Coaching through disabilities – CPD workshop

A BHS Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshop also open to all RDA, Pony Club and BD coaches

One in five people have a long-standing, limiting disability or life-changing condition, and the benefits of interaction with horses and riding are well known. This CPD workshop is an introduction to this huge topic, helping to signpost coaches to a range of practical resources about different disabilities, and safe, thoughtful practices.

The workshop will include a review of life-changing illnesses and injuries in adults (eg Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, sight loss, spinal damage and head injuries) and discussion about the practical issues of coaching them. From mounting and dismounting, adapting tack, contra-indications to riding and working with therapists, there is plenty to discuss!

The roles of RDA , BD, BEF, and Para Equestrian competition will be mapped out as well as the emerging field of equine assisted learning (EAL). It will draw on sports psychology principles about the importance of language and recognition of values and beliefs. Finally, it will highlight how BHS coaches can engage with local RDA groups and how coaching pathways can build on existing qualifications.

Workshop Approach

This one-day, unmounted (6 hours) workshop will cover the topics in an engaging way, drawing on the group’s experience as well as presenting useful information.  There will be a comprehensive workbook and resource guide to take away, and the opportunity to build a network with other local coaches.

Venues and dates – dates for 2020 are being arranged around the country, please contact us for more info. The earliest ones are:

  • March 5 – Thurs South Wellington Riding, Hampshire
  • March 17th Tues W. Midlands Cavalier Centre, Shropshire
  • March 24th Tues South / West Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy, Christchurch
  • April 20th – Mon South East Maidstone, Kent
  • May 5th – Tues South West Avon Riding Centre, Bristol

Cost and booking

BHS / APC member £45 RDA Coach £45

BD/Pony Club Coach £45 Non-Coaches £50

Places are limited to ensure personal attention, so please reserve your place by emailing — We will send you joining instructions , with directions, timing and payment details. Receipts and

Teach your horse to relax

It frustrates me when people ask for a horse to be a ‘confidence giver’.  When we ride we broadly expect to be able to direct the horse’s energy.  A basic knowledge of psychology tells us that our mind affects our body and our unconscious reactions. When we are with horses, especially riding, any body tension in the rider will be felt by the horse.

It is a circuit: the rider’s mind impacts the rider’s body. It is connected to the horse, so the horse feels our response.  The horse will translate our tension – or confidence, or determination –  through their body to their mind and then of course react.  Some horses are bred to be more alert and are sharper to ride, and all of them have a hard wired response to flee danger..

We need to help our horses to relax and trust us when we ride. One of my dressage trainers, Bill Noble,  stressed to us that we needed to teach our horses to relax by always being calm, clear and consistent.  “You can always add impulsion , but you can’t take away tension.. . ” was a mantra to ride by.

So, in my humble opinion, we need to give our horses confidence and build their trust in us,  not expect them to put up with our nervousness!  This is a step by step process, starting with understanding the stresses on a  horse, taking time to build your relationship, and above all – to keep learning.  Watch good riders,  observe at clinics, volunteer at big events, improve your balance and fitness, train with coaches that really understand how to produce a sound and calm horse…. It’s a journey, stay positive and enjoy it!!




Jump with confidence again

Jumping with confidence is a block for many riders at some part in their riding career. It is an area where real experience of training horses and riders for jumping – as well as mindset coaching – is needed.  The following example demonstrates how NLP can be built into jumping lessons to develop new behaviours.

Breaking a cycle of lost confidence in horse and rider

Jenny used to love jumping, but a series of incidents had left both her and her mare nervous at the thought of jumping. The horse would sweat and start napping, if they went near the jumps in their schooling field. Of course this made Jenny tense and nervous too and the cycle just escalated.

First, it was important to break the cycle with a change of states – for once the rider has changed their emotional state eg from fear to confidence, the horse will quickly follow.  This is a key part of why an instructor can usually ride their pupil’s horse better than they can.

So, as a pre-assessment I ensured that the issue with jumping was not due to back soreness, lameness, poor fitting tack or any other issue with the horse.  I was able to assess the rider’s competence, contact and balance on the flat.  Therefore, in this situation as an experienced instructor I knew that the jumping could be made safe, enjoyable and appropriate for the horse and rider at their stage of training.

In our first session together I asked Jenny to remember a time when she had really enjoyed jumping – a magic moment. She described it to me and by asking more questions we ‘intensified’ the memory. Then we ‘anchored’ it so that she could bring the memory and feeling back when she needed it. It was easy to see by the way her posture changed and her face lit up… By using it during the lesson she was able to keep the good memory as she came towards a small grid. The horse picked up Jenny’s new found confidence and relaxation, so she also relaxed significantly and we were able to work over trot and canter poles.

Then, as we talked of moving to small jumps, Jenny admitted that she was seeing a horrible image of crashing among poles, which was interfering with the good anchor we had set up. Just 5 minutes later the ‘collapse anchor’ technique to shift the image left Jenny incredulous! ‘I can’t believe it, it’s just gone’ she said!

Try as she would, she couldn’t get it back either…..  They finished that session with some low jumps approached in trot and canter, a huge smile on both their faces!  This example summarises an important  aspect of the relationship between coach and rider. NLP techniques should only be used in the right context and with regard for horse and rider safety.   Please beware of working with these techniques with people who are not qualified – or insured – to train riders and their horses in mounted sessions.

Wobbling in your learning

For Liz the relationship with Luca and unpicking his issues was a life lesson about riding and training horses.  His ‘resistance’ turned out to be response to Wobbler syndrome and looking back there were a number of other signs too.

Even low level pain can affect a horse’s behaviour, and these changes can be the first sign of a veterinary issue. This led Liz to awareness of how  common schooling techniques such as working in deep surfaces, excessive lunging, lack of road work and overuse of gadgets  can cause significant long term impacts. Understanding the bio-mechanics of horse and rider, and riding with softness and suppleness in mind are key. Allowing the horse time to develop is also a key philosophy.

Old fashioned approaches of ‘sorting an horse out’ and riding through mis-behaviour can bring short term results, but may not help your horse stay sound or develop trust in the longer term. After all, horses simply don’t spend time plotting how to evade work and annoy the rider…


Paying someone to ride your horse?

One day, you notice that your work-life balance has gone AWOL….  Karen now runs her own livery and training yard and explains how coaching with Liz helped her:

 “.. Previously I used to work teaching IT, which I loathed. To add insult to injury, I ended up paying someone else to ride my horses, which is why I was working in the first place!  So I had taken the decision to stop working to concentrate on the horses and teach at local riding schools part time. However, it wasn’t adding up financially. It was so frustrating and I was losing my confidence that I could make a go of it…”

One of the biggest impacts of coaching was to really push her teaching business to a clear target group.  By setting goals that played to her strengths, Karen became determined that this was what she wanted to do:

“…Before I only had 1-2 lessons to teach a week, now I am kept busy with teaching and running my yard, and I am able to afford to keep my horses, have training, and improve the yard to really build the business….”

“..Looking back I was not focused on getting pupils and giving lessons, I kept looking at different options to make ends meet. I was able to pin down what I really wanted, so now I stick to one path and do it properly. I have advertised and feel more confident because I believe I can help these pupils, before I didn’t really have that confidence. I’ve stuck to it and talked to everyone I know about it and am very positive.

A great example of how ‘knowing what you want – what you really, really want’ – is the key to effective goal setting…!