Do you have a goal or a dream?

I seem to keep running out of time lately to write, so it’s been a while. My intention going forward is to write twice a month, at the beginning and middle when I can. It’s been a busy few weeks with work, study, my youngest son’s 21st and both sons moving to a new house in different areas. A couple of stressful moments but overall an exciting time. The most exciting day was completing the fantastic Advanced Centre 10 Coaches Course. It truly has been an inspiring and life changing experience. The APEC course (Applied Psychology for Equestrian Coaches) is performance psychology training for sports coaches. My hope is to help every rider I coach at whatever level to be more aware of their mindset and mental skills and the impact that has on performance. We have covered so much, and I will talk more about it in the weeks and months to come. I’m sure I’ll always be referring to elements of it because it’s opened my eyes to literally everything we do. Just being on the course has changed so much about my approach to problems in and out of the saddle. I’ve challenged myself in ways I never thought possible. I’m sure you will hear all about it!

So, it’s back to coaching from this week and a bit more travelling. I wonder how many people feel anxious about getting out there again whether you are the coach or the rider. I’m sure the answer would be a high percentage. I am a member of an incredibly supportive Facebook group of coaches. In a recent webinar we discussed how many felt like making changes to their lifestyle going forward to create a better work/life balance. I am sure that is something people across the country are considering after the experiences of the past year. It often gives people another perspective when they are forced to change and look at things differently. What has changed for you regarding your riding? Has the perspective changed from competition focus to improving your basic skills for example, or maybe you’ve found a new love of hacking, played around with groundwork perhaps, improved your fitness or just enjoyed being with and bonding more with your horse? Will you continue to hold those new values in high priority when the world speeds up again? How will you do that?

I have no doubt that my time spent in the saddle has more meaning when I have a plan or a reason to be there, even if that reason is to just enjoy a nice hack. If hacking and relaxing is the plan, then it would be best to leave your troubles at the tack room door and really be present mentally to enjoy the experience. I’m sure it won’t be so easy when we are busier again, but I hope I can remember that feeling of loving my riding and not just treating the time as another job to do. I enjoy competition and intend to go out again soon. I ride my own horse so there is no pressure to get results other than the goals I set for myself. Goals are an important part of creating a challenge and meaning in the things we do day to day, but they do not have to rely on competition results. Goals should be of your own making. That could be for example; To canter out on a hack or to travel to a venue for a coaching session. Whatever has meaning for you and makes you feel passionate about, is a great reason to set a goal. How many times have you set a goal for yourself? I wonder how many times that goal has been reached or faded away and lost. That might be because it was more of a hope or dream than a goal. What is the difference?

Effective goal setting is more than just a dream. It’s a plan. A dream would be a floating idea that is based on wishes and hopes. Whereas goal setting is based on Why? What? How?

Why have you set the Outcome goal in the first place and what will it mean to you to achieve it? What will that feel like?

What exactly is it you need to do? What do you need to Perform?

How precisely will you get there? What are the Processes you must follow? Are there skills you already have and are there skills you still need to develop?

Effective goal setting is planning a road map to your Outcome. It’s then much more likely you will get there. I wouldn’t set out on a new journey in my car without instructions. Nowadays it’s a Sat Nav but it was a map when I was first driving! I might know some of the journey already but there will be some parts I don’t know because I’ve never been there before. I could try to guess but there’s a good chance I will get lost and maybe I’ll get so lost I will give up and go back. Having a route map or Sat Nav telling you to take a left or right when you feel lost is essential to get where you’re going. I might have almost been there when I gave up and went home, and that’s a shame.

When we completed our final day at Centre 10, we all gave an informal presentation on a chosen topic or part of the course. That in itself it not something I would ever have thought I’d be doing without having a melt down 6 months ago! It was extremely hard to chose one, but I talked about Goal setting and it’s link to motivation. I’ll post most of the transcript here: some of it relates to our experiences which won’t make as much sense to you. There might be some aspects which aren’t understood immediately but you are welcome to ask if something interests you.

If you have any questions or want to chat about any other aspects of your mental performance skills, please drop me a message. I’d love to hear from you. I am offering free online performance coaching to all clients who are booked in April. I will meet with you online before our face-to-face session so that we can be the most productive and prepared on the day. There is also the chance to meet online or in person for performance coaching with me even if I’m not your ‘on horse’ coach. I am happy to work with you and collaborate with others, there is no need to leave your current coach or switch to me. I am not possessive!

Have fun when you start to go out again everyone and take care. Here is a link to my website if you want to learn more


When I think about all the things we’ve learned throughout this course and the topics we have covered, I found it incredibly difficult to chose just one to talk about today. I have an interest in all of them and hope to use my learning to help others through coaching in and out of the saddle in the months and years to come.

The topic I’ve chosen to dive into today is Effective Goal Setting and The Link to Intrinsic Motivation.

I have often thought of myself in the past as having a clear idea of setting goals and knowing how to achieve them, which I would say was true to a degree. Now that I have a greater understanding of the component parts of effective goal setting and the different types of goals, I can see why I found myself sometimes drifting away from a goal and losing motivation. They were not always clearly defined or broken down enough. I have suffered from depression for most of my life, so I find motivation is often fleeting and difficult to maintain. Learning to strengthen the connections between the outcome goal, why it is important to you and how you will get there I now realise will increase motivation.

Reflecting on my own ideas of goal setting I think I was on to something without realising it!  I am the youngest of 5 siblings and was always a shy, quiet child who preferred to play alone. I spent many hours practicing things so that I could beat my brother when the opportunity came! I rarely did, but that was my driving force. He was good at pretty much every sport but although he could ride, he didn’t have the passion for it, so he gave up within a short time. I was competent at riding from a young age. I didn’t really focus on achievements until I was around 11-12 years old. My interest turned to showjumping and I quickly became competitive. I enjoyed the thrill of winning and achieving personal bests. There were a few people around my age who I aspired to be like. I didn’t have access to regular coaching, so I had to look for other ways to improve. I began watching those other riders who inspired me and paid close attention to everything they did. When I watched and listened closely to the skills they used, I noticed many things I could take away and practice myself. My pony was not a highly skilled or educated showjumper, nor could my family afford one. They were extremely supportive on a limited budget, but I had high ambitions!

When I began competing regularly at affiliated competitions, I realised that winning was less likely because the performance level was much higher. It was around that time I started to focus more on a personal best rather than the red rosette. The beautiful sport - bred ponies with riders who were coached regularly were streets ahead of me with my slow, steady Welsh x. My aspirations were still high whilst being more realistic. Many semi finals could be reached with consistency and double clears, so that was what I focused on. The goal setting, I used was largely in my head. I might set a goal or goals for the season, read up about the qualification requirements, then think about how I would get there and start practicing.

That strategy of consistency eventually got me all the way to the Foxhunter Final at HOYS with my lovely “average” pony in my last year in juniors. There were many ups and downs along the way but the belief and passion for the end goal was always driving me forward despite any other setbacks.

Now I am able to look back at the younger me and in many ways, I’ve never given her enough credit for making things happen despite the lack of knowledge and professional help. I have wanted to explain some of those experiences to others when I coach but have never known how.

My hope through coaching has always been to pass on knowledge and experience wherever I can. In the past I have often felt frustrated when coaching if I don’t know how to articulate something which I think could be of value to others. My challenges physically and mentally out of the saddle, the frustrations of life not giving you a smooth path sometimes and horses just being horses are all areas of experience I wished I knew how to share with greater effect. Many of my best learning experiences were arduous. The most difficult challenge I have found with coaching riders is the unpredictable nature of their commitment. There are so many coaches to chose from and riders are spoiled for choice. Due to several factors, I might not see a client again consistently or even at all. The past year has been an extreme example of that. What I have wanted for some time is a simple but effective way to communicate with riders, to engage with them and really get them thinking. The best feeling for me is to know I have been effective and had a positive impact. I notice more expectation these days on getting instant results. Whilst that is not realistic, I think that creating links to results is likely to supplement and satisfy that need to feel progress is being made.

The skills I have learned throughout this course have given me many practical ways to engage with riders out of the saddle which I am certain will enhance their skills and enjoyment in the saddle. I now have more tools to use in my coaching and better vocabulary to articulate my message which is great.

In January I began inviting riders to chat with me 1 to 1 on Zoom so that I could explore having coaching conversations. Although I was nervous at first, I quickly enjoyed it and found it so interesting. Everyone was different whilst often having a common theme of self doubt and lack of direction. Afterwards I sent a few questions through on SurveyMonkey. The feedback I received was incredibly positive with 100% agreeing that improving mental skills directly impacts on improving performance/ riding skills.

With my focus turning to effective goal setting skills and motivation, I have recently been talking to groups of riders on Zoom so I could explore the impact I might have with them as we move slowly forward and out of lockdown. It seemed appropriate to think about helping riders with goals since we are practically starting again. Goals might be different now for some people.

Many of the ideas I had about goal setting, watching others, developing skills and consistency I’m pleased turned out to be well founded. As I learned more about goals through my Level 3 Coaching and then further with Centre 10 it became clear I am usually focused on Process Goals. These are at the centre of developing an inside out mindset. That is; to focus on the Processes (controllables) leading to a desired Outcome (often less controllable)

Some important aspects were missing from my goal setting which would have made it more effective.

·       Understanding the difference between Outcome Goals, Performance Goals, and Process Goals.

·       Writing my plans down on paper – by writing out the goal setting in clear stages it becomes so much easier to see the links between one step and the next.

·       Review the goals – by checking back regularly I would have seen the progress made and be able to identify strengths and weaknesses.


The message I hope to get across to clients is to link Process Goals to their Outcome Goal. When listening to client’s aspirations of the coaching session that day, that month, season or year ahead I find they are often unable to explain a clear path to get there. They might have an Outcome Goal but little else.

During the recent Zoom sessions, I spoke of why it is helpful to map out plans on paper. When the concept of a Goal Setting Tree was explained and the differences between Outcome, Performance and Process Goals were outlined it began to shape a picture.

Much of the time I find people over-complicate things and get confused. There is clarity in simplicity. The best advice I give to people is to condense and simplify things. I can see the value of offering sessions like these in future and plan to do more. I spotted an improvement I can make already in the online sessions and my feedback has confirmed my riders felt the same. Providing a blank template will improve the understanding, making it more likely that my riders will engage with the task of making their own goal setting tree. An example was given on a slide, but I appreciate the information could be overwhelming when trying to recall it later.

Relating Goal Setting to motivation is something I felt was a powerful tool for myself and I hope to share with others.

I have found myself on many occasions as a coach attempting to help others by making it easier for them or explaining in detail how to achieve something, when I now know that can be de-motivating. When learning more about what motivation is, I like Charlie Unwin’s analogy of “energy with direction”. A great way of harnessing that energy and giving it direction is through Effective Goal Setting. Motivation can then be maintained by focusing on 4 key areas of what drives us and rewards us for participation. Those are Autonomy/Competence or Mastery/Belonging/Meaning.

Outlined briefly as:

·       Autonomy – Giving an individual the power to control actions/decisions. Having the chance to get it wrong.

·       Competence/Mastery – Learning to be effective with the skills we want to use.

·       Belonging – Feeling connected to other like-minded people socially and or professionally.

·       Meaning – Being clear why a goal has been set and why it is of personal importance.


An Outcome Goal should relate strongly to Meaning. The driving force of reaching the Outcome comes then from our emotional centre which assigns meaning to things we care about.

If Performance Goals are the measure of where we are in our achievements at that time, then reaching that stage is the proof we are capable of the Outcome. That should create a visible link to understanding what we are aiming for and why.

Breaking those Performances down to identifiable skills needed to do the job is the practical ‘how to’ otherwise known as Process Goals.

When riders understand that list of Process Goals is literally their roadmap to the Outcome, that is motivating! I realise the importance of autonomy during coaching opportunities I have with riders. Allowing riders to experiment whilst learning those skills can be motivating.  Allowing riders to make mistakes is a difficult skill to learn.

Competence/Mastery is taking place every time one of those Process Goals is ticked off the list. Again, that helps motivation continue.

Intrinsic Motivation is the most effective and the most sustainable form of motivation. Literally meaning to come from within, the motivation is continually provided by the rider themselves. When there is personal investment in the Outcome, and a belief it is achievable amazing things can happen.

My job as coach is to guide riders and support them and less about giving all the answers.

Finally, Belonging – It can be motivating to know you are with others who also feel like you do. That is something else I would like to promote. It could be as simple as a group session (which I find challenging so often avoid!) I have found that belonging to our group at Centre 10 has been motivating in a particularly difficult time. It has given me focus, hope and excitement for the future even in the middle of a pandemic! I would like to create a feeling like that for my riders. Plans are in my head for a Facebook group or similar community to offer support and encouragement to likeminded people who want to feel they belong.

Thank you once again everyone at Centre 10 for inspiring me to be not only a better coach, but a better person.