Making the best of it…

The first action to take is to throw away our preconceived notions of what we should be doing, or what we want to be doing and instead concentrate on what we can do. If we are always yearning for something else, we forget to enjoy what we have. After all if we are not happy with what we have, why do we think we will be happy with more?

The world is often difficult and even more so at the moment. So adjust your expectations and your threshold for happiness will change also. If your reduce your aims while life is challenging, you are more likely to reach your objectives and then feel satisfied. Setting yourself up to fail, doesn’t get you anywhere.

If you are struggling with stress and anxiety at the moment, don’t expect your riding to be calm and measured. You will only end up beating yourself up over it. Reduce your expectations. Now might not be the best time to try and teach your horse half-pass, instead do the things you both find easy, so that you end your schooling session smiling.

It doesn’t matter if you put back your desire to a medium level dressage test for another 6 months, in the grand scheme of things at the end of your life you are not going to lie there thinking about the fact that it took you a year longer to move up a level than you had planned. Remember the 5 rule. If it isn’t going to worry you in 5 years time, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it now.

Life can be difficult,  but it can be rewarding and entertaining and enjoyable, and even if it the moment we have to look a little harder and a little deeper to find the pleasure in the moments, they are still there…

Winter blues

The winter can be a hard time for many of us. Our positive energy seems to leech away with the sunshine and things that were once easy can seem very hard. Trying to pull a heavy rug onto your horse can seem dispiriting and arduous when you know that on another day you would be able to do it without a seconds thought. Life can seem like that sometimes, as though you are wading through treacle, and the winter can be a tricky time of year.

Here are some top tips to help you cope with the winter:

Accept it. Accept that it is harder, you will find it more difficult, have less energy, feel more overwhelmed. Acceptance helps us deal with things, as we are no longer fighting against them, but rather using our energy to find solutions.

Remember it doesn’t last for ever. It can feel interminable as you are sliding around in the mud with sharp horses pulling on your arms, but actually it is only for a few months and then the tips of the daffodils will appear.

Be kind to yourself. It’s natural to be more tired, less enthusiastic in the winter. We live in a society that is always driving people forwards. It’s not always helpful. It is okay to take time out, to not always strive to achieve.

Enjoy the good bits. Some moments in winter are glorious. The flip side of the shorter days is that we get to see sunrise and sunset, and watching the winter sun rise over frosty fields has to be one of the most wonderful views. If you didn’t have horses you wouldn’t get to be out in the beautiful winter landscape.

The winter isn’t all doom and gloom, and remember the days are ticking along, and it won’t be that long till it’s spring again!

The final chapter

Life is comprised of an endless circle. We are born, we live and then we die. In families there is a constant movement, as children are born and the elderly die. With our horses and dogs the same is also true though the cycles are generally much quicker. The problem is always that the young are cuter.

For anyone who is dealing with an elderly relative slowly deteriorating towards death I can highly recommend Marika Cobbold’s wonderful novel Guppies for Tea . Animals are different to humans in that you can choose when is the right time to call it the end. It is so hard watching our animals suffer, that we can decide when enough is enough.

It is all too easy to keep our animals going for too long, because of our own emotions around the topic. As we slip out of the summer, this is often the time of year that we realise quite how old our animals are, as there joints feel the first nip of winter in the air.

It is so hard, and it never gets easier, no matter how many horses or dogs you have during your life, each and everyone of them leaves a gap. Remember all the good times, remember all the amazing rides, or walks, or priceless small moments that make up our lives.

And remember in the end that grief is the price we pay for love. And think how very cold and lonely the world would be if we never loved, people, dogs, horses, endless other pets. I once had a goose that I adored and was heartbroken when it died. And I know that despite all my tears my life has been better and richer for all the things I have loved, and I wouldn’t change any of it.

Some people have all the luck…

…no really, they do!

You meet people who just seem lucky, the horse they pick wins, their raffle tickets comes up first, their card hand bristles with great cards, while yours is full of nondescript 3s and 4s.

I noticed the other day whilst playing scrabble with my grandfather that every handful of letters he picked out were consistently full of high scoring fantastic letters. Every hand, without fail. My hand had the usual mix of indifferent letters with the occasional good ones thrown in.

It’s such a great metaphor for life. Some people simply do have great luck, what they do with it is up to them. Most people have average luck. But in scrabble if you play well it is possible to beat the person with the great set of letters, not every time, but it is possible.

So when you see the lucky girl at the show, with the amazing horse and the seemingly effortless life, remember you can also do well. You can have trained harder, you can have spent more time with your horse, so that you know instinctively that they are going to struggle with the flag in the corner, so you are going to need extra bend coming into that corner to prevent a spook.

My dressage cobs could on a good day beat flighty warmbloods simply by steadily carrying out their tests and being well trained. So, we may not have all the luck, but if we do the most we can with the luck we are given, we can achieve anything!

And remember even the lucky have bad days, and every so often I can beat my grandfather at scrabble and my satisfaction is always increased by knowing that I have beaten him with a less strong hand than his hand.

Are you having a bad day?

Everyone has a bad day every so often, and then every so often you have a terrible day when you feel like you have slithered all the way down the longest snake on the snakes and ladders board, right back to the bottom…

Sounds familiar? Don’t despair! First take a few deep breaths. When we are anxious we breath more shallowly and take in less oxygen, our brains interpret this a stress and then we become more anxious. So breathe – I know its hard but it really does help, you can do it anywhere, you can do it discretely, its free and you can do it by yourself.

Once you have breathed, tell yourself it is okay to have a bad day. You are not a robot you don’t function the same from day to day, we are affected by the world around us, and our triggers. We are constantly in motion, and evolving.

Remind yourself how far you have come, don’t focus on today, imagine a graph, steadily rising, this is simply a blip, not a trend.

Reduce your expectations for today. So, you had planned with your new found confidence to go on a longer hack by yourself today, but that was going to be a challenge so today is not a good day to do that. Why not lead your horse round that hack instead? Or do some groundwork or give them a massage? This is not failure, it is adjusting to the circumstances, it is sensible.

Be kind, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. Look after yourself, chocolate, hot bath, early night, good book, whatever you need.

And then tomorrow, you will wake up and the world will look different, feel different and you will wonder why yesterday seemed so tricky, and then you will carry on with your day…

A kind word…or two

By Lizzie Hopkinson


It is so easy to criticise, to point out the flaws and the weaknesses. People will always complain about bad experiences, but won’t necessarily share the good experiences that they have received. Don’t believe me…spend some time on Trip Advisor. I read a long review by a gentleman for a holiday cottage where he complained at length the placement of the coat hooks…

So it lovely to recently receive two pieces of positive feedback:

“I was given your CD for Christmas finally watched yesterday and just wanted to say how brilliant I thought it was, so enlightening it throws a very different perspective on how to see problems. I have a very spooky part Arab and am an older rider not the best combination but your CD has really made me look at the way I approach my training.Thank You!”

This was from a customer who had been given “Understanding Horse Performance Brain, Pain or Training?” the DVD, and we were so pleased to be sent this message about how it had helped her and her horse.

The second was an email from a reader of our blog, and magazine that we contribute to “Horsemanship”

“Thank you Liz, needed to read this today. Had a big unexpected bump in my journey with my horse and felt like a failure!”

I love writing, and hope that the blogs and article that I write do help people, but I don’t know, I write them and send them out into the world with little or no feedback, so it was really lovely for me to receive this feedback from a reader.

I think we could all benefit from praising a little more, and criticising a little less, so the next time that you have a great experience somewhere, whether you get great service from a waitress, or read a good article, or learn something from someone, why not tell them? You will probably make their day!


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Sue’s Standpoint – Wait but why?

By Sue Palmer

This blog really hit home with me, and I’m sure it will with some of you as well.  It’s about appreciating today rather than searching for a better tomorrow.  About how life is made up of the individual days, hours, minutes, and being present in each of those is important.


Mentioned in the blog are a couple of TED talks.  I hadn’t come across TED talks until I met my husband Simon, but they’re BRILLIANT!!!  If you haven’t watched any, google and watch a few ?


Anyway, the ones mentioned are ‘The Surprising Science of Happiness’ by Dan Gilbert ( and ‘Inside The Mind Of A Master Procrastinator’ by Tim Urban (


I hope you enjoy them as much as I did 🙂

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Don’t quit!


By Sue Palmer

Struggling to keep a balance in life in the run up to Christmas, and huddling into so many layers against the cold, I came across this poem today.  It fitted just right, so I thought I’d share it.  I hope you find it helpful.


When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.


Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow-

You may succeed with another blow.


Often the goal is nearer than,

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.


Success is failure turned inside out-

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.


Edgar Albert Guest,

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If you’re tempted to quit…

…remember why you started.

My friend Jo bought me a ‘jar of smiles’ for my birthday (Positive Thinking Quotations In a Jar) packed with positive sayings. It sits by my bed and every so often my son and I read a few. Yesterday he picked out ‘If you feel like quitting, remember why you started’. This was perfect timing for me in relation to the fitness program I started recently. My motivation is not only to be fitter, healthier, and less likely to need hip and knee replacements when I’m older, but equally importantly, to be able to run with Philip and our Shetland Bransby Stella now Philip is wanting to do more trot and canter work.

Philip started school this week, and whilst he seems absolutely fine with that, it was emotionally traumatic for me (as for so many other mums and dads), and the tiredness caused by the emotional overload rolled over into other parts of life. This morning I was back out running again, and to my great surprise even enjoying myself while I ran – which is something I never thought would happen!

What have you started that you’re tempted to give up on? Can you remember why you started it in the first place? If plan A isn’t working, can you find a plan B, or C? Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be, but if you’ve started something worth doing that’s right for you, I hope this gives you a little nudge to stick at it.


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