Last month I wrote about getting stuck in and striving to constantly improve. This month I want to talk about when we try to do that but a big, nasty WHAT IF gets in the way. WHAT Ifs are nasty and they have a habit of breeding uncontrollably if we let them. I have a few tips to help you keep them under control. Acknowledge them. After all in small doses they are a form of self protection . But don’t let the WHAT IF take over. Use each WHAT IF as an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Isolate them. Don’t give the WHAT IF power over you. OK so you had a bad fall and are afraid of getting back on. But I bet you can still catch your horse and groom him; take him for a walk around the paddock or arena. Doing those things will stop the WHAT IF taking control until you can find someone to help. Stop them breeding. WHAT IFs are clever. They prey on your insecurities and suddenly they have multiplied and you can’t do anything with your horse. Make sure to silence the WHAT IF when it starts to intrude on other areas of your horse relationship which you know are in good health. Find a WHAT IF tamer.  I am an expert in that field as I have had my fair share of WHAT Ifs! You need a trainer who will understand your fears and can help you work through them in a structured fashion. They should be able to recognise a WHAT IF and have strategies to reduce them. Increase your comfort zone. WHAT Ifs can’t get you when you are in your comfort [...]

Never Stop Learning!

So you have the horse of your dreams and now you need a trainer to help you on your way. You ask around and start having lessons. The first few months are pretty good and you are enthusiastic and motivated. You are doing really well at training level and are getting consistent scores of 60% or more. This dressage stuff is fun! But then just as you feel you are getting somewhere your trainer says that you need another season consolidating the basics. You aren’t ready to step up and try new stuff and you must listen to them as they are infinitely wiser and more experienced than you. So you do as they say and stay at training level for another season. You keep working on a circle at trot. You bore your horse to death and lose all your love of riding. So who is benefiting from this? You or your trainer? My aim as a trainer is to have my students surpass me. I want them to do well and succeed. If that means they beat me in a competition well that’s fantastic! And if it means they go to my trainer as well as me then that’s proof that I can train them correctly. You don’t get better by doing the same thing. You get better by having a correct training plan that challenges you and your horse appropriate to your stage of training. You need to be stimulated and pushed out of your comfort zone a little bit. Your horse needs work that supples his body and keeps his mind engaged. You want to have that buzz of learning a new movement or the satisfaction of refining your aids and [...]

The Not So Perfect Rider

Hi everyone and welcome to my new column! I want to motivate and inspire you; to educate you and to make you realise that you are not alone in feeling inadequate or hopeless or unconfident! We all feel like that sooner or later when working with horses. Sometimes I think we focus too much on how “wonderful” other riders look and how “lucky” they are to have the perfect horse…. the perfect position…. the perfect stables. We forget that the most important thing is that YOU love YOUR HORSE. He may not be ever going to the Olympics but he actually doesn’t care about stuff like that. He cares that you look after him and feed him. He cares that you give him confidence and leadership. He cares that you are consistent and fair in your demands of him. And your trainers should respect that. A good trainer will find out your goals and dreams and work within the horse’s capability to achieve them. Having the most fashionable rolled sheepskin saddle blanket won’t make you do dressage any better and a good trainer will know this! I do dressage amongst “other things” and a few years ago a very well known trainer was down here to give lessons. Unfortunately, the arena the organiser had booked was unavailable so they asked if they could use mine and as a thankyou I would get a free lesson. Of I agreed as this trainer is very well known and it was an awesome opportunity. I put down the phone and then it hit me. NO NO NO! The “other things” I do are games and fun stuff with my horses. The kids I teach had spent the day [...]

How to be Brave

What ifs…….. They consume us and dominate our thoughts and deprive us of the thing we love . And they also isolate us. In February I drove into the showgrounds for the South Island Dressage Champs. It was a lovely sunny day; beautiful warmbloods were everywhere looking fluid, impressive and imposing. The riders looked posh and elegant and in control. I very nearly turned around and drove home! What was I thinking ! I shouldn’t be here with my little, finely built Arabian…..and he’s chestnut with lots of bling…..and he makes up these quirky arab dressage moves AT THE WRONG TIME… and I can’t ride….and  and and!! I got out and walked slowly to the float and opened the door. Charlie gave me a little nicker as if to say “come on! We can do this!”. So I unloaded him and we went for a walk. Feeling a little better I led him over for arena familiarisation. A couple of riders were coming out and they stopped and asked me if I was really going to be riding an Arabian here and were they even allowed to do dressage. My confidence hit rock bottom. But then I stopped. I put into practice what I tell my clients. Be prepared, Do the training at home and get a trainer who believes in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Break your goal into bite size chunks. Have a progressive plan that gets you to the end result. Surround yourself with positive people. Do it for you! Compete against yourself and aim to improve each time. Ride a horse you love and who suits you. I had made competing Charlie at the South Island Champs my [...]


By Julia Latham With autumn here and winter on its way, now is the time to give your horse and gear a “warrant of fitness”. A lot of people turn their horses out for the winter and give them a rest, especially if it has been a busy season with lots of shows, tournaments or trail rides etc. Rather than blobbing out in front of the telly why don’t you take the time now to get your horse or pony, yourself and all your horsey gear up to scratch so when your riding time does roll around again you are all ready to go and have fun. Make sure your horse’s cover is suitable for the winter. Check all the straps. If it needs repairing do it now as your saddler will appreciate a dry cover far more than trying to sew a wet, muddy one. Check that it still fits the horse – especially if you have a young horse that may have grown – as nasty rubs can soon develop. Is it still waterproof? Again this is easier done on a nice day with a dry cover. If your horse or pony hasn’t had a cover on before don’t assume you can throw it on and just let him go! Terrible injuries can occur from a terrified youngster blindly bolting away from the “monster” on its back. Take the time to introduce a cover to your young horse. Do this on a calm day and give yourself plenty of time. Fold the cover into three and gently place on the horse’s back. Once he is used to this, move it up and down and unfold it so it covers him. Make sure you [...]

Introducing the Flying Horse Grooming Range

Here at Flying Horse we pride ourselves on the appearance of our horses. People always comment on the lovely shiny coats and flowing tails. We firmly believe that good feed, a relaxed environment and correct training go a long way to achieving this. Regular grooming is important too. Even the horses not in work are brought in once a week for a good check over and groom. The horses in work are groomed every day and tails are washed and conditioned once a week. If sweaty after working they are hosed down and dried off. With the arrival of our latest horse Charlie, we had to rethink what we used in grooming products as he is super sensitive. His nose was cracked and bleeding while his coat was dull and lifeless. He reacted to the shampoo we usually use and came out in huge welts which added to his discomfort. So we decided to start making our own products; Julia trained at Southland Hospital as a Manufacturing Dispensary technician back when the hospital made all the creams and shampoos etc . After sourcing the high quality ingredients we set to work making various potions and testing them on ourselves! No humans were harmed in the making of our products so we know they are safe for our precious horses! Charlie is the proof that they work as he looks amazing now and his nose is covered in soft fur instead of being cracked and weeping. The products are: FH Bit Balm Contains olive oil, castor oil, NZ beeswax, vitamin E, coconut oil . Green apple scent. Soothing and moisturising, our bit balm is great for the sensitive nose and lips. The coconut oil is a [...]

Animals as Healers

I wrote this article a few years ago for my friend Faye Rogers to go with an article she had published. I was thinking of Ben this morning and he wanted me to share it again. :) Animals as healers My name is Julia and I work with horses as a healer, trainer and educator. My experience with energy healing came about quite suddenly and had a profound effect on me. I had suffered chronic neck pain for years and nothing seemed to help until I went along to a talk on energy healing. Very sceptical about the whole “hocus pocus” thing I offered myself as a guinea pig for the others to practice on. Suddenly my whole life changed! My neck was healed and I was pain free! I went home and did nothing for three days but eat and sleep ( I learnt later that profound and sudden healing has that affect), feeling drained but at the same time elated as there was no pain. One the fourth day I ventured outside and heard a voice saying “can you do me now please? “!!  It was Maxi, one of my horses, and so my horse healing started. Since then I have found that healing, instructing and teaching is becoming more integrated. The lines are blurred as to who needs help; the horse or its human. Quite often people bring their horses to me for healing and the horse gently explains to me the issues their human has! Horses try so hard to please us and they echo our own emotions and fears, even at times trying to take on the hurt their humans are feeling. Lack of communication eventually causes the horse to [...]

Getting 1st or doing 1st

Most of us who ride are competitive in some way and we all love getting a 1st place rosette or ribbon but I'm starting to prefer "doing a 1st" instead. It doesn't mean I'm not competitive it just means I am competing against myself. I'm working hard at beating my fears and doing new things with my horses. The more new stuff you do the bigger your comfort zone gets; the bigger your comfort zone the more new stuff you do! The trick is to start trying. Write a list of al the things you dream of doing with your horse. They don't have to be big, flash "going to the Olympics" kind of things. It might be riding along the beach, cantering, learning to jump, getting my horse to stand still. It might even be actually getting on your horse. Then you need a support person; someone who understands how scary things can be and who won't make you feel wimpy or stupid. Team up with a friend and help each other. Start working on the things you want to do and slowly they will start happening. If you need more support then come to Flying Horse. We can be your support person. Our Cake & Coffee Days are an ideal way of meeting people who are "doing 1st". That day when you suddenly "do a 1st" will be so inspiring, so amazing you will want to keep on going. It will make you smile for days afterwards and you will be developing a wonderful partnership with your horse. This week at Flying Horse we have had a client ride a horse for the 1st time in 6 years, another rode for the 1st time after breaking her [...]

Saying Goodbye

I am a firm believer that horses come into our lives for a reason; they teach us valuable life lessons and are our refuge in times of stress. Here at Flying Horse we keep our horses for life. Some people can effortlessly upgrade to the next horse or buy and sell on a regular basis but for me it would be liking selling my family. I guess some people do choose the wrong horse but if the horse chooses you it must be the right decision! It is then up to you to work at being a team leader, a friend and a guardian to that horse. Earlier this month Ben , our lovely big grey horse, became very sick and it was so very hard to make the decision to let him go. We bought him on the day he turned one. He was rounded up, gelded, had a halter put on for the first time and was waiting in a yard for us to pick him up. He was so frightened that we didn't have the heart to subject him to another scary thing: his first time on a horse float. So Dave walked him home; by the time they had walked the 14kms home Ben was halter trained and devoted to Dave for the rest of his life. If I was holding Ben and Dave walked off there was no way he would stay with me. He would follow Dave anywhere. Ben was the gentlest horse especially with children. We had five kids on him all at the same time and you could almost see the smile on his face as he walked slowly round with them. He taught lots of people [...]