Building Mental and Emotional Muscle

Building Mental and Emotional Muscle

We talk about mental, emotional, or physical training, but the reality is that the mind, body, and emotions are one.

When we think about something, it impacts our emotions and our body. When we do something physical, it affects our thoughts and feelings. And no matter what we feel, there is a corresponding response in our body and ideas in our mind.

Just as physical muscles can be built, so can mental and emotional muscles. And the process is the same.

For example, we will hit a plateau if we do the same physical exercise routine every day. There won’t be much change, and we won’t get weaker, but we won’t build muscle either.

To get stronger mentally and emotionally, we must expose ourselves to more challenging mental workouts.

How do we do that?

Here are some scenarios for you.

When we are riding well, and everything’s going great, there might seem to be very few emotional challenges. It feels like we’re cruising along, singing a song, side-by-side with our horse. 😊

But challenges always come up, both big and small. Maybe we don’t care for the judge, the weather is difficult, the ground is terrible, or we get a stomach bug. All kinds of situations always happen.

But when we embrace the idea that just like working out physically to get stronger, we can get mentally and emotionally stronger through adversity, our entire mindset changes. Hardships become opportunities to grow.

We don’t resist challenges. We access what’s in our control and what’s not. We decide what we can do or what we can learn, but through it all, we never turn on our belief in ourselves or our horses.

We take the opportunity to respond calmly with solutions. We keep believing we are enough and we can do it! We welcome those chances to keep learning but never allow them to break our spirit.

When the inevitable challenges come up, how we respond is what makes us mentally and emotionally more vital – or not.


Set Yourself Up for Success in the Show Pen

Set Yourself Up for Success in the Show Pen

There is a big shift happening in the world of horse competition today.

The old model of “I’m an uninformed amateur who’s messing up my horse, and I’ll never get it” is fading in the background. The days of ‘there’s only winning and losing’ are becoming a thing of the past.

Competing is so much more than that. It’s courageous and thrilling – and that’s worth everything.

The old approach wherein everyone believes that progress has to be painfully slow and measured only on the outside is anything from incredibly frustrating – to shaming – to unsatisfying.

Plus, it inhibits your ability to ride at ease, think for yourself, be confident – and feel your horse.

Today’s video is all about a new mindset and how to set you and your horse up for success in the show pen.



For any horse and rider team to perform at peak levels in competition, both must be communicating back and forth as seamlessly as possible.

This type of conversation begins when you’re calm, focused, immersed in the moment, and supporting your partner. Nothing more. You’re not aware of the weather, who’s judging, or who’s watching.

You ride for that insatiable feeling of being at one with a horse. Of course, we all want to win. But feeling in sync with a horse is nothing short of heaven.

That ability for you to perceive your horse moment-to-moment begins with a ‘slow on the inside’ feeling and a positively engaged mind.

It’s a feeling is sublime calmness, with a keen awareness – as if all your senses have been turned on. And in addition to incredible synchronicity with the horse, you can ‘ride through mistakes’ and make good decisions when things go off the rails.

In this new shift, you are beginning to understand that you are responsible for your own state of mind, body, and emotion – no one else can do it for you.

You are also responsible for discovering, understanding and practicing the pieces and parts that add up to competitive excellence – and then systematically cultivating those skills and behaviors – for a lifetime.

In competition, this begins by setting your own ‘True North,’ that guiding compass that is authentic and holds your unique reasons for riding and competing. Those reasons are yours, and then you summon the courage to create a bold vision and believe in yourself.

You also know you are not perfect (and never will be) because the perfection mindset dwells on what’s not going well. Excellence says, ‘Take me to the next mountain top; I’m ready.

On show day, the goal is to be your collective best with your horse. You are there to show your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.

Showing is laying it all on the line at a specific place and time in front of other people. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, but you know you have done everything possible to prepare at the end of the day.

At the end of the day or later at home comes a review. What went well? What worked for your horse? How did you two do together? Celebrate your strengths and accomplishments and be detective-like for your next steps to improve. The love of competition and the pursuit of excellence continues.

Competitive excellence is not only what you see on the outside – it’s an experience shared between the inside of the rider’s soul and the horse’s spirit. It’s working hard individually (and together), getting ready, walking into the show pen, staying cool under pressure – seeing the truth when it’s all done, and then craving more improvement.

The desire for constant growth is never viewed with a depredating eye – only with the constant encouragement of, “Here you go. Here’s your next step. Enjoy!”

This mindset and practicing the steps are your jobs, along with the support of others – but you are still the one who is responsible for going for the gusto.

Embrace the shift, the joy, and the fun. It truly is all about the journey.

Click Here to sign up for my 4-Part Podcast Series, Shine in the Show Pen – which is available to download for a short time. They are my gifts to you.

Please leave a comment for me. I LOVE hearing from you!


Keep Expectations High – No Excuses!

Keep Expectations High – No Excuses!

Hey, it’s Barb,

What I always find amazing is the fact there are always more layers to understand and learn in anything we do.

Of course, that’s true about communicating with our beloved horses and developing our riding skills. The depth and breadth of what seems to just keep showing up for each of us is truly incredible and surprising sometimes for how it comes to us.

Audio Transcript:

Hey, it’s Barb,

What I always find amazing is the fact there are always more layers to understand and learn in anything we do.

Of course, that’s true about communicating with our beloved horses and developing our riding skills. The depth and breadth of what seems to just keep showing up for each of us is truly incredible and surprising sometimes for how it comes to us.

It’s the same with the mental and spiritual side of our lives with horses.

I was watching an interview on TV with a college coach. I’m sorry to say I did not write his name or the college name down.

He was talking about when he interviewed for the job before he was hired.

He said that he told the powers that be that if they wanted a coach “to win” that he was not their man. Sure he would do his best, but he was more interested in the growing the character of his players as a measure of success than the scores of the game.

Although I was intrigued by so much that he said, and I was glued to the TV as I listened to him, I wrote down one point in particular that resonated with me – and put it in big words on my vision board.

Keep your expectations HIGH! NO EXCUSES.

It’s interesting how certain things happen in our lives when the time is right.

The two parts of that message – expectations high and no excuses got me thinking about my own expectations about so many things – and if and how I limited my thoughts about them by thinking small or making excuses.

What I found is that sometimes the small thinking doesn’t have to be in terms of limited expectations – although I sense some of that – but it’s more subtle than that. Sometimes it can be a lack of excitement. It’s like a feeling of being resigned to ‘this is just how this or that is.’

To me, what makes the “Keep your expectations high and no excuses,” powerful is both parts of that phrase.

It’s a raise the bar! C’mon, let’s go. You can do it! And don’t be mealy-mousing around with the roadblocks that come up – including the ones I generate by not keeping my eye focused on going for the highest of the high expectation.

I was inspired by that interview. I wish I had written down his name. I only watched for a few minutes, but the timing of the message for me was perfect – as it always is for all of us.

So no matter what you’re doing with your horse, keep your expectations

HIGH! No excuses!

Let me know what you think in the comments. Have a great week.



Questions to ask looking to 2022

Questions to ask looking to 2022

This time of year is such a perfect time to think about 2022 – what we want to accomplish – why we want to achieve it – and what success looks like. Then – what is our path to get there?

I think about new beginnings first regarding the what and why as such essential pieces to ponder.

We tend to think about the logistics of the path, like – where we’ll take lessons – how we’re going to be coached – and who is going to train our horse.

That’s important, but I like to start with the foundation of determining what brings you joy (why do you even ride?)

Then ponder, what is it that you need technically? What does your horse need technically? How will you get each of you improving in the areas that need improving – and then how will you get the connection between the two of you going?

Does your horse stay calm and focused? How will you think in empowering ways and use your body in ways that call up confidence? You’ll need to hone your horse’s mental and emotional skills along with your own.

So again, I think of planning to shore up our needs, our horse’s needs, and then blend them.

When you think about what you’d like to accomplish in 2022, it should be something that makes you so happy.

Next, let’s talk about decisions regarding your horse’s and your technical skill development.

First, you and your horse are a team. In teamwork, of course, it takes two or more to achieve the desired result, and it’s not a solo act.

As a rider, we are the team leader with our horses. It takes two to tango.

I often see amateurs and nonpros feel as if they are responsible for every weakness their horse has or they have. They think they should know most things ‘by now.’ But the reality is they’ve never had the opportunity to learn those skills.

Your horse brings their own set of trained technical skills to the table, and you get your set of riding skills. It’s best not to feel burdened by the pressure you put on yourself to be more advanced than you are.

Yes, you do need to be as objective as you can, perhaps with the help of a coach or professional. Please do your best to understand what horsemanship and technical skills you need next and how to learn them.

The same is necessary to consider for your horse.

In addition to a professional trainer or coach, there is additional information to be found online or by hearing the comments of those more experienced than you.

I think it’s fun to think of your job as a rider, like being a detective. Do your homework. Pick what information resonates with you for your riding and to improve your horse. No one person or resource knows everything. Have fun gathering information wherever you find it. That is the way of learning to be a good rider and horse person.

Above all, please do not blame yourself for being behind. You are never behind, and you are on a magnificent – and very personal – adventure with your horse. Enjoy every moment.


Two Exercises for Showtime Prep

Two Exercises for Showtime Prep

I love this time of year. It’s unique in so many ways. The weather is refreshing, the colors are gorgeous, and there’s a lot of change going on.

For many, it’s a special show season.

In this video, I want to shout out to my friends who are going to their final weekend show, large year-end competition, futurity, or some other big show – and you feel excited. And I know, of course, you want to do well.

First, know that I’m rooting for you. You’ve worked hard, and this is your time. Go for it. Have fun. Focus. Give it all you’ve got and enjoy the experience.

One of my favorite things about showing (or anytime there’s a performance involved and you want to do something extraordinary in front of others) is getting into that place of a calm, yet energized, and laser-focused state of mind and body. It feels like a total immersion into the best of you and your horse.

Nothing exists except you and your horse and doing your job.

One way to practice being in that place is to think through how you want it to go at the highest level possible for you and your horse. Write it down. Then visualize it. Practice being there so when you are at the show, it feels like you’ve been in that physical show arena – you’ve been on your horse – and both of you are doing your glorious thing – a million times already!

Here’s my second thought for you.

Going to the show is not the time to catch up on training. That part of preparation was done at home.

Treat yourself and your horse to the time it takes to easily get ready on show day – to show your best. You’re not entering an arena to cover up your weaknesses.

If your horse has some spots that need help, plan how you will do that at the show, but for support, not trying to finish out your training.

It’s not your job to be perfect in the show pen. It’s about going for excellence. Staying focused and loose by thoroughly preparing on show day will help you do that.

So those are your exercises.

Rehearse over and over in your mind, who are you and your horse at your best? Get that picture and feel it in your mind and body. Don’t let it go.

And then give yourself all the time you need to do what you need to do to get you and your horse ready to walk into the arena feeling on top of the world.

None of us have any control over results. They always take care of themselves.

Have a blast. How lucky we all are to have the opportunity to be with our horses and the people we love.

Leave a comment for us, please. We love hearing from you.


The eyes have it

The eyes have it

A while back, I did a personal performance clinic in Florida at an English barn. They invited me to ride one of their jumpers over some low jumps at the end of the day. FUN!

In the clinic, I discussed the importance of keeping our eyes up. I coached the riders to do the same.

This is a critical technical skill for all disciplines, and from my perspective as a Performance Coach, keeping our eyes up builds confidence and helps maintain it throughout our ride.

So now I’m on a jumping horse. I started down the line to go over a set of crossbars and – whoa! – I went right around the outside of them! My eyes weren’t up and looking where I needed to go. Obviously, I didn’t feel confident. I didn’t look past the jump or go down the middle of it!

We had a good chuckle out of that one.

We all KNOW we need to keep our eyes up when we ride. Our horses follow our eyes, and we stay focused – but – we tend to drop our eyes constantly.

We can help ourselves keep our eyes up by consistently coaching ourselves to keep looking where we want to go. And then we do!

This works because when we continually look where we’re going, our body moves in specific ways. The horse feels these subtle changes through our seat and legs and responds accordingly.

The other reason is a little less tangible – it’s as if our horse gets an invisible message like a laser beam from our eyes to their brain!

From a personal performance point of view, keeping your eyes up calls up and sustains a feeling of calm and focus.

What huge multiple wins when you keep your eyes looking in the direction you intend to go. You direct your horse’s movement almost effortlessly – and – you feel confident and focused on the inside.

But as I said before, we ALL tend to look down. It feels more ‘natural. However, if you commit to coaching yourself to keep your eyes up and focus ahead to where you’re going, you will have a powerful impact on your confidence, and your horse will be more responsive.

Have fun and feel good communicating with your horses with your eyes.


Podcast: Nerves in Horses and People

Podcast: Nerves in Horses and People

Hi, it’s Barb.

I was thinking about this challenge of ‘nerves’ that’s a tough one.

And if you think you’re the only one, believe me, you’re not. It’s a challenge most of us have.

And I was thinking about it in the context of our horses. They get nervous, too.

I thought it would be fun to see the similarities… and the differences… between our horse’s nerves and ours, one solution that works for both, and who’s ultimately in charge of getting the situation back in the calmness column.

So, imagine you’re at a show or a clinic, or someplace away from home.

You pull up to feed, and your horse is pacing about in the stall. He’s worked up. He nickers with his head up.

But when he sees you, he feels comforted… and the hay and grain take his mind off of whatever was bugging him, too.

Fast forward to saddling time. He’s still fidgety and super distracted. He’s kind of a pain to saddle, really.

Now you’re in the warm-up arena. He is looking around like crazy. It feels like his feet are three feet off the ground.

You get the picture.

And on top of that, you were nervous and excited to begin with… just being there.

So now both of you are in the same boat. Somehow that doesn’t feel like the ideal situation!

Now, I want to step back for a moment and talk about the reasons why horses get nervous, and the reasons why people get nervous.

Horses typically fret about something that scared them in the recent past, like a loud bang that came from nowhere. Or, they fret about the present. Examples of that would be separation from their buddy or blowing flags in an arena or the wind. Obviously, those are just a few possible reasons.

So, their anxiety is about a not too distant past or the present.

By contrast, we humans get nervous because of our thoughts about the future. Will I ride well? Is my horse good enough to be here? Am I a good enough rider to be here? What if I make a fool of myself? I don’t feel ready… and on. What if I forget the pattern? What does so and so think of me?

So the horse’s anxiety is typically about something in the present. The rider is in the future and a projection of a poor outcome.

I have a solution for both you and your horse.

Bring your attention and your horse’s attention back to the present moment in ways that consciously relax both of you.

And here’s the key. It begins with us, the rider because we have to be in a calm state to bring our horse back to that place.

We are the leader. Without our calm and clear guidance, the horse has no way to bring his focus back. Plus, if we don’t get grounded, we will only escalate our horse’s anxiety. That’s no good.

How do you bring your attention and your horse’s attention back to the moment in ways that relax you?

First of all, that’s planned and practiced at home before you get to your event, so you have a game plan for how to handle it.

It’s not that you’re sure you’ll be nervous or your horse will lose it, but just in case you’ve got it covered.

Some ideas for you would be rhythmic breathing and a planned repetitive script spoken as a mantra, like, “Stay cool, Barb. Stay cool.” Notice that both the breathing and speaking to yourself are in a rhythm.

What would a plan for your horse look like?

Well, of course, that depends but walking in small circles with flexing, or some rhythmic exercise, like alternating changes in the speed of gaits are a couple of ideas.

Of course, in this podcast, I’m just brushing over the top of the surface of ideas.

But a key takeaway is for you to practice relaxation exercises for both you and your horse at home so you can use them in situations away from home.

And the most important idea of all is for you to practice ways to calm yourself, that really works because your horse needs you.

That’s what I have for you today.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Know you’re the best. Leave a comment—Bye-bye for now.


Podcast: Nerves in Horses and People

Podcast: How To Be Extraordinary

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been observing riders who are absolutely killing it… recreational riders, teachers, coaches, and competitive riders.

I’ve observed 3 things in all of them make them stand out, and inspire me.

I hope becoming more clear about these 3 attributes inspires you, too.

And the best news is, all three are yours for the taking! You have to do them for yourself consistently.


Hello, my friends.

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for podcasts, so here you go.

The quest for learning and excelling… and being happy… and helping our horses… and providing well for their happiness… can be fun… and exasperating all at the same time!

And believe me, I’m right in there with you digging deep for these things in my own life in general, and with my horse.

I’ve always been fascinated with the human, horse, and human/horse potential together. It drives my passions.

It’s exciting for me to uncover even the simplest of ideas or tools that we absolutely CAN DO that open up wonderful doors for us. Of course, when we work on ourselves, it immediately helps our relationship with our horse.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been observing riders who are absolutely killing it… recreational riders, teachers, coaches, and competitive riders.

I’ve observed 3 things in all of them make them stand out… and inspire me.

I hope becoming more clear about these 3 attributes inspires you, too.

And the best news is, all three are yours for the taking! You have to do them for yourself consistently.

#1. They have a drive for excellence for its own sake, not for recognition from the outside world.

They have tremendous personal passion for what they do.

These riders LOVE their job with a horse, whether it’s showing, teaching, or training. And they want to be fabulous at it so they can experience the excellence of it for themselves.

Just the excitement of getting out there, doing it, and seeing how good they can get thrills them.

They see standards set by others as inspiration and something to strive for… and maybe even exceed… but it’s not about beating others. It’s to see what’s possible for themselves.

They’re immersed in their own job with their own horse.

Every day is an adventure and an opportunity to learn and excel.

#2. They have the ability to focus on the process and not the results.

They’re all about the horse and the truths about communicating with a horse.

How does a horse understand?

How can I read my horse better?

How can I do better to build their confidence and show them what I want?

These riders love learning and measure everything as compared to themselves and how they’re doing with their horse… not to other people and their horses.

#3. They never give up.

And while these riders absolutely DO have their vulnerable moments, they have learned that their journey is an awesome one.

There is nothing innately lacking in them.

They have learned that HOPE is a verb, not a noun. They will find a way around or through a challenge. In fact, sometimes, the harder it gets, the more they love the challenge.

Challenges and setbacks are to be expected in their eyes.

In fact, problems are their greatest sources of insight about exactly where they should improve, which brings us back around full-circle to the love of excellence for its own sake and focusing on the process, not the results.

What’s interesting is that sometimes their extraordinary success is almost a surprise because they’ve been so consumed by what they’re doing!

So here’s a path to adopting these three characteristics for yourself.

Tap in first and foremost to your own heart.

Make sure you love what you’re doing for its own sake. If you don’t, change it.

Keep reaching one step at a time because you love what you do so much that you can’t wait to learn and do it more.

Know that you’re always enough. Your personal worth is not measured by how you ride a horse!

Your journey is your greatest source of joy for you!

Most of all, have a blast.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!


3 Ways to Survive Change

3 Ways to Survive Change

Did you ever notice how we all crave for things to be certain? We avoid change like the plague. We love thinking that FINALLY, we found the way it’s going to be … I like it and I don’t want any change.


Funny, the most dramatic case of this is my life was when our son Zane was an infant. I was willing to do whatever he needed, of course, but it kept changing. As a young Mom, I would think, “Ok … I’ve got it now. He wakes up once a night at 2:00 and then goes back to bed until 6:00. I can plan around that.” Sure … that was good for about 2 days. And then it changed. I kept trying to figure it out.

But now, years later, I finally understand that things are always changing, even when we don’t realize it.

In our horse lives, when we first started riding, we just knew what we knew at that time. We thought we’d always ride the same horse … always be in the same barn … always go to the same shows.

But then, things changed. Our beloved horse got arthritis. The trainer moved. We were forced to take a break because of an accident, or financial reasons … or whatever.

And then we were on unsteady ground again.

As I continue to learn … and study great mentors in personal performance and personal growth, I have come to understand that those who continue to excel …even through change, have some things in common:

  • They too are uncomfortable with change. But herein lies the difference: they don’t resist the change. They trust themselves and they trust their journey. They might say something to themselves like, “This is hard. I’m really sad … or maybe mad … but I’m strong.” So, when the trainer moves or you move away from your horsey friends, you know you will survive … and somehow find your way.
  • Those who flow best with change believe there is some good that will come through the difficulty. Maybe they don’t know what it is, but they truly do believe it exists. They also know that only time and a willingness to see things that way will tell the tale. They don’t know how things will turn out … but again they trust their journey. This is a strong personal belief of mine. It has gotten me through some tough times in my personal life … or in my horse training life when a horse got sore … or a show didn’t go well for me … just to name a few.
  • Next, those who flow best with change not only believe something good will come to pass … they actively look for it. For me, maybe not being able to ride one of my favorite horses, helped me see the good things in one of the other horses … things I had missed. For you, perhaps if you have to stop riding for a while, you can use that time to travel to big shows and watch … something you’ve wanted to do for years.

Yes … change is really hard … and it’s sad sometimes … and it almost always seems to kind of suck. But, after you grieve a bit (and give yourself time for that) … tell yourself that you are strong. Yes, you can survive. And yes, there is a gift in the misfortune. And when you’re ready … yes, go searching for it.

That’s what I have for you today. Scroll down and leave a comment for me. I would love that.


Essential Advice for Tackling Family Tensions in Self-Isolating Households

Essential Advice for Tackling Family Tensions in Self-Isolating Households

Although many families have slowly returned to the routines they followed before the COVID-19 pandemic began, your household may still be self-isolating. Perhaps one of your family members is an essential worker who does not want to risk spreading the virus, or maybe you have a child with a medical condition that makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. If your family has been in isolation for quite a while, you may be grappling with household tensions. Here are a few strategies to help you address the roots of these issues.

Lack of Physical Activity

Perhaps your family was quite active before the pandemic, but after a few months indoors, you’ve slowly slipped from practicing those wellness habits. A lack of exercise may have you all feeling grouchy, sluggish, and irritable. With a solid workout routine, you’ll be able to release the tension you’ve been feeling – just try to choose exercises your kids can keep up with! If you’ll be going outside, pack masks and go over the guidelines for wearing them with your kids, just in case. And if you’ve been indulging in comfort food and takeout throughout this pandemic, prioritize cooking healthy meals instead.

As a parent, you may be craving an opportunity to get away for a little while and get fit while you’re at it. A horseback riding retreat with the team at BeUnstoppable could be the perfect solution! Benefits abound—you’ll be able to enjoy the great outdoors, work out, and embrace a temporary change of pace.

Kick Boredom to the Curb

Despite your best efforts to keep your children entertained, boredom may have set in by now. Boredom can definitely contribute to rising household tensions, so it might be time to pick up a new family hobby that you can all enjoy together!

Consider giving online multiplayer gaming a try. Just make sure that you have a strong Internet connection to handle the demands. You may want to get your household hooked up with a fiber optic connection through a company like Verizon, which will boost your download speeds and ensure that you can enjoy smoother gameplay. Don’t forget to set some sensible screen time limits for your kids!

Addressing Loneliness

After spending so much time at home with little outside social interaction, your kids might be feeling lonely – and you can probably relate. Loneliness can definitely factor into household tensions. Maybe it’s time to add a little pizzazz to your usual video chats with friends and relatives! Try to incorporate fun games and interactive virtual activities into video chat sessions. This can help your kids feel like it’s a digital playdate.

Processing Sadness

Your children might feel sad about plans and opportunities they’ve missed out on because of the pandemic. That sadness can turn into anger. Parent Map states that it is important to validate your child’s feelings, even if they are having a meltdown. Taking a deep breath to soothe your own anxieties is also crucial!

Once you have helped your child calm down, you will often find they are upset about something and need some cheering up. AllProDad recommends giving plenty of hugs and encouragement, and compliment them on everything they’ve handled well since the beginning of the pandemic. Give them something to look forward to as well – talk about all of the fun plans you can make once it’s safe again!

The pandemic has tested families everywhere, and if you’ve been struggling to deal with rising tensions in your household, you are not alone! However, you do not have to resign yourself to living with these sources of stress going forward. With these tips, you’ll be able to make your family’s days feel a little brighter.

This article was submitted by Emma Grace Brown (Guest Author)