Set Your True North

It’s that time of the year when I bet you’re getting out and about.

This is Part One of a four-part series about steps you can take to set yourself up for success and when you ride in environments outside of your comfort zone.

I talk about it as it relates to showing, but the four steps in this series can be for any time you go to new places and ride in front of folks that are not your best buds.

I also asked last week to let me know about your challenges in four areas:

1. Set Your True North
2. Prepare and Polish
3. Compete with Confidence
4. Do a 5-Star Review

I received a lot of fantastic suggestions, and I’m so grateful. Please keep them coming. This video digs into Part One: Set Your True North.

Setting a True North is composed of things you can’t see on the outside. It’s built on clarity about what you want, an inspiring personal purpose, a compelling vision, values that guide you and a focused internal state, and a support team who would jump over the moon for you.

First, I have a story for you.

It’s about a woman I knew years ago who dug into all of these invisible pieces and did well as she stayed super focused and clear about her job with her horse and what she was doing. She rode in several western disciplines. We covered all of these things; she developed them and excelled.

She built a solid personal foundation – temporarily.

But then, she thought she could take those pieces for granted, and she was surprised to fall from grace in the results department. She began to worry about other people, and she did not work on her mental game, among other things.

She thought once you had those elements, you just had them – they would be there forever. But that’s not true.

Setting Your True North is like building a solid foundation. Over time, you must keep checking in to make sure it’s still clear and strong.

It’s the same as thinking once you have a foundation under a house, you will never have to tend to it again. But as you know, if a foundation gets cracks, if the ground shifts, or wood rots, you have a problem.

Setting Your True North reflects your heart and your foundation for all you do. It has elements only you know and can follow through on to set yourself up for success internally.

You reflect on them, put them in place, and never let them go.
Sometimes they might change – but your commitment to having them be part of everything you do never varies.

Again, Setting Your True North is composed of things you can’t see on the outside. It’s built on a personal purpose, a compelling vision, guiding values, a focused internal state, and a group of folks who support you.

You know it’s your journey and your scorecard. You measure your success according to you. And because you are committed to a calm and focused internal state, you replace your nerves with calmness.

Those are just a few of the positive outcomes of doing a great job Setting Your True North and revisiting it often.

And here’s one more powerful point. Your True North will help you rise again when things go South.

You see – your true North is internal. The other steps,

  • Prepare and Polish
  • Compete with Confidence
  • Do an in-depth Review

are a bit more external. But nothing happens on the outside before it happens on the inside first.

So there you have it for Setting Your True North. Could you please let me know what you think in the comments? I am looking to apply your situations to my explanations so I can help you solve your challenges – and help you keep getting stronger.

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11 Comments on Set Your True North

  1. marilyn anderson on Sun, 1st May 2022 1:52 pm
  2. Hi Barb,
    This video makes a lot of sense to me but I am having trouble setting my “True North” & as a result my riding journey does seem a little scattered.
    I do not own a horse & did not grow up around horses. I just take some riding lessons(English) when I can in the Spring & Summer; so it is somewhat sporadic. I do not compete at all but do take some multi day int’l horse adventure trips which I love. Also, I have recently become very interested in learning the language of the horse so as to make it more enjoyable for myself & for the different horses that I ride (more of a partnership so to speak).
    Any advice you have for me for setting my own True North would be much appreciated ie maybe some kind of a guideline or questions that I can ask myself.
    Thank you,

  3. Ceci Ellis on Sun, 1st May 2022 2:58 pm
  4. Hi Barb:

    This is particularly timely for me. I am struggling with confidence issues. Two years ago I purchased a new horse and thought we had a great relationship. I worked hard all summer and we did very well at all three of our summer barn shows to the extent that we got reserve champion (3rd place overall) for the year in our division and an award for being “most connected” with each other.
    Then for no apparent reason he started crow hopping with me right after mounting. He’s only done this a half dozen times and I never came off or even felt like I would come off. However it was enough to make me lose trust in him and my confidence as a rider. My heart horse did this all the time and it never bothered me, but I am almost 70 now and I am having a lot of trouble getting past it and moving on with my horse. I work with a great trainer but she seems to work better with more confident riders and doesn’t really understand how to help those of us who are not as confident. It’s like she sees the lack of confidence as a lack of ability to ride well. She actually makes it worse for me by discouraging me. I realize that I need to move past the relatively few and minor issues with my horse and look within myself (rather than relying on or believing my trainer) when it comes to building confidence. I don’t have much of a support system having lost both my mother and best friend over the past few years who always encouraged me. I have a few barn friends who are supportive and the trainer who is semi-supportive is a long time friend. She recently “insulted” me by telling me I couldn’t join a group lesson because it was “way too advanced for me now”. I rode in group lessons with these people all summer two years ago. It is this group that I showed with and came in third overall for that year. I don’t understand why now I am being told that they are WAY too advanced for me. It has made me feel even less confident but also made me kind of angry and a bit determined to prove the trainer wrong. I need to find that True North.


  5. laurel laba on Mon, 2nd May 2022 6:35 am
  6. I’m headed for a World show in late June. I’m not getting along with my coach right now, and plan on making a change as soon as we are back from the show, but he is my way to get to the show and he knows it. In my weekly lessons, which he is requiring me to take prior to the show, he undermines my confidence constantly, I think on purpose. I leave those lessons so frustrated, sometimes in tears, so angry that I want to go home and kick the cat, lol! I have started to take lessons with someone else in the meantime, who is much more helpful. And I will formally make the switch upon our return from the show. In the meantime I have to fight to keep my mental state healthy. And I especially worry about this when I am actually at the show and he is yelling at me

  7. Kathy McBride on Mon, 2nd May 2022 8:03 am
  8. I really enjoyed this video. What was most meaningful to me was that we need a solid foundation in mental skills and really define our true north. Then to maintain that! I never thought of it like that. Just like you maintain and progress your horsemanship skills you need to maintain your internal foundation and skills. Very cool!

  9. Monica Pratt on Mon, 2nd May 2022 9:17 am
  10. Your video was on point for me. I am getting ready to show a golding that I have a lot of confidence in but haven’t been able to show because I was recovering from some substantial injuries. Although I had been showing several horses in reined cow horse for years, this enforced pause has been a reset for me. I used to not be focused on results but on performance but in recent years I was riding with trainers who had a hurry up; approach and were only focused on results. I found my mental game had gone south as a result and I was not enjoying showing very much even when I did well. I need to get back to the right mind set. However, I don’t seem to have a support system of any sort. I lack family and hangnng out with trainers who push me in the wrong direction will be no help. This seems to be a stumbling block in my road back to more satisfying showing, I have done a lot of work on my horse but have had problems getting access to cows to work. I want to get a more solid rate on him before I go show. I look forward to learning more about your approach to showing.

  11. Colleen enk on Mon, 2nd May 2022 7:59 pm
  12. The” shine in the show pen series “has changed my life…cannot get enough of it…. I need to be a part of any future discussions when it comes to this!… since I’m learning that I always have to work on it and I can never figure I got it! Thank you so much for your passion!

  13. Sally Altman Kernutt on Wed, 4th May 2022 12:30 am
  14. Hi Barb, I love this as a reminder to ourselves, why we ride, why we compete, and how personal it is. I have a new horse and we have our first show soon. For a year I have become complacent regarding my program , focus and goals that you have helped me with. I find myself nervous. So….. I am revisiting my relationship with your program, and how much it has helped me in the past. I am so grateful I made a strong foundation for my riding by practicing what you have to offer all of us. Looking forward to learning from others and their feedback. Warm thoughts, Sally

  15. Roz on Wed, 4th May 2022 2:36 pm
  16. Hi Barb – fascinating topic – thank you. I also loved reading the comments by others – found it interesting the effects others have on our abilities and confidence including trainers/coaches and being older and lack of family/support.
    I am not a showy but compete in Working equitation and my true love 💕 eventing but i am now older – does age really matter – is it just in our heads? – and not done any jumping for ages so am more hesitant re ODE’s now. My horse is also older so i am more considerate of him. We go back to basics often but i struggle thinking of buying a younger horse and doing it all again. Your true North ideas seem very helpful so I look forward to taking it all on board. Life skills and being more confident seems to be the key.
    Another thing is life seems to get busier and for some reason i feel i never have enough time. Hopefully i am not missing the point – i just get side tracked.
    Kindest regards Roz

  17. Roz on Wed, 4th May 2022 3:05 pm
  18. Really good Kathy – i do feel this what I need – I am too scattered. You said it brilliantly

  19. Nancy Hinkelman , Lynden WA on Fri, 13th May 2022 9:24 am
  20. Hi Barb. Thank you sharing such great insight . This is my 3rd season showing my QH at breed shows in ranch riding. The 1st season was short because of Covid but I was able to compete through virtual shows which allowed me to improve and gain more confidence as a team. Our 2nd season was very successful, we were very in tune with one another and received our best scores yet. Now starting our 3rd season we have been having issues. My broke 9yo gelding is spooking in the show pen and my confidence has diminished. Listening to you and my awesome trainer has made me realize I have been way to focused on my score and always wanting to improve my ride. I’ve put alot of pressure on myself and forgot the real reason why I do coMpete. I have an amazing group of friends I ride with, spending time with these women and sharing fun filled memories is the reason why I show. Showing my horse is just a bonus. I thank you and Roger and Sally Saur for reminding me of that. I look forward to your upcoming series. ☺️

  21. Claire on Fri, 13th May 2022 5:41 pm
  22. I love how there are so many ways to think of this. I picture it as the journey to congruity-if we are on the path of trying to become a better and more integrated person-what better teachers than horses, dogs, children, and other people in our lives. The feed back from our horses is immediate and I feel so badly for those who find themselves in a situation-like many above-where being with their horse is either stressful or filled with trepidation and lack of confidence-some because of environment and social interaction, and some because of skill level shifts and connection shifts. I do experience that with all things-the scale of skill sets and sense of unity moves up and down for a lot of reasons-but I’m a firm believer that immersion and experience with horses should bring us contentment and joy and we can so blossom when we bring that to them. They are always telling us something, and how very much they try-despite what must be rather uncomfortable for them-is always completely humbling to me. I am so glad that you bring the path for us to step upon and move towards that-along with so many many great trainers that are out there on the internet now!

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