Thinking of Giving up?

Too old, too sore, not enough money?

dedicated to Karen B from WA

“I have scoliosis”, “I have one leg shorter”, “I’m too sore…”

One of the most common comments I hear is “I have scoliosis”, or “I have one leg shorter than the other”.  “I could never ride straight.”

It’s normally the first thing that comes out of the rider (or parent’s) mouth.  Yet, at the same time the REALLY disabled people hardly notice, or mention, their disability!

A long time ago I noticed one thing about the Paralympians I teach – none of them “are” their illness or disability.   They concentrate on their sport, not on their illness, their pills, their bandaging or treatments.  They focus on their job of riding and creating lovely horses!

Often riders, and parents, talk to me about what they, or their child, CANT do, not what they CAN do.   And, again it’s normally the very MILD cases of disability.   The Grade 1 RDA (the most disabled such as completely blind or in wheelchairs) just “get on with the job” and show me what they CAN do!

Sports psychology at its best (& worst)…

I call it “talking DOWN” language.  I’m too tired, it’s raining, it’s too muddy, it’s too hot, I’m getting too old.

Ingrid Bayly Susan Seipel Claire Butler Marita Hird Paraequestrian Champions

One thing I learned from my Dad was to always “talk it UP”.   And, that’s what sports psychology is all about.  Getting rid of negative language and thinking.Sports psychology is often about telling ourselves “little white lies”:

►  “I AM going to make the Olympic team” (when you just don’t know how you can).
►  “I WILL have the money”  (when you’re deep in debt).
►  “I WILL get the horse”  (when “fluffy the pony” the 36 year old semi-retiree is the only horse lumbering around the paddock).

Honestly, one of the major keys to my own success is “talking it up”.  When I was deep in debt I would say “I’m going to the UK to train”.  When I didn’t have the time I would say “I’m going to do this course”.  When I didn’t have the energy I would say “I’m going to train this horse for the Nationals”….AND IT WORKED!!!

And…I’m speaking from experience…I have lupus, fibromyalgia and assorted heart problems.  I’ve been in hospital more times than I’ve counted with heart issues, neurological issues and just plain sick!  I’ve broken bones coming off, in between and under horses, torn tendons, knocked unconscious, and that was just in dressage *smile*! That didn’t count my polocrosse, breaking & training days!  

Susan Seipel, dear friend, (photo right) works tirelessly on her seat and posture.  With both legs in that position, she has enormous hurdles to overcome, and she has NEVER complained to me, hardly even explained her disability…she just gets on with the job.  She talks it up!

Marita Hird has been a friend for probably now 10 years, Paralympic Medallist, National Champion and Australian Team Representative, and a great sense of humour to boot.   It wasn’t until months after I met her that she mentioned she was RDA!  She talks everything up!

Ingrid Bayly, another friend for many years now, I never hear complaining, and my darling Claire Butler, current Junior RDA Queensland State Dressage Champion I had to beg and plead for her to even consider riding RDA, such was her determination to ride in normal competition.  Such was the way that Claire, and her Mum Janet both “talk it up”!

This doesn’t even mention the myriad of other champions and beginner RDA riders I work with in all the other states, and countries, around the world, and again they just aren’t their illness…and again, they all “talk it up!”

Excuse No. 204B…I don’t have the money…

One of the best excuses I hear over and over again is “I don’t have enough money”.

Having no money never stopped any of my champions raise the money they needed.  NONE of them had the money to go to Nationals, go to Europe, buy the horses they needed.  NONE of them…yet they’re all out there representing their country!

That never stopped me running raffles, running duck races, asking for donations, asking for rides on horses, organising clinics for the top trainers to come to my area and get my lesson in return for free, asking truck companies to donate rides for horses to competitions.

When I didn’t have a horse, I asked horse owners who didn’t do too much with their horses if I could take them out to competitions for them, getting them more famous and more valuable, and every owner always said yes.

“I don’t have enough money” is a total crock.   It’s very bad “talk it down” language.  There is ALWAYS a way around it.  I started with NOTHING.  It never stopped me.  Why is it stopping you?

I’m too old…

Next time the excuse is “I’m too old”…think again.

My mother, Gwen Kelly, rode in the Spirit of Pharlap show at age 75 years, with stiffness, rheumatism, and terrible pain that she never even talked about.   She recently passed away and with her “talk it up” attitude was well at lunchtime, and in heaven by dinner.  She’s riding up there still.

I ride at age…um…with all my health issues.

Mr. Roycroft rode at the Olympics EVENTING at I think aged 65 years (correct me if I’m wrong there).

And, the Queen of England still rides….and she was born in 1926.

If you can get your left foot in the stirrup, you’re not too old!   If you’re saying you’re too old, you’re using negative language again and need to change it!

I want to…but I’m lazy

It’s nearly impossible to train, ride and enjoy your riding on your own.

One of the things I did was put a little advertisement in the local paper “horse to share”, and I got the most amazing young girl, now in Grade 11 at school, who comes out a couple of times a week and on weekends, and here quite a lot during school holidays.

This MAKES me get off my lazy butt and work the horses.  I have no choice then.

It’s the same as being in a swim team, training as a team.  If you don’t show up you’re letting the team down.  If you train on your own, you’re not letting anyone down because no-one knows.

I was once told by the Head Rider from the Royal School in Spain “Colleen don’t be so vain that you think other people can’t ride your horse as well as you can”.  He was totally right.   In fact, often they ride better.   The young girl that works with me is younger, fitter, stronger, and because she rides under my supervision, she rides EXACTLY how the rule book says, and doesn’t use my “little cheats” that I shouldn’t be using anyway!

It’s brilliant…it worked to completely fix me and get me out there again.

I’m just far too busy…

Let me ask you some questions:  have you EVER watched television?  There’s at least an hour there!

Do you ever take the long way home in your car wasting time?  Do you spend evenings on the email, or chat rooms, or surfing the net for rubbish?

Then this is just yet another excuse.    Turn off the television (there’s 1 hour), get off the chat rooms, (that’s goodness knows how many hours), halve the length of your emails (I’d like to do this one myself!), and there’s your riding time.

Those of you who know me know me in the distant past know that I got up at 3:00am, was dressed and out the door at 3:15, at the farm at 3:45 on the horse just after 4:00am in the total dark in a paddock, learning to pick up a polocrosse ball by the headlights of the car!.  On the 6:19am Greyhound bus from Surfers Paradise to Brisbane (some 90km) worked all day, back out at the farm to feed up, and back up again at 3:15am and playing polocrosse each and every weekend of the season.

Those of you who knew me years later know that I worked at the University, with MASSIVE amounts of overtime, while I studied part-time off-campus at the same time, cleaned 12 stables and rode one horse every morning, cleaned animal houses for more money both Sat and Sun mornings before my riding lessons, was married, and still managed to read nearly every horse riding book ever written at the same time!

Those of you who know me now know that I get up, straight to the computer to answer your hundreds of emails a day, straight out to the horses, back to the computer, organise clinics all over the world, still studying, speaking at every major horse event in the world, run a farm of 7 horses, write articles, record DVD’s and CD’s.  I’m writing both a book and a novel at the same time, and even manage to cuddle my darling Nick when he comes home and trained Patch the Wonderdog for the shows on the side.  (Sadly she’s passed away, and I’m waiting for the good ol Universe to bring me another female red heeler cattle dog pup just like her).

It’s not that you’re too busy, it’s that you’re doing other things.   A psychologist or counsellor, or time management consultant can really help you with this.

My horse is too dangerous, old, lazy…

As I said the Queen of England still rides – however – she rides a very well chosen, well educated horse.

One thing I might grant you is you might need to change horses, and as I say on all my DVD’s and CD’s if your horse scares you…get it trained…or get rid of it!   Sell it to a home who enjoys a “spunky monkey”.

This is a dangerous sport!  Get a horse that’s a good breed such as the quarter horses, paints, cold bloods, appaloosas etc that are the known “golden retrievers” of the horse world, and one that is nicely trained, and you can enjoy your riding into your later years.   As it says in the movie “Buck”…what is it in your life that you feel that you need a horse like this?  Sure you might be able to fix the horse, but you have to be prepared to put the work in. You have to go and get help from really good professionals, and all the while you’ll have to be on your toes watching and waiting for that problem to arise.   And…have you thought you might be holding the horse back? While a young rider would revel in having a horse like that to train, fix and perform with…you might just get an injury that stops you riding altogether.  And if you want I WILL PERSONALLY HELP YOU swap your horse for something more suitable.  I know a lot of great horse people who would help you…just email me!




Get help…

One session with a sports psychologist can do wonders.   A couple of lessons with the local cowboy, horse trainer, or natural horsemanship coach can give you all the confidence you might need.  I get emails all the time asking for tips and help, and I do the best I can to personally get back to everyone.


You can get above your problems with no money, bad health issues, laziness, poor time management, and no horses…I DID IT….WHY CANT YOU?

Be grateful…

One thing we forget is how rich we REALLY are.   Have you compared yourself to the countries where they have no water and no electricity while we have the luxury of riding?

Young (females especially) often have a poor body image.   Well, compared to who?   Have you compared yourself to our disabled riders with no arms or no legs?

Be grateful!.  If your leg hurts – BE GRATEFUL YOU HAVE ONE!  Quit your moaning.  My disabled riders NEVER tell me about the disabilities!  They NEVER say “I have one leg shorter”, or “I have scoliosis”…they say things like “I’ve got a championships next month and no money and no horse, how can we get there?”. And, we ALWAYS get them there…and they WIN!

If your hands hurt, be grateful you’re not riding with the reins in your teeth

Be grateful you have “two feet and a heartbeat” and two good hands to pat the four-legged buddy that calls you his friend.

Gratitude is the very first step to.

Stop whinging and start giving…

If the purpose of life is to serve…how would you serve your very best friend?  What is something you could do today…just one thing…for your very best friend to make their day, or their life better.

Now, surely you are your own best friend…so what could you do to best serve yourself?

I got where I am by giving. Giving to anyone who would take it. Giving lessons, giving clinics, giving DVDs, giving money when I didn’t have it knowing the universe would bring it back to me.

If you’re not receiving…perhaps you’re not giving.

I’m guessing that if you chose to read this article, and if you’ve chosen to read this all the way to the end, that horses are “in your blood”.   Don’t let these little things be excuses.

Keep going, please, it will work out in the end.

Never never never give up.  If we can do it… can too!

With all my love to those out there who have been told, or think they can’t do it!

You can do it, because we all did!

With my deepest love and blessings to you,
Colleen Kelly



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Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Colleen,
    I loved reading this, and will bookmark the page. I have met you at Parelli tours, as we are vendors there, and now have discovered your site through a Facebook posting, how nice. I had no idea of the personal struggles you had encountered, you are truly an inspiration. I am thankful for folks like you who love horses and teach people. it is Thanksgiving day here in the US, lots of cooking and eating will happen, but not an excuse not to go out and ride! Looking forward to the Advanced Biomechanics DVD.
    .Liz Webb


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