach.

Just like watching my mentors take risks invites me to do the same, the risks you take free the people around you to also step up in their lives.

Who is needing you to step up in you life, to choose not to settle in some area or to see you conquer your fears?

The next “stretch” decision you make may be the push someone else needs to take that risk they are running from.

P.S. — By the way, a deal was just worked out for one of the “impossible” horses I tried in that appointment. What you want IS closer than you think.

Are You In the Room With the Right People?

Do whatever it takes to put yourself in the room with them.

Tonight, looking around the table at dinner, I realized I had done it: I had created the same environment for myself in business as I had in other areas of my life.

Many years ago, I realized that in order to be the type of rider I wanted to be, I needed to put myself in the arena with the type of riders who were already doing what I wanted to be doing. I realized that it was better to be a fly on the wall–absorbing everything in those barns– than to be top dog at some lesser training barn and work my way up in the sport, going from barn to better barn.

I learned far, far more than training techniques: with the barn came a set of expectations for performance, for quality of horses, for level of care and how things would just run. My learning curve was steep. I cried many, many more tears than I’d ever care to admit. But I did learn and I did rise. At some point being a fly on the wall morphed into riding the horses no one else wanted, which soon became keeping the top horses fit when their main rider was away, and then into being asked questions about my own training approach and getting top horses of my own to train.

About a year or so ago, I realized that the same principle held true in other areas of my life, whether it was in entrepreneurship or another aspect of business. Looking around the table tonight at dinner last night, I realized I had done it: I had put myself a table with a bunch of successful, self-made entrepreneurs the same way I had put myself in a barn with top riders. I have lots to learn, but I’m at the table.

Who is it that you need to be in the room with to help propel you to the next level of growth?

I challenge you today to identify and reach out to 3 people that are noted for achieving success in an area you’d like to grow in. Tell them how much you admire their success in a particular area and open the door to have a mutually beneficial relationship with them. See where it goes!


Trust yourself. (But test always.)

The most important journey I am on as a rider is learning to trust myself.

Trust that I can keep my center of gravity above the horse’s center of gravity.

Trust that I know what to do to improve the horse and trust that my instincts are correct.

The former I learned through lots of seat work, of riding without stirrups and having my bio mechanics picked apart and put back together, but mostly through a many almost-flying lessons (and few flying lessons).

The latter I began to learn from a sales horse I was assigned to ride. He was a small tour horse and one of the first FEI horses I got to ride. But boy, was it a steep learning curve.

Up until I rode that horse, many people had told me I was an ineffective rider.

That gelding would mess with me.

I would ask him to do something, say a half pass. He’d start out fine, but a few strides in he’d test the boundaries.

He would sit on my leg. He would stop going sideways. He’d lose the forward. He’d grab the bit.

I hate to say it– most of the time he had me.

I’d apply my aids on to correct him. He’d give a half-hearted response, or barely one at all. I took it.

I settled for 5s and 6s, content just to be doing the movement *at all* (again, one of my first FEI schoolmasters, here). He’d thought he’d hit the jackpot.

Until the day my instructor decided to teach me half-steps on him. She assisted me at first, and he gave them at first. But as she stepped away and had me try them on my own– that’s when things went sideways.

He sat on my leg. I kicked, but couldn’t keep him connected over his topline. He trotted off.

I kept him over his topline. He sat on my leg. I kicked. That 17.1h gelding went straight up, high-ho silver style on me.

The very next day I learned to ride effectively.

I learned that to be successful with this horse, I needed to provide mental stimulation, not just physical exercise. I learned that I needed to ride him at the top of HIS game, rather than at the top of mine.

I learned to focus on the response he gave when I applied my aids and not settle for half-hearted responses. I learned to ride pro-actively, to change things every few strides so he stayed on his toes.

Most of all, I learned I needed to trust myself and rely on my intuition. I learned I need to sense when he needed change and where I need to test HIS limits.

The voice on the ground didn’t always have all of the answers. But I do, if I listen and trust myself.

How much do YOU trust yourself?

Don’t let things stagnate

OK, on the scale of 1-10, how stagnate do you ride?

Let’s face it– to the outside observer, dressage training is about as exciting as watching cement dry. But from the saddle, do you ride like drying cement or do you ride like you’re doing a World Cup freestyle?

It is incredibly easy to over drill things. Maybe you’re perpetually trying to get the horse in front of your leg; maybe she is as stiff as a 2×4 or it feels like your hands have been strapped to lead weights. Whatever it is, you get caught up in the yucky feeling and to keep doing the same thing over and over and over again…and then again on the other side.

Yet, I realized today there are other options available.

Instead of making pushing through the yucky feeling the focal point of my ride, I let those things be a footnote.

The point became the journey, the dance. The point became the responsiveness to my aids as we moved through the arena: serpentines, lateral work, transitions, circles, and whatever else I felt like. When ever I encountered the yucky feeling, I addressed it and then moved on quickly. Remember, footnote not focal point.

When I chose the World Cup freestyle over cement drying, I was free to experiment, to keep testing the limits and pushing the bounds. I could address something (like stiffness), find improvement, let it go and move on to something else exciting. When I came back to subject (like stiffness), the improvement was still there.

I have to ask– when you ride, do you seek increments of improvement or do you repeat until something is at a certain level?

Stop trying to ride so correct and just RIDE!

OR: Ride with your heart, not just your head.

Seemingly from the time I first started dressage, various instructors have told me some variation of needing to let go and ride a little more from the right brain, a little more from the heart, and much more fluidly. From my view in the judge’s box at C, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

There is something about dressage that makes the “A” type personalities geek out. It is a heady sport for intellectuals and perfectionists alike. Yet, if we just leave it there, if we focus only on the mechanics of correct riding, we lose the other side of it– the surprising fine art quality the discipline has.

I live for the moments where I feel something click for the horse, and especially for the moments where I feel the horse go, “Hey, this is FUN!” It is in those moments, where I feel the horse start to be with me, where he starts to add his own flare to the movement and express himself. Those are the moments of joy, of freedom, of expression, and of really dancing together.

Sometimes it is the simple things that make it fun.

The other day, I felt the horse switch into “FUN mode” at the end of a lengthening. Up unto that point, I had been focused on trying to keep him connected from my inside leg to outside rein and flexed slightly to the inside…riding theory instead of the horse under me.

That lengthening kicked us into FUN mode and everything started to flow. I stopped being so hands-y. I breathed deeply. He breathed deeply.  We took another step towards being partners rather rider-on-horse.

I started thinking: What do you ride? I mean, what do you actually ride?

Is it theory and how things “should” be?

Is it the training scale?

Is it the movements of a dressage test, a pattern?

Is it movements from the level you WANT to be at?

Or do you ride the relationship, the partnership?

The feeling under you that you seek?

Or the feeling within you that you want to enjoy?