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.

Being OK and Not being OK – are we treading a thin line?

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Personal Development

There are a few themes that come up in coaching conversations on a regular basis and one of these is about ‘being OK’.

Coaching, by its very nature can be quite searching, but talking about things which are difficult is cathartic: by ordering our thoughts to say them aloud we are already on the first step to identifying the crux of our problems.

One of the things which I miss by coaching virtually is the ability to share drawings and ideas on paper and it is this which has prompted me to create something that I can share.

If we’ve sat down to go through some of your challenges and map a way onwards, it is quite possible that we have already talked about my idea that we can narrow our ‘wobble-makers’ down to just three areas of our lives.  It may be rather simplistic, but it has always served as a good starting point for identifying hotspots of trouble and where to start putting them right.

This graphic isn’t quite the same as the way that I have drawn it in the past, but I think it works better like this.  So, what am I talking about?

First, let’s consider that we have three areas of our lives, Home, Work and Health.  The three are inextricably linked and as such each one can affect the others.  For example, Home includes such things as hobbies, family friends and so on, Work will be things like workload, change, dealing with people, specific projects and Health can be as small as a cold or as major as a life-changing diagnosis.

The next thing to bear in mind that this is all relative – coping and managing is not the same as feeling amazing and doing brilliantly, but we live on a continuum so it is really about managing to function effectively.  After all, every one of us has good days and bad days, so expecting to feel good all the time isn’t reasonable.  Not exactly a SMART objective, I suppose.  Conversely, if we feel bad all the time, then that isn’t right either – something is out of balance.

Third, let’s try to make the graphic work for us.  Imagine, if you will, that work is going smoothly,

things at home are swinging along in a nice routine and you are feeling well.  Life is fine, isn’t it? The three elements are working together to keep you afloat and it’s all working as it should. We’ll make allowances for things that aren’t quite perfect, because we are in a good position to manage them and to maintain a good perspective.

If, however, something creates a bump in our road in one area, that immediately makes other things a bit more challenging.  Consider a bad time at work because a client has complained and you have to deal with it over the next week.  As long as you are feeling well and you can go home and enjoy going for a run, you will generally deal with the work challenge well enough. Agreed, it isn’t fun, but you’ll cope.  Now add in a twisted ankle or a headache – nothing major, but suddenly you don’t have the facility to go and get your proper white space, your down time and the work problem may seem worse.  We start to struggle; we don’t quite have the energy that we need to do things;  that all important grip on perspective is slipping.    Do you see what I mean? Things start to become more fragile altogether.  A bad day can give you a headache which can make you irritable or withdrawn maybe – then all three areas start to be affected.

As I mentioned at the start, these things don’t have to be huge in themselves, but if other things are going wrong, they will probably feel much worse.

Of course, if the bump in the road turns out to be a major landslip, then this stability will become fragile more quickly and it will be much harder to reinstate a happy balance.  This is why, for example, self-care is so important: if work is tough, then you need to guard family and health with vigour.  If your home life is wobbly (children leaving home maybe? Missing GCSEs?) then work and your health are crucial areas to cherish.  Draw your strength from the things that are going well.

Another important point is to remember that we cannot always change the things we want to.  It could be a health issue, a lost job, difficulties at home – these could well initiate change that isn’t going away.  This makes life hard, but to an extent accepting the change helps to improve things.  Reduce friction by going along with what is happening so that you can mould something useful for yourself.  It doesn’t mean it’s easy or pleasant, it doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your own moral values or beliefs, but taking this constructive stance helps to give you back some element of control in your own life, and that is a big first step.

This simple idea has worked for many of my coaching clients and  I’d be interested to see what you think and how it might work for you.

Oh, and as I write we are still in Coronavirus Lockdown in Wales, so this is very real for lots of us.  Change in all three areas, all at once… Take care out there and look after yourselves.

I’ll post the graphic in the resources page of the website, so you can see it there too.

Virtual meetings, new social rules and coping with a new normal

By | Business, Leadership Toolbox

Moving from face to face to virtual meetings

My coach Supervisor laughs at the notes that I take in some of my coaching conversations because so many include drawings: What does this cat remind you of? Draw your day? Johari Windows and Freeze/thaw/freeze pictures and doodles which would only be comprehensible to me and the person being coached.

I have always been loathe to coach via a computer because I thought I’d miss out on the nuances of body language and the easy sharing of written ideas, thoughts and notes.

However, we are at a place where virtual meetings are becoming more normal and are likely to stay with us for far more than the occasional Skype conversation with distant family. (By the way, if you want to make those really good fun, then switch on the subtitles!). The whole idea is going to bring a new set of 21st Century social rules, so here are a few thoughts from my experiences so far.


As we all set out into our new virtual world, there is no doubt that the technology will be one of the big challenges (and we won’t all have a five year old to hand to sort it all out like the TV).  It (almost) goes without saying that you’ll need decent broadband speeds and a computer running modern Software.

a) Security.

There is a lot out there and much is free, but, as my Cyber Security expert friend reminds me, if the product is free then there is a strong chance that YOU are the product.  Be careful and watch out for updates, news and support around security, follow basic rules around cyber-safety and consider what you share very carefully.

b) What’s out there?

I’m no expert on the different pieces of software but have used GoTo meeting, Cisco’s Webex, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime.  There are others including MS Teams and, plenty more I’m sure.  Check out their websites for their plans, pricing and ways of working.  Talk to other people about ease of use, scope and what seems to work well for them.

c) Try out the different apps.

See what works well for you – for example things like the phone apps are OK for 1:1 conversations, but it is awful trying to have a serious conversation with someone when they keep wandering around and lose their audio or show you videos which give you the opportunity to examine their nostrils. (Ugh).  Zoom works well, but is very busy at present so bandwidth has been a challenge at times and their security in chats was questioned by National Newspapers recently. Skype is fairly straightforward to use, but the video quality is variable.  (I struggle to find all the settings easily on the mobile app).

d) Practice

Try your chosen system/systems in non-critical conversations with family, friends or close colleagues. Play with the settings and see what you can achieve.  It’s worth doing it pretty much daily while we all get more used to working like this.  Even complex job interviews are being carried out virtually so it is really important to be familiar with the technology so that you can focus on WHAT you are saying, not HOW you are saying it.  After all, we don’t have to think hard about talking in an interview, which means that we can focus on the content of our conversation.

Tips and wrinkles – setting up and getting started

I’ve had to do some thinking, researching and training so some of these tips have come from there, some from my own experience.

  1. Practice.  Make sure the software is loaded and you know how to access your meeting / call.
  2. Always have your mobile handy and share this with your meeting organiser so that if technology has a blip then you can text or call to sort things out.
  3. Make sure you are somewhere comfortable! Get a coffee or glass of water in case you need refreshing during the discussion.
  4. Set up your device to provide the best audio you can and video so that the light is coming from the right direction and doesn’t make you look like a being from a sci-fi movie. (Oddly, having light directly in front of you (i.e. behind the device) usually works well.
  5. Consider your background.  Some software allows you to blur the background or add a virtual one.
  6.  ‘Arrive’ in good time.  You can be sure that if you leave it until the last minute, you will have a software glitch or the laptop will want to update or run a security scan and gobble up time and memory.

Tips and wrinkles – social niceties

Some of our social rules won’t change, but for some reason seem to get ‘lost’ as people move to a virtual world.  We also have new ones that will make sure we can work collaboratively and effectively.

  1. Be presentable. There seems to be a more ‘heads than threads’ approach online, but it is just as important to create a good impression virtually as it would be in person.  In truth, it might be even more important as we might miss out on some of the smaller signals that we get about people when we meet face to face.
  2.  Be punctual.  You can’t creep into a virtual meeting like you do to a room full of people! If you do come late then it will be noticeable and can be disruptive.
  3. As host, make sure that introductions are made where appropriate and try to welcome people as they arrive.  This creates a positive feeling and also acts as a form of introduction.
  4. Make sure that there is a clear agenda.  One of the downsides of virtual meetings is that discussion has to be more clear cut and it isn’t always easy to spot who wants to say something.  In a room, there will be some form of ‘intention gesture’ that can be picked up on by the host – not always so easy in a virtual room.  A good agenda will help to focus everyone in the same direction and support input from those who need to give it.
  5.  Turn mobiles to silent once the meeting starts).
  6.  Shut children, pets and family out – they can be an unwanted distraction.  There are times when they might add a personal dimension to the discussion, but make sure it is for an appropriate audience.
  7.  Follow the host’s instructions on audio and video, but generally it is good practice to mute your microphone unless you are making a comment to the meeting.  (Failing to do this creates sometimes unbearable noise for everyone else).
  8.  Engage.  Your hosts might be fairly new to all this too.
  9.  As host, it might be useful to have a co-host who watches chat boxes to pick up on relevant input that needs to be shared.
  10.  Look at the camera – we are used to looking at the face of someone that we are talking to, but on a laptop this might mean that you are looking at your colleague over their shoulder.

A couple of other thoughts

Have a think about what might distract you in a virtual meeting and try to manage it so that you can focus on the conversation.  The kind of things which people report as distracting are:

What they look like, what their colleagues look like (how’s my hair looking three weeks into lockdown?!), are my bookshelves tidy? What is that on their wallpaper? Shall I just answer that incoming e mail?  Am I using the technology properly? And so on….

This is just a quick blog, so I’d love to hear your hints and tips for effective meetings over the internet!