Welcome to the latest edition of Country Bumpkin Chic Chats to… blog series where we chat with Nicky Pennie from Be Your Best Yet.
I first came across Nicky after a conversation with Tina Wallace from Life on the Left Rein about mindset for eventing last autumn, & Tina very kindly recommended getting in touch with Nicky.
At the beginning of 2020, I had a few sessions with Nicky on how to mentally prepare for the practice ring for show jumping, as this was one of my Achilles heel. As any rider will know having a good warm-up is critical to your round & can make the difference between a clear round & faults.
I thought Nicky would be a fantastic guest to introduce to you all on Country Bumpkin Chic as having the right mindset for equestrian competitions and even dealing with the current situation are so valuable.
1. Welcome Nicky to the CBC. First up, I’d love to know what made you & your husband relocate from the UK to rural France?
We wanted a better balance to our lives, and to be able to have the horses at home. That’s been a dream of mine for as long as I’ve known horses existed! The land is a lot cheaper here because there is more of it, so you don’t need a lottery win to buy a place with enough land to keep horses.
In the UK we both had corporate jobs involving long hours and commuting. We lived in a busy part of the UK, near Leeds, and we spent our lives sat in traffic! We were on the corporate treadmill and just weren’t enjoying it. I didn’t have the time that I wanted to get going consistently with the horses and we were both permanently shattered.
It felt like we spent our lives at work or in the car and when we were at home we were either cleaning or sleeping! Life was hectic and we didn’t have time to do the things that we wanted to. The thought of living like that for the next 20 years horrified us, so we decided to take radical steps to change our lives. I’m delighted to say that we’ve never looked back.
2. What made you decide to change careers from being a successful HR professional to a life improvement coach setting up Be Your Best Yet?
I loved about 80% of my HR career, I worked for some great businesses, I even met my husband at one of them! The last few years in the UK were especially tough though, I was in a senior role in a business that wasn’t equipped to weather the financial crisis and restructuring that business with minimal support was brutal. After we moved to France, I ran a consultancy business supporting small businesses who needed HR support. The work was lower-level activities that I’d done early on in my career, it paid the bills, but it just didn’t light me up. My favourite part of my HR career was coaching senior managers to develop their people and their business area, I’d had a lot of success in that area throughout my career.
In France, I had more time to work with the horses and on my riding and I became really interested in how our mindset can impact our ability to achieve our goals. When I started competing a few years ago I found that I suffered terribly with nerves, so I set out to find out what I could do to improve my mindset.
I knew a fair bit about behavioural psychology from my HR experience and it’s an area that I’d always been interested in. Once I got into the detail of how powerful our minds are and how the brain works, I just wanted to know more. Then one day I had an epiphany about combining my enjoyment of coaching with mindset work to help people improve their lives. I set to work learning about the options to become qualified, which is when I learnt more about how incredibly powerful Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is.
I became a Certified Practitioner of NLP and Be Your Best Yet Life Improvement Coaching was born.
3. What type of clients do you work with?
I support women to improve their lives and achieve their goals. As you might expect, what that looks like varies widely from client to client.
For equestrians, it can be wanting to improve their mindset for competing, in training or to improve their confidence for riding in general. Or they want to get past something specific, if they’ve had a less than positive experience like a fall, fear of jumping or they have an issue like jumping ditches for example.
One of my favourite results was from an equestrian client that I worked with late last year. She’s an eventer who had a negative experience with a dressage judge at an event 5 years earlier, and it was preventing her from riding anywhere close to her best at competitions. She and her horse were still doing pretty well but she hated the dressage phase. She really worried about it and they were scoring mainly 6’s & 6.5’s, but at home, they were producing work that was far superior to that. After we worked together, she nailed it and had 8’s dotted throughout her test! Even more importantly she actually enjoyed it, rather than dreading it for weeks between entering the show and the day of the competition! If you’d like to know more you can watch an interview with my client Grace Shayler here, where she talks about how I helped her.
Outside of the equestrian world, I support clients with a wide range of challenges. They often relate to people wanting to become calmer, more confident or to have greater clarity in an area of their life, you can read more about my client results here.
Essentially, I can help anyone to improve their life, by supporting them to make the necessary change in whatever is holding them back.
4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Seeing people’s lives improve as a result of our work together, in ways that they didn’t think was possible. Our minds are such incredibly powerful things, it’s often a lot easier than people think to change the things in their life that they’re not happy with.
I regularly get the feedback that people are amazed by how much better they feel, by how easy it was and that they wished they’d taken action sooner.
I love hearing how much happier people are as a result of our work together. I really enjoy building ongoing relationships with people who want to work on something else when they’ve conquered something that’s held them back. This is the most satisfying work I’ve ever done and I’m very grateful to do a job that makes people happier and increases their self-belief.
5. Who inspires or motivates you to ‘Be Your Best Yet’?
There are 2 people: first of all, my very good friend and show jumping coach Louise Morley inspires and motivates me. When we met in 2015 I was hardly jumping, let alone competing. My ability and confidence were very low and looking back I can see that I was a bit lost with my horsey dream, despite having the horses at home as I’d always wanted. Louise is a show jumper who competes internationally, she is incredibly busy producing horses and competing, yet she took the time to help me when I was honestly a very poor rider. Despite being busy she could see that I needed help and even when I was embarrassingly bad she kept helping me. She carried on encouraging me because she knew how much I wanted to improve.
We’ve become great friends and she has never once suggested that I move up the levels, but she pushes me in training and that has really grown my confidence and self-belief. Last year we went to my first international show where my lovely horse Kiki and I jumped our first 1m15 class. For context, 3 years earlier jumping 85cm at home was a stretch. Even though Louise and I are great friends she will give me a serious butt-kicking when I need it, but she will also be cheering the loudest when things go well.
She is the hardest working person I know, her horses are all treated as individuals and given the time they need to develop physically and mentally, to give them the best chance of being sound and sane for the long term. I have so much respect for her process of producing lovely horses and my life has improved exponentially as a result of our meeting and becoming friends.
The second person is my husband Simon, despite him having never been near a horse before we met, he is so incredibly supportive of my horsey ambitions and this motivates me to be the best rider that I can be. During the season Simon will often get up with me at 5am to go eventing. He’ll get soaked or be baking in the heat whilst filming or photographing me at competitions. He is a brilliant photographer, I’m so lucky to have such lovely photos from our outings. When Louise isn’t with us and I’m having a moment, he will quietly remind me to think of what Louise would say to me.
He’s amazing with Kiki and if we’re at a stay-away show he will skip out her stable while I’m warming up because he knows that I like her stable to be clean! We’ve trucked around the country for the last few seasons, learning the nuances of competing in a second language together. He cheers with me when things go well, he gives me a hug when they don’t, and he does it all with a smile on his face, even if he’s been up since silly o’clock.
Quickfire Country Bumpkin Chic round:
1. Favourite country or equestrian event to attend… (when social distancing isn’t in place)
It has to be Pau 5*, we’ve been every year since we moved here in 2012, with the exception of last year. It’s a really relaxed event, you always see the riders around the shopping and food areas. You can get really close to the warm-up area to watch them working their horses in. I’m crossing my fingers and toes that it will run this year. The shopping isn’t a patch on Badminton though!
2. What item could you not survive without?
My horse lorry, I tried to get on with towing and reversing a trailer but I hate it! I LOVE my little lorry and the independence that it gives me to be able to take Kiki out to have fun together.
3. As you’re now living in France, what is your favourite French cheese & wine?
Camembert, baked camembert with garlic toasts is my all-time favourite food. I’m a red wine girl and my favourites are Pinot Noir and Beaujolais.
4. Favourite French phrase?
‘Pas de soucis’ for any non-French speakers it means no worries and you hear it a lot, it’s used in the way that you’d say ‘you’re welcome’ in the UK.
5. Top piece of advice for anyone having confidence issues?
Ascertain whether it’s actually a skill issue; for example, I wouldn’t feel confident if I was suddenly asked to jump around a 1* track because I haven’t prepared and built my training up to that level.
I love the quote by Richard Kline ‘Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control’. If you’re prepared then you should feel confident, if you don’t, that could be because you have false limiting beliefs i.e. you know that you’re prepared as well as you can be but you don’t believe that you can do it. For anyone who needs help with this, feel free to get in touch.
I would also suggest that you ask yourself if you really do want to do what it is that you’re lacking confidence about. If you don’t, then why are you doing it? Often people feel that they should be doing something, but when it comes down to it, they don’t want to. Which begs the questions of why do it? If you do want to do it but you’re suffering from a lack of confidence then that is a signal that you have a conflict between your desire and your mindset, which I can absolutely help with.
Where are all the places, we can find Be Your Best Yet on social?
For anyone who would like some tips on how to feel happier, in these unusual times or at any time, you can download a FREE Simple 5 Step Guide to a Happier You and get started.
If you liked reading our interview with Nicky from Be Your Best Yet, you might like reading the interview with Alice from Alice Rose & Co.