In the past I used to work in the NHS as a midwife and found that this was a great conversation starter when meeting new people. You know that situation when you’re sitting next to a stranger and you have the “what do you do?” conversation? Everyone understands what a midwife does and they often launch into telling their own personal stories of childbirth, frequently embellished in all its glorious detail!  

When, for many different reasons, I left the NHS I wasn’t sure what to do next so I spent some time helping my husband in his business doing some book keeping and admin work.  This was a definite conversation no go area!  If asked the same “What do you do?” question -giving the answer, “I help my husband in his business”, invariably ended the conversation with the questioner turning away to, hopefully, find someone more interesting to speak to.

Fast forward a couple of years and I began training in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy with the aim of putting what I was learning into practice as a self employed therapist.  I have owned and ridden horses for many years but was never the most confident of riders and had found myself confined to a pretty small and self-inflicted comfort zone.  Whilst I was doing my training I started to apply what I was learning to my own life and, in particular, to my horse riding. I noticed very quickly that things were changing and that my comfort zone was expanding. I felt braver, worried less and enjoyed riding more.

So when I completed my diploma from the National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy I decided to market my new skills to horse riders to see if I could help them too and in 2004 my business Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland was born.  This was pre social media so I advertised in a local freebie horse magazine and found that there was definitely a market and a need for my services from riders who were looking for a confidence boost and support to help them to fulfil their riding goals.

This led to a new kind of conversation at social occasions (I don’t spend my whole life at dinner parties by the way). Once again I might be asked the same question but now I had a totally different answer.  People frequently seemed to struggle to understand what It is that I do, especially if they had no knowledge of the equestrian world. I would often get a sort of slightly mocking response along the lines of “Why do people ride horses if they’re scared?” or “Do you hypnotise the horse” with an apparent assumption that I was simply using my hobby to earn a little bit of pocket money.  

I suspect that this unhelpful response partly came from my own personal self limiting beliefs that I wasn’t really running a proper business.  Coming from an NHS background I definitely found it a challenge to charge for my services and to promote myself effectively within the equestrian industry. Self promotion seemed a bit like showing off and wasn’t something that I felt comfortable with.  I frequently found it hard to even describe myself as self employed and running my own business. To me, “Business” seemed like something that men in suits did and I didn’t think of myself in that way at all.

Then we had the invention of social media. I resisted having either personal or business profiles for some considerable time, but finally decided to dip my toes into the social media world and I can honestly say that this has changed my business beyond recognition.

Taking the plunge and overcoming self-doubt has helped my personal confidence to grow and has helped me to make links and connections throughout the equestrian world in Scotland and beyond. Social media often receives bad press, but I have to say that I find it hugely supportive and extremely useful. By being careful which groups I join, and which accounts I follow I have been able to learn so much about marketing, networking and also about business processes and business management. Applying this new learning to my day-to-day work has helped my business to grow and hugely increased the awareness of what I have to offer riders.

It seems that it’s not just me who has had to overcome self-doubt plus that of other people.  Monica aka @theweefarrier always knew that she wanted to work with horses and for some time worked on yards and as a groom before deciding to train as a farrier.  She had to overcome the doubts of a lot of people but found some work experience with her own farrier before taking five years to find another farrier willing to take her on as an apprentice. She says about her job, “It’s hard work physically and mentally. Especially when you’re working with and competing against men who are physically stronger than you. A lot of technique has to be learned. But I’ve proven so much to myself and a lot of people around me who had doubts- by never giving up! My family and friends network really helped and supported me. I’m so grateful that I managed to achieve my goal and to be doing a job that I absolutely love.”

Since I began in 2004 the world has changed a lot. I am a lot more aware of women running their own businesses in all sorts of different fields.  I look around me and see many successful women, like Monica, who are proud of their achievements, and this is to be welcomed and encouraged.  The women I know have so many amazing skills and if they can use those skills to create and grow a business then I hope that they have their own conversations in which they can proudly share what they choose to do.  I am guessing, and must ask her some time, that Monica has some interesting chats with people she meets for the first time when they ask her about her job.  I suspect that even in 2022 many people are surprised to hear that she is a fully qualified farrier making a great success in her business.

In the eighteen years since I started my business, I’ve learned a huge amount. I’ve challenged and therefore changed my beliefs about what I do and now when somebody asks me what I do I make sure that I explain in a way that they understand. If they then choose to not take it seriously or not to regard it as a worthwhile “business” then that’s their choice but I know the difference that my work makes to riders and am very proud of that.

Jane Brindley

Jane Brindley

Equestrian confidence and mindset coach using hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and performance coaching. Works with riders off horse in person and online. Based in Scotland and connected Worldwide.