Monday, 15 February 2016

Wilbur's words: Reiki in the Sunny Chilterns

Me, Mole and Wilbur enjoying the reiki energy
I had the privilege of training with Cathy Birkinhead for my Reiki Level 1. Having felt the benefits of reiki myself, I wanted to share this with my horse, Wilbur. He's been out of sorts over the past couple of months - like me, he's not a fan of cold weather and mud - but I also wonder if there's something else going on internally, such as gastric ulcers or low grade pain. I took up Cathy's kind offer of giving Wilbur a reiki treatment, and here's how we got on.

Cathy arrived at our yard on a beautiful crisp sunny afternoon. She brought a bag of delicious apples and carrots plus a little bag of chicken bits for Mole. A good start! After some introductions in the stable, I led Wilbur into the outdoor arena. Normally when I take him in there, he fidgets, and I suspect he picks up on my tension as I get ready to ride. This time, however, he stood calmly and gave out a long deep breath. As Cathy scanned the side of his body with her hands, he moved  as if he was directing Cathy to stand by his abdomen and flank and then stood perfectly still. Cathy felt a heaviness in that area compared to elsewhere and directed her energy there for a while. During this time, I stood at Wilbur's head. Every now and again he would lick and chew, as he relaxed into the energy around him.

Cathy and Wilbur
Then, all of a sudden he started his trademark wirling of his neck and head. Round and round they went. This seems to be one of his stress responses and I think it was his way of releasing something. I didn't say anything to Cathy, but as he started this activity, Cathy felt the need to move her hands away from him in a repetitive sweeping movement, as if he was wanting to expel something from that part of his body. Then he let out another breath and stood still once more. I noticed his eyes had become softer - sometimes, over the past few weeks I've noticed facial tension indicating pain somewhere. The reiki certainly seemed to help - he and I were a lot calmer in the school the day after.

Horses are incredibly receptive to reiki energy, and I'm sure Wilbur and I will benefit from these sessions. In the meantime, I am working with my vet to make sure there isn't something going on internally. Watch this space!

Want to find out more about Cathy and how reiki can benefit you and your horse? Go to her website at Reiki In the Chilterns.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.  

Monday, 8 February 2016

Meet Amanda Kirtland-Page: rider confidence coach

Amanda is a woman of many talents. An experienced horsewoman, qualified instructor and competitor, she now combines her passion for horses with her skills as an accredited coach and counsellor to help fellow riders. After suffering a loss of confidence following a bad fall, she set up her Confident Rider Programme which has gone from strength to strength. Here we find out more about Amanda and how she works.

You started off working in the NHS as a psychotherapist/counsellor - what sparked your interest in this area? In my mid 20s I had a riding accident that meant I was unable to ride or work for a long period of time. I decided to volunteer for Victim Support so that I could at least contribute some of my time to those that needed help during very traumatic times. This sparked my interest in counselling and psychotherapy, so I started my journey into many fascinating years of therapy training. After 3 years of counselling, I started working in my local NHS surgery, and at the same time immersed myself into hypnotherapy training at a Cancer Care Unit in Clifton. It's been a wonderful adventure ever since!

What has been a highlight of your time working with horse riders as a confidence coach? Watching the determination and the drive of all the riders I see. Despite everything they go through, the traumas, accidents, losses and setbacks they have had in life, they still hold a burning desire to ride and to enjoy being with their horses. A huge percentage of these riders are almost unable to get on their horses when I first meet them, yet their drive to learn and do what they need to, in order to achieve their dreams is incredible.

Have you seen an increase in demand for this coaching over the years and if so, why do you think this is? Most definitely (thank goodness). When I first started, confidence coaching was nearly unheard o f and workshops were non existent. There was a lot of old school mentality of 'just getting on with it' and many riders were too ashamed to admit they had become scared. Many just gave up riding, others encouraged their children to take on the sport and got their horsey 'fix' that way. It certainly helped when we had high profile professional riders, such as Pippa Funnell MBE, admitting that sports psychology had changed their lives. The positive results were there for all to see.

From attending your workshop, I understand there a several factors that can trigger a loss of confidence; is there one that you see more frequently than others? Getting older! There are a number of reasons this has such an effect. We have more responsibilities, it impacts the amount of time off from work we can have, and we have injuries (horse-related or not) that can affect our comfort, balance, posture and effectiveness on a horse. We also have had more 'incidences' which we have accumulated from our past and, we don't bounce quite so well!

Are your workshops and coaching sessions a one-stop fix or do riders need to continue to practise the skills to keep their fears at bay? Some are one-stop fixes, say if there is just one thing you are very anxious about. This could be disliking drop fences, jumping planks, or a fear of mounting. Once we have worked on that particular fear, normally that's the work done. Generally though, riders lose confidence in many areas of riding and their self belief about their ability to ride drops, often to an all time low. In these situations, it is a matter of slowly building up that confidence again by continually using the skills they have learned through the workshops or coaching. Eventually, they will find many of these skills kicking in automatically.

If you could give one piece of advice to a horse rider who is lacking in confidence, what would it be? Find the best support you can. The instructor, friend, family member or partner who will be there for you. Someone who is 100% on your side, is willing to really listen and understand your fears, to be there to help without trying to fix a situation, and to encourage without pushing too far; someone perhaps who is struggling themselves and you can both help each other. It is possible to find support, sometimes it just takes a little while to find it.
To find out more about Amanda and her workshops, please go to her website.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.  

Monday, 1 February 2016

Tigger rides again as confidence is restored

My heart is pounding and my palms are sweaty. My horse, Wilbur, picks up on it and jogs down the driveway. I know I need to breathe, but it feels like my chest is tightening. The thought of getting to the road makes my mouth dry. Sound familiar? Well, there are simple ways to restore your confidence, as I found out a couple of weeks ago, when I attended an unmounted rider confidence workshop with Amanda Kirtland-Page.

Just being in a room of like-minded riders who all were all suffering with riding nerves of some sort was a comfort. It was proof I wasn't alone. The workshop was fully interactive, using NLP (neurolinguistic programming)-based techniques such as visualisation, self-hypnosis and anchoring.

So, how does it work? Well, your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is imagined and what is real; it reacts to your thoughts - the pictures you present in your mind. So visualisation helps you to trick your subconscious into thinking something else is reality which then allows your body to relax and breathe. Amanda suggested using cartoon characters for our visualisation exercises. For me, this meant having a picture in my mind of Wilbur as Shrek's Donkey and I was Tigger. Just imagining this helped my breathing to slow down. To take it one step further, picture yourself riding in the most ridiculous place. Confectionery seemed to figure highly in our discussions so we thought about riding through marshmallow woodland. For those of us who had nerves relating to jumping, we imagined flying over chocolate bars! The wackier your thoughts, the more relaxed you tend to be. As crazy as this sounds, I can say, hand on heart, it works.  Now, if Wilbur starts to be spooky or sharp, I pretend  he's talking to me as Donkey - I can hear the voice - and it instantly makes me smile and become more relaxed.

We also practised self-hypnosis, which was similar to a deep meditation. Again, this helps with relaxation and can be used before riding. The anchoring technique was also powerful. We were asked to recall a time when we felt confident (riding or non-riding related) and play this in our mind. We then created an anchor (or trigger) to stimulate those feelings whenever we need them. The workshop was excellent and Amanda was a great coach - knowledgeable and empathetic given her own battle with nerves.

I have since hacked out with much more confidence and, along with the help of  Gail Wilson (my instructor),  I feel I have more control of my nerves in the school. In fact, my newfound confidence was tested only last week when Wilbur took off round the school and....I stayed on rather than bail out! Not only that, but the confidence gained in this area has given me the motivation to take steps towards goals in my personal life too. Thank you Amanda.

Interested in finding out more? Go to Amanda's website to see how she can help you help you to enjoy your riding again.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.