Cathy Sirett, author of Complete Confidence, and Kate chat about confidence and the journey that led Cathy to write her book. They explore the tools that help people move from anxiety to waking up excited to spend time with their horses and achieve their equine goals. Complete Confidence is our book of the month for September 2020.
If you would like to explore Complete Confidence Cathy mentions some free resources, you can find these on the Equine Academy.
We will also be having an extended Podcast with Cathy and her colleagues in September, if you have a question you would like answered pop it in the comments at the bottom of this page 👇👇
Hi, welcome to the most recent chat with me, Kate McLaughlin editor of horsemanship journal. I'm here today with the wonderful Kathy Sirett author of Complete Confidence; we're going to talk today about Kathy's journey how the book came about, where it's going and how it can help all you beautiful horse people.
It's great to have you here to talk about the book which I have a copy of, and I love. Can you tell me how it came about, what it's about and how it can help our readers and where you are in your journey and let's just have a chat?
Well, I think it's quite an interesting journey, but then I'm a bit biassed. So what happened was I've always worked in the corporate world, I had 25 years of training, learning and development, working with people on their confidence and in changing behaviour. Then in 2008, when I was away on a six-week riding course, having spent all my money and borrowed money to do it. What happened in 2008, we had the credit crunch. I had all the clients I worked with basically collapsed. It wasn't anything to do with me; I just want to make that clear. So, I decided to take a step back, and it coincided with when my mum was diagnosed with dementia.
I took a step out of the corporate world that I was looking around for something to do, and a couple of friends who I knew through the horse world, because we'd done some Parelli stuff together, and they asked if I would coach them? And I said, Well, I'm not an instructor. Is it? No, we don't have the confidence to go to an instructor. Oh, wow, well, confidence coaching, I've been doing that at work; so I started working with my friends.
One of the other things that impacted me was that I, myself, have lost my confidence many times in the past. I've been through lots of different ways of fixing it, all of which turned out to be bandaid on the problem. I'd just fix it in one place, and it would just bolt off with another, you know, and the key for me was when I found myself holding the lead rope of the safest oldest horse in the yard crying because I was scared of getting on him. So I'd sorted myself out. And then these friends said, Well, we saw what you did with yourself. Can you come and do some stuff with us?
Because I think that's when I first met you around 2008 because I was having problems with my confidence.
I found that with a lot of people, we were starting in the same place and going through the same things, and that became a five-step process that I was doing with people. So I started doing talks for riding clubs on that, and it went down well. Everybody said you should write a book. Which of course I didn't. I was too busy coaching and things like that. I really enjoyed it, because what I discovered was my purpose. There is no reason in the world, why you should wake up in the morning scared of going to your horse. I want everybody who's got a horse to wake up excited and happy at the thought of being with their horse.
So many people wake up, and they feel sick, they feel scared, they feel anxious, and that's horrible. Horses are supposed to be where we go for love and happiness and connection. So I carried on doing the coaching full time for about five or six years before writing the book.
What was the next step for you, because obviously, your book has been out a while and I've seen you at various events pre COVID, where you've been promoting it, and I know it's well-received.
My aim is that after working with a complete confidence coach or me, you can do it yourself. It's not about you've got a problem, let's fix it. It's about here's how to deal with any problem that comes up. So the first part of the book is that five-step journey, I think you've read where, we take you through that. And that gives you the tools so that whenever you have a confidence issue, you go back to that journey, go through it, and you can do that yourself. So basically, I'm trying to put myself out of work. But anyhow, so the book came out and what I found interesting was a couple of people I'd worked with previously read the book and realised how much they'd learned from working with me that they hadn't noticed they learned. They got in touch and they are now certified Complete Confidence coaches. So the focus now is I'm running a couple of courses a year where we take four riding instructors, riding coaches, someone who's already coaching so they know the basics of coaching. So I don't have to teach that. What we do is we certify them in the Complete Confidence approach so they can add that string to their bow when they're working with people.
Okay, it becomes a tool for equestrian professionals out there helping their clients it's another string and other another essential part of the job really, isn't it, once you've dealt with the physical and the emotional.
So the level I'm kind of coming in at is working with those equine professionals, and also working with Some of the more complex cases that perhaps come up where the confidence issue goes beyond just the horse interaction. Now, the certified coaches I've got, they've integrated this into their horse practice. You really want someone like us, who understands people, understands horses, horse behaviour horse psychology. Because the difference with confidence with horses is you've got the other living being interacted with you.
Which is a potentially dangerous living being. Yeah, sometimes, as you know, yourself. It's not just about the humans' confidence it's also about the level of training of the animal that they're dealing with. So it's having that multifaceted approach.
We've got a new complete confidence podcast that's going to be launching at the beginning of September, where the certified coaches we get together, and we take a question each week and share our perspectives on it. The last one we looked at was we looked at napping. Now, this is a classic place where the horse isn't confident. So he naps and then the rider if they're not confident, their confidence gets shaken. We end up in that downward spiral. Sometimes the answer is to work with the human, but sometimes the answer is to work with the horse and most times is to work with both. So it's essential when you're talking about horses and your confidence that you acknowledge that there's two of you in the relationship.
One of the things I found is, even after writing the book, a lot of people would express their concerns about their confidence, but they're also not very confident about moving forward and getting help.
Okay, do they find themselves stuck?
It's interesting because if we want help with jumping, we get a jumping coach if we want help with eventing we an eventing coach. Yet so many people go, I've lost my confidence, and I don't know what to do. You know what, there are 100 confidence coaches in this country could help you, not just me, although obviously, I'd want to be your first choice. But there are confidence coaches out there. For some reason, people find it very difficult to realise that or even consider it an alternative, whether that's it's something like the perception we have with getting therapy if we're feeling down or something we feel it's admitting weakness. To me, it's just the same as learning a skill; it's learning how to be confident and sustain it. Same as learning how to jump 1.3m
Do you think that it's fear, it's fear that puts you in that place if you have a wobble with your confidence and you know it's an issue, but the fear of facing it is paralysing?
I think you've hit the nail on the head. I mean, first of all, a lack of confidence is an unconscious thing, lack of confidence is your unconscious mind, trying to keep you safe from physical, emotional or mental harm. So you'll be unconfident about making a presentation because you're scared of looking like a fool. So your unconscious is keeping you safe from looking like an idiot. If you're afraid of getting on your horse and riding you're unconscious is trying to keep you safe from the physical harm of falling off, or the emotional harm of other people criticising you. So it is very much that the unconscious fear is sending us a message about being safe, or needing to be safe. One of the things we know about fear is that when you're frightened, a lot of your brain circuits are blocked. Neuroscience shows that when you're frightened, a lot of your other conscious brain systems are shut down so that your body can focus on that fight or flight response system.
It's like a paralysis, isn't it?
Yes. All the neurotransmitters go to where they're needed, which is the fight or flight areas, and they leave the conscious part of the brain which could go well, let's look at this rationally. Yes, I'm scared of falling off, but I fell off when I was 10 and now I'm a top-level rider and it won't happen.
Our brain just leaves the building.
That is brain chemistry. That is neuroscience. That's what happens. It's the same as you know when people say, 'it's unfair' and you say, well look at it from the other person's point of view, they actually can't because their empathy circuits are blocked in their brain.
Oh, that's really interesting.
Yeah, the neuroscience fascinating,
Which actually might make me more empathetic when people can't do that. Now, I'll be more understanding when they're a bit blinkered.
It's interesting because neuroscience also explains a few things. So for example, you know that the menopause is a classic time when we lose confidence. Also a time when we lose our Mojo, our motivation, our joy; and all that is chemical. Oestrogen is a precursor for dopamine, and dopamine is the motivation chemical. Dopamine is that I'm thinking of riding my horse; I feel the joy of doing it. So if that's missing, you think of riding your horse, and you feel nothing. So it's a biochemical thing.
So one of the things I pride myself on is this kind of all-round approach to confidence, let's find out what's really going on here and find the answer that works for you using the process we've got.
Yes, just beyond the symptoms, because it's very easy to blanket things, isn't it?
Okay, can I share a story with you, Kate?
Of course you can.
One of the stories with someone who came to me, she was very nervous about getting on a horse, she said, I've had confidence coaching before it didn't work out. She said, my horse bolted with me. So I went and had some work because the memory scared me. So she said, I got over that. And when I got back on my horse, he bolted again. Oh, because they'd fix the issue of her feeling scared, but they haven't fixed the issue that was the horse bolting. So this is why it's important that whoever you work with, and there are lots of people out there so you can find someone who resonates with you, is that they find out what's actually the issue. Don't just stick on a bandaid because if they take away your fear, but the events still going to happen. What you want is to know how to stop my horse bolting because that will give me real confidence.
Because I have the skills to cope with it when it happens. Yes. And then further down the line, look at why the horse is and try and address that.