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.  

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