Sports coaching

What’s on with ARP Equestrian Coaching this Spring?

By | Equestrian, Sports coaching

After two years of struggle (and no clear end in sight) Covid has made life difficult, sad, frustrating and exhausting for just about everyone.  In a spirit of New Year Optimism and in line with the energy with which I see people getting out and about with their horses, I have put together a comprehensive programme of equestrian events for Spring 2022.

We will have:

  • Dressage test riding (how do I get an extra few percent in my test);
  • Polework to develop strength, suppleness and horse-rider coordination;
  • Coaching focus on the rider (how you can ride to get the best ‘conversation with your horse);
  • Coachng focus on the horse (what sort of exercises will most help my horse in his work?);
  • Jumping for nervous or novice horses / riders and a progressive session working on jumping technique.
  • Zoom chats

My aim throughout is for you to be enjoying what you are doing with your horse and helping you to see how you can keep improving even if you have nobody on the ground watching.

Jan 19thFeb 2ndFeb 16thMar 2ndMar 16thMar 30th
Ground poles for suppleness, strength,coordination5pm7pm5pm7pm5pm5pm
Building confidence over fences
Ground poles  building to small fences focusing on confidence and technique for horse and rider6pm6pm6pm6pm6pm6pm
Jumping gym
Small courses, grids and other exercises (up to about 90cm)7pm5pm7pm5pm7pm7pm


Dressage test riding

By | Equestrian, Sports coaching

It can be easy to up your marks in dressage by doing a few straightforward things.

For example, in Prelim 19 each mark is worth 0.34% so just adding half a mark for the test movements could shift you from 61% to a super-looking 67%.  Simply riding

Long Arena Test riding flier

Long Arena Test riding dates

round circles in the right place with an even rhythm could add between 2.5 and 5 marks (or 1-2%).  In elementary 59 we are still looking at about 0.3% so an extra half mark on even only half the movements and the collectives will bring you an added 2%.  (Doesn’t sound much but compare how pleased you be with 66% over 63.9 or 64%.

We all know that things are usually easier in practice but a trip inside the white boards can change all that in an instant. Suddenly everything has to happen at a marker (unlike the warm-up); there are flower pots in odd places (or so your horse thinks); the judge’s car has the windscreen wipers going; there might be a banner that could flap at the edge of the arena.

You know only too well that the instant you feel any nerves your horse is going to pick up on it and think ‘ uh oh, my rider is worried about something.  There must be something I need be looking out for….what is it?…Is this a dangerous place?’

And then you, the rider, think ‘uh oh, horse is upset about something.  Wonder what he’s seen?… Is he going to spook?’

This is when getting the basic things right in the test can help because you can automatically ride a round circle, you know how far ahead of E you need to start preparing for a transition, you know that you can focus on keeping the right rhythm.

Our test riding sessions help to identify the

Short test flier

Short arena test riding

things that you can do well to gain extra marks, so you can go into the arena with something positive to work on.  We’ll look at what the judge is seeing that can make a 6 into a 7 or a 7 into an 8.  We can look at why centrelines are so important and why the underlying training is so crucial to get a good ‘way of going’.

I don’t have stats for it, but the most likely place that you’ll get a 10 is probably your halt.  How can you do that? How do we decide on that all important doubled mark for a free or extended walk?

This Spring I’m running Zoom chat sessions as well as test-riding in both long and short arenas so why not come and see for yourself where all those dressage marks are currently hiding?

Equestrians: Schooling – how can we stay motivated?

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Sports coaching

Where:  Zoom chat

When: Monday 22nd February 2021, 7pm

Join us to get with some tips on how to regain your mojo for schooling

  • Are you feeling aimless in your schooling?
  • Always thinking of reasons to go and hack or do something other than ride in the school?
  • Feeling guilty that you aren’t doing more in lockdown?
  • Wondering if keeping horses is just about mud and mucking out?

If so, the good news is…You are not alone!

First things first: this session is FREE!  – £0.00

We are all having a tough time and I’ve had lots of people supporting me, so I’m trying to ‘pay this forward’.

Second, it isn’t a lecture!

Grab a coffee/wine/gin/cookies/chips/chocolate and join us to share your tips on how to keep schooling interesting when we have so little that we can plan on doing with our horses at the moment.


Please register by e-mailing [email protected].  I’ll send you a link, but please don’t share it with anyone: first come first served and I’m limiting places to 15 so that we can have a useful conversation.  Thank you.

QUIETLY CONFIDENT – a four week course to help you really enjoy riding your horse

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Sports coaching

This Autumn we are stepping out of the norm and creating a course which includes Zoom lessons linked to practical lessons.  We’ll discuss technical ideas on a Monday night and then put our learning into practice on the Wednesday evening.  There’s a discount for signing up to the full course, or you can book on a week by week basis – whatever is easiest.

Alison Payne will be using modern approaches to learning to help you discover practical ways to get the most out of your time with your equine friend.


Each week has a Monday evening Zoom discussion for 30-40 minutes, then a Wednesday evening session in the indoor school at Park Dressage, Goytre

Course cost: £110 for all eight sessions or £28 for one week (one Zoom and one  lesson)

Certificate for completing all eight sessions


Zoom: 7pm Mon 5th Oct, Lesson: 5, 6 or 7pm Wed 7th  Oct

It’s easier than you think! Find out about the rules for competing and discover what the judge really wants to see


Zoom: 7pm Mon 19th Oct, Lesson: 5,6 or 7pm Wed 21st Oct

Ride accurate circles, centre-lines and test movements to up your competition marks and develop your training to the next level


Zoom  Mon 2nd Nov, Lesson Wed 4th Nov

Improve your communication with your horse : learn how to channel your aids effectively for balance and connection


Zoom: 7pm Mon 16th Nov, Lesson: 5, 6 or 7pm Wed 18th Nov

Learn what makes a good transition and  discover why they are a foundation for so much more …..

All sessions are NO PRESSURE. Ideal for  YOUNG or green horses, NERVOUS riders or NEW PARTNERSHIPS.






Let’s Enjoy Our Horses – Making the Most of Darker, Longer Evenings in 2020

By | Sports coaching

This Autumn and Winter, we will once again be at Amanda Leaker’s lovely indoor school on Wednesday evenings.  The sessions are no-pressure, sociable evenings designed for confidence-building and setting a firm foundation so that you can come out of Winter ready to enjoy long hacks, fun rides, dressage competitions or riding club activities as soon as the weather allows.

Alison Payne uses modern coaching and learning theories to help you discover how to get the most out of the time with your equine partner.

Focussing on confidence-building and building a firm foundation for your future, this series is ideal for green horses, nervous riders, new partnerships or people just wanting to get out over the Winter.

The Philosophy for these lessons is:

¨ No pressure

¨ Leave with a smile

¨ Celebrate small achievements

¨ No pace too slow

¨ Be sociable

¨ No question too silly

In short: enjoy yourself while you learn

Sessions are every Wednesday in the indoor school at Park Dressage, Goytre NP4 0AL starting from September 23rd,  5pm, 6pm and 7pm

Lessons are £25 per person with 2 or three per group

Flatwork pole-work or jumping





Sport and Mental Health Awareness

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Personal Development, Sports coaching


We have all found changes in our lives during lockdown and many of us are finding time to slow down, think and consider things which might never have made it to the top of our ‘to-do’ list in normal times.

I have been enjoying connecting with coaches from a wide range of sports (away from my own area of equestrianism) and I’m learning lots and thinking more creatively.

One of the benefits has been access to new courses and as it is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (18th to 24th May) I thought I would take the course offered by UK Sport on Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity.

As a coach in non-sport environments too, this is a subject which comes very close to my work at all times, so it has been valuable to gain a little more understanding.  One of my key learning points is that we can talk about mental health without being counsellors; just as in all my coaching work, it is a question of understanding where boundaries lie and where people can go for expert help when someone needs it.



Our minds can fall ill, just as our bodies can. The illness may be short or long term. It can vary in severity. It can have different causes and diverse symptoms. Importantly, it doesn’t define who we are, it’s just a small part of our identity or our history.

The World Health Organisation says: ‘ Mental Health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to contribute to her or his community’.

Mind’s (the Mental Health Charity) ‘5 ways to well-being’ are a set of actions that we can all take to improve our well-being:

  • Connect – talk to people, meet people
  • Be active – start or continue exercise
  • Learn – goal-setting can highlight achievements
  • Take notice – be mindful, notice all the good things or achievements, however small
  • Give – do things for others, it feels good


Mind believes that, ‘Sport and physical activity builds resilience, enables and supports mental health recovery and tackles stigma’.

Many of us who are already active will know that we feel better for a bit of ‘fresh air and exercise’. There are physical reasons for it though, it isn’t just some random idea. The biochemistry behind it is a longish story, but in brief, neuropeptides called endorphins are released from the pituitary gland and go to block pain signals in the nervous system. This indirectly causes the release of dopamine which is the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. (You can find more on Wikipedia or in the article cited below*).  So – exercise makes us feel good.

How can exercise help? Here are a few things to ponder:

  • Endorphins – our natural, intrinsic ‘opiates’, make us feel better
  • Self-esteem – think body image, goal achievement and improved resilience
  • Reducing the risk of depression – physical and psychological
  • Slowing the racing mind – body and mind become tired
  • Sleep patterns improve – serotonin levels are better after exercise. The reduction of ‘rapid eye movement or REM sleep has an anti-depressant effect.

A study by the Department of Health (2011) found that increasing from no exercise to just three times a week lead to the likelihood of depression falling by 30%.

And this is just the start!


There is still a stigma around mental health and Mind describe a cycle to break the stigma which means that we need to learn about it, listen to people, be open to what they are saying and recognise the illness for what it is.

From a sports and coaching perspective, we also need to understand some of the possible barriers that exist to getting active.  The ‘Four Corners Model’ put together by the Football Association,  ( is a framework that can help us to look at how we develop our sports people.  In the context of mental health and physical activity, it can be used to create an understanding of barriers to exercise.   This could also be used in the preparation of specific programmes or sessions and helps us to see our clients from a holistic perspective.

  • Physical – travel, medication for example
  • Social – lack of self-esteem
  • Psychological – anxiety in new situation
  • Technical – not knowing the rules of the game or lacking skill or experience

It’s helpful to understand this and it underlines some of the things that we can do to help. I can think of examples in equestrianism, but also in other sports or forms of exercise. Sometimes the barriers are greater than others, sometimes they look bigger because facing them and dealing with them just seems insurmountable. It might be that small first step onto our own personal Everest ascent.


“As coaches we are there to enable other people to achieve their goals”

It is all too easy to wrapped up in our way of working and of coaching, so the opportunity to think differently brings new ideas and new plans.  Having been unable to go out coaching since lockdown, it has been great to ‘meet’ coaches from sports as varied as football, squash, paddle and adventure sports, and many others.  The group coming together through UK Coaching has inspired me and reminded me that ‘coaching is coaching’, we are there to enable other people to achieve their goals.

Thank you all.

Here is the article that I mentioned:

Other useful links:

Please follow us on Twitter – lots to mention but @alisonrpayne will get you started


Coaching conversations: Language

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Sports coaching

I had the good fortune to be pointed in the direction of the UK Coaching Connected Coaches site and today we had a healthy conversation about language.

During lockdown, most of us outdoor coaches are really feeling the lack of contact as well as the lack of fresh air and our chosen sport (or sports).  In true positive fashion though, we are starting to look at how we can work effectively in a virtual social space and to explore the slightly elusive positives of this time.

It is great to be included with people from such a cross-section of sport and for me, it’s also fascinating to see the cross-over with the work that I do as a coach in education and business organisations.

I wasn’t alone in thinking that it might be a time for supporting our clients (sports people or other coaches) in really thinking carefully about what we do, and an esteemed colleague from athletics suggested that one thing that we could work on was being much more careful and specific in the language that we use.

Reflecting on our online conversation I am reminded of the number of times that I’ve gone down the line of ‘why?’.  Now,  Root Cause Analysis or ‘The 5 Whys’ are well known tools in leadership but neither of these quite get to what I am seeking to achieve in coaching.  Nonetheless I believe that they have a part in helping us to understand the value in delving deep into things that we might be just taking at face value, so as  little aside, let’s have a very quick look.

Root Cause Analysis does what it says on the tin and is valuable in itself because it heads for resolution of cause, not just overt symptoms, and is therefore often useful in an organisational environment as it considers:

  • What happened
  • How it happened
  • Why it happened and then
  • Actions for preventing reoccurrence

‘The 5 Whys’ tool is another from that massive Toyota Toolbox which also brought us ‘nemawashi’ – the idea that we need to walk the shop floor to fully understand what is happening (before we can then understand why).  It can get right into the possible causes of single or multiple problems by gaining an understanding of events at different levels in a chain of events or sections of a business process.

As a tool for coaching, I adapt it to vary the process, using carefully chosen open or closed questions to filter and define what is really happening, either in a physical process or in someone’s understanding of that process.  Quite often the initial answer that we get from a question is quick-fire.   For example, “How did that feel?” might well elicit the reply, “Good”.  Unfortunately this a) doesn’t give us any specific information on what was happening and b) hasn’t encouraged real reflection on the process.

It is in the further questioning that we really start to get to the bones of it all.  And this is, perhaps, where we can use the time and space (which sounds a bit sci-fi!) that we currently have to explore these things in the detail that they deserve, leading us to yet better results.  One element is the use of silence which is a well-accepted tool in the box of coaches, but it’s a tricky one to use well – especially in a possibly fast-moving physical environment.  (Time and space, time and space!!) Let’s use it now.

So, perhaps an example would help. (I’m sure all coaches could translate the following conversation into their chosen field – I’d love to know how your conversations go!)

I’m helping someone to ride the perfect (haha!) 20m trot circle.  I will give them some basic rules (handrails, if you like) and send them away to explore.  Let’s suppose that things are going well, so after a few minutes we’ll regroup and discuss what is going on, it might go something like this:

Me: ‘Tell me about that” (I am deliberately keeping this broad and creating an opportunity for any kind of answer).

Client: “Well, it was pretty good” (So, this is my opening for exploring what good really was.  I’m also doing a little internal dance because they haven’t said, ‘ugh, it was awful’!)

Me: “In what way was it good?” (Open question, which may well generate a moment’s silence and thought)

Client: “The rhythm was good, but it wasn’t quite a circle” (We need to keep our clients focussing on the good things, but we’ll return to dealing with the rest later)

Me: “What was good about the rhythm?”

Client: “It stayed the same”. (I’m pleased with this because it’s what we are after, however, I want my client to be able to go away and replicate it so that they can ‘self-coach’ when they away from their coaching session).

Me: “How did you know the rhythm was good?” (And it is at this point that I start to get rather blank looks, because they have given me a good answer – what else could I possibly expect??)

Client: “The hoofbeats were even one-two, one-two, all around the circle”.

Me: “Great. It looked like a super rhythm to me too. As well as hearing the hoofbeats, what could you feel that helped you to tell that the rhythm was good”.

Client: “Boris, ” (lets just call the horse Boris for now shall we?)…”didn’t rush off”.  (This is good too, because it means that Boris is finding some balance.  This gives me a clue, as coach, that there might be something else which will be significant).

Me: “That’s a good feeling then and it’ll make things easier, won’t it? What difference was there in the feel through the reins?

Client: “I didn’t feel him taking so much weight in my left hand”.

Me: “Brilliant. So when you are working on your own, how will you know what good is with reference to the rhythm?”

Client: “From the sound and feel of the hoofbeats and whether I’m taking a different contact through the reins”

So, we move from a simple word, to a definition of that word which is specific to that rider, in her context when she rides a 20m circle on Boris.  She has described it in her own words, so it should be meaningful and easily remembered.

In other coaching, it works well too and helping clients to consider the real meaning of words means that they can celebrate small things, or succeed in keeping things in perspective by understanding exactly what ‘happy’, or ‘good’ or ‘difficult’ really mean for them.

Language – let’s celebrate it and use it.