Dancing, Dressage and all things Equestrian

Author: the_sand_arena_ballerina

Celeris bespoke boots – Product review

Celeris bespoke boots – Product review

I used to joke that top boots are the dressage riders equivalent of ballet pointe slippers, so I was delighted when I discovered Celeris Bespoke boots. In my opinion, these boots are the ultimate when it comes to style, elegance and comfort. I swore off […]

Hydration – The Other Equestrian Athlete

Hydration – The Other Equestrian Athlete

Fluids, not the sexiest of topics, but you know what is definitely not sexy? Dehydration. This week, as part of my series on nutrition and ‘The other equestrian athlete’ I want to talk about an often underrated topic – Hydration. Due to the format of equestrian sports […]

Blogger Recognition Award Pet Edition 2017

Blogger Recognition Award Pet Edition 2017

This week I was pretty excited to find out that I had been nominated by Bridle and Bone, Roosa’s Horsey Life and Team Tunnah Eventing for the Blogger Recognition Award – Pet Edition.Blooger Recognition Award 2017 Pet Edition


These ladies have been blogging much longer than me and run brilliant sites, so it was a huge honor to receive this accolade. Thank you so much Heather, Roosa and Sophie!

About the Blogger Recognition Award:

This award is for Bloggers by Bloggers and I love the ‘pay it forward’ feel of this award. There are a few rules:

  • Thank the nominating blogger.
  • Respond to the nominating blogger with a link to this post on their blog.
  • Write a post about the award.
  • Share a story of how and why you started your blog.
  • Offer at least two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
  • Pass on the nomination to another 15 bloggers.


Why I started blogging:

I started my blog at the end of last year after contemplating the idea for quite some time. When the idea first entered my mind a few years ago, I had thought that I would make use of my expertise as a dietitian and blog mainly about nutrition and how this relates to the equestrian athlete. I wrote several lists about all the topics I could cover, but these never eventuated as my self doubt overpowered the spark of desire. Last year I was successful in obtaining sponsorship through a great Australia clothing company, Wilson Equestrian and to help promote their gear I wrote a monthly update/blog. In doing so I remembered how much I love writing and expressing myself in a creative manner, a far cry from the dry, factual writing that is the bread and butter of my work as a clinical dietitian. Writing these monthly updates gave me the confidence to start my passion project, aka ‘The Sand Arena Ballerina’.

What I got when I started blogging was so much more than I could ever have anticipated, I have ‘met’ a fabulous group of fellow bloggers through the Facebook group Equestrian Bloggers and from reading far and wide. It’s also facilitated connections with equestrians all across the globe – people who understand the realities of a life where horses are central.

So would I recommend blogging to others?

ABSOLUTELY! I’d also offer the following pieces of advice:

1. Write about topics that you are passionate about or that elicit a strong emotions. This will come through on the screen and will draw people in.

2. Don’t shy away from writing about a topic just because it has already been covered by another blogger as you will undoubtedly bring your own unique perspective to it.

No one can offer your perspective in quite the way that you can

I would now like to nominate the following blog’s for the Blogger Recognition Award for 2017:

Horse Addict

The Blonde and the Bay

Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

The Half Halt Blog

Happy Hooves

Passion for Horse

Starbound Equine

Gee Gee and Me

Dead Broke Equestrian

Boston and the Blonde

Bridle and Bone

Roosa’s Horsey Life

Team Tunnah Eventing

A Horse for Elinor

Journey of an Amateur Eventer

These are some of my favourite blogs, so be sure to check them out!

Andrea and Nonie

One horse threads – Product Review

One horse threads – Product Review

At nearly 29 some people may argue that I am far too old to be wearing cute equestrian themed clothing. These people are not my friends, because honestly who needs that kind of negativity in their life? I discovered the American based company ‘One Horse […]

My love affair with dressage

My love affair with dressage

I love a gallop just as much as the next person, ok maybe not as much as an eventer, as but I do genuinely love the feeling of thundering through the waves at the beach, the salt splashing up in my face. So why then […]

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Toward the end of last year, Nonie and I started work on the changes. Flying changes!!! Being deemed ready to ride this brand new movement felt like a huge accomplishment, it felt like we had arrived! Having now started them, I can’t help but feel that my initial eagerness belied my naivety. I have come to understand that the changes are a challenge which require strength, relaxation and timing. There is an additional layer of challenge because you either complete one or you don’t. Sure there are varying levels of excellence within this movement however learning to ride the changes is vastly different from other skills where you are able to gradually develop them. For instance, when beginning shoulder in you may feel a glimmer of brilliance before it slips through your fingers, you continue to build upon that feeling until suddenly you can ride a whole long side in shoulder in.
IMG_7680 (2)
The changes started well under the watchful and analytical eye of our coach Dani Keogh, but when we started to work on them on our own it was a different story. We would warm up well and progress on to school the flying changes. After achieving maybe one or two each way that were fine Nonie would brace against me, take over and speed off. Maybe because she is an exuberant horse, or more likely this was the natural result of me asking with a far bigger aid than required. So I would go home and read articles, watch videos and find a new exercise to try. I would try it a couple of times with success but then Nonie would again take over.
The reason we were struggling with the changes wasn’t necessarily that my position is weak or because Nonie’s canter needed more jump and strength (although in some respects it does), rather it was because whenever tension would enter in the canter work, particularly on the right rein Nonie would push in through her her right shoulder allowing her to brace against me and avoid my aids. Ironically this is the exact issue that Dani had spent a large chunk of time working on with us in our last lesson. Who’d have guessed!
It’s not the first time that I have learnt a lesson in this way where I’ve been told something a million times and then suddenly the lesson clicks and the light bulb goes off! Eureka, we have understanding! I suspect a few factors play into this. I belive that timing is essential and that in order to deeply understand a lesson, we must be in a place were mentally we are ready for it. On the other, it may have more to do with hearing the lesson explained in a way that makes sense. You know how 4+5 equal 9 but 3+6 also equal 9. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of these things.
So I took  a few steps back to focus on the prerequisites for a good change such as the transitions, the balance, the tempo control and keeping her wrapped around my inside leg, and only occasionally asking for a change. This approach did help to create some progress. However I sensed that my mind was also holding me back. This sense came more from past experiences of my mind having got in the way than a true understanding of exactly what was happening at that point in time.
I suspected that a phone call to my performance  and mindset coach Danielle Pooles from Dressage Plus would be helpful. So that was exactly what I did. I have sought Dani’s assistance previously with great success. Anyone who has ridden dressage knows that it takes a great deal of athletic ability, but it equally requires great strength of mind and the ability to remain clear headed under pressure. When learning a new movement or in other situations where our equine partner may be unsure, it is up to us as the rider, to step up and be the leader, and gently guiding our horse to understanding.
Talking through the difficulties I was having with Dani helped me to figure out exactly what was going on, bracing against Nonie, holding tension in my thighs and my mind going blank at the vital moment I needed to ask for the change. We then worked out a strategy, including breathing at critical moments to help manage these issues. I got to try the strategy out the very next day and low and behold I was excited about the prospect of riding the changes rather than being nervous about how she would respond. We only got a quick ride in due to me leaving work late but we managed a calm easy change on each rein, no more speeding up into the change no more barreling down into the reins after the change no more excessive use of aids.
The changes are not yet perfect, but they are certainly improving and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for. Little improvements each day add up to big changes in the long term (pardon the pun!). This experience has reinforced for me the importance of mindset. Riding is as much a mind game as it is an athletic pursuit.
Until next time, happy riding! x AP
Equestrian Staples – Whips

Equestrian Staples – Whips

Those who know me know that when it comes to my horse no reasonable expense is spared, and really when it comes to your horse pretty much everything is reasonable, right? One thing I have never been able to bring myself to spend much money on […]

I’ll be a good rider when…

I’ll be a good rider when…

                                      ‘I’ll be a good rider when…’ This is a game I used to play a few years ago and it’s about as useful as its companion […]

Daring to Suck

Daring to Suck

Daring to suck… It’s a seemingly bizarre concept that resonated deeply with me. I was listening to one of my favourite podcast’s (check it out here http://summerinnanen.com/frr-37) when I stumbled across this idea.

Daring to Suck


So what does ‘daring to suck’ actually mean? In a nutshell, it means giving something a go even if there is a possibility of not pulling it off, not getting the outcome you were after, or failing. For me, daring to suck is an action which is in direct opposition to fearing failure.

Why is this important? As someone who identifies as having perfectionistic tendencies, I can see how my fear of failure has held me back at times. Whether it be something as simple as not riding that movement that is tricky and feels super uncomfortable or not entering that competition because you might make a mistake. Looking back, I can also see that my fear of failure kept me competing at prelim/novice level for way longer than necessary. I wanted everything to be perfect when I took the step up to prelim. This is a real problem because life is not perfect, particularly when you add a horse into the mix.

I haven't failed

Over the last two years, I feel that I have become much better at embracing imperfection. Here are some things that I feel have helped me along in this journey:

Understand why things feel uncomfortable.

For me one of the most useful things in understanding this was understanding the four stages of learning. The first stage is unconscious incompetence (that is we don’t know anything about what we cannot yet do). The second stage is conscious incompetence (we know what we can’t do). The third stage is conscious incompetence (we know the skills needed and we can use them but a high degree of concentration is required). The fourth and final stage is unconscious incompetence (we are able to apply the skills effectively with little conscious effort being required). Sure, there are times when something that is normally effortless becomes incredibly hard. But for the most part discomfort comes about when we are learning a new skill. I’ve found it particularly useful to link discomfort in my riding with the understanding that I am learning something new and growing.

Push yourself to do things which are uncomfortable, but not unsafe.

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of the ‘comfort zone’, the ‘learning zone’ and the ‘danger zone’. We have to learn to balance the need to push ourselves beyond our established skills. However, we also need to be mindful that we do not push too far and create a dangerous situation. In doing this having a coach who knows your level of skill and can push you is invaluable. Get to know what it feels like when you are working within the growth zone. For me things feel uncomfortable, challenging and requires a lot more conscious effort, but it never feels unsafe.

Comfort zone vs learning zone

Don’t be afraid to try new things. 

Perfection it doesn’t exist anywhere. Even less so when you bring an animal with its own thoughts and feelings into the picture. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Whether that is trying a different exercise, playing around with the timing of your aids or even seeking the input of a different coach. A few years ago, Nonie and I got to a stage where we could barely ride a 20m canter circle despite having compete successfully competed at novice and prelim. With limited access to dressage coaches in the area, we struggled along on our own for several months. Rides would frequently end up with me in tears and questioning my ability as a rider. I eventually contacted one of the local western trainers who had a good reputation. She helped Nonie and I make some changes that greatly improved our straightness, Nonie’s obedience and my confidence to lead. Her strategies worked even though they were not classical dressage.

The dressage coach that I train with now lives about 800km away, so we get her up to run clinics once every couple of months. In between clinics I am training on my own. This sometimes means that I have to use my knowledge and skills to figure things out on my own. Sometimes this means that I make mistakes or do things that don’t work. What I have learnt that it is much better to make a mistake than trying the same thing over and over and expect a different result. And generally we get things to a point where they start to improve.

So join me in embracing imperfection. I’d love to hear about a time when fear of failure has held you back and how you have dared to suck!

To read more on this topic check out my post, “I’ll be a good rider when”.

Summer Staples – Wilson Equestrian Suede Breeches

Summer Staples – Wilson Equestrian Suede Breeches

After a short break over Christmas, I went through by equestrian wardrobe and realised something truly tragic. I had nothing to wear! Well practically nothing. All of a sudden, breeches that I had owned for a few years were ready for the bin, and I […]