Removing Barriers to Success

Photos by Adam Hill

By Cathy Penrod

Sometimes, the choices we make, or don’t make, limit our potential and our performance. Other times, we don’t even see all the choices that we have as both of these situations are due to deep and powerful energy blocks that hold us back from our potential.

We often hear references to the importance of building core strength – but those references usually speak of the physical core. When talking about energy we are referring to core energy – it is the intangible component of performance and energy that is at the core of thoughts, emotions, and actions that relate to how people see themselves, those around them, and the world itself. A person’s core energy is where his or her energy is focused at any given time and has a tremendous influence on performance.

If we are not achieving the performance we want, chances are, it’s one of four blocks that’s holding the energy required for our success. It’s essential to be aware of these blocks and how they show up.

External Blocks

External blocks are those things outside of us and perhaps, out of our control. Economic conditions are an example of an outer block. Poor economic conditions may cause us not to be able to afford a new saddle, or take a lesson that would improve our skill. Or we may have to delay or cancel a lesson because of weather conditions or our horse is injured. How we feel about these external factors can decrease the core energy within us.

Photos by Adam Hill

Some riders effortlessly handle outer blocks and others find themselves paralyzed by them. In this sense, these external conditions have led to internal energy drains.

Inner Blocks

The next four blocks we’ll explore are inner blocks. These blocks are so powerful and have such a huge internal influence on performance that they are considered the “Big 4.”

# 1 – Limiting Beliefs Limiting beliefs are beliefs we have about the world, about other people, situations, and about life in general that hold us back from success and stop us from getting what we want. Unlike the other blocks, limiting beliefs are not necessarily about us. They are just statements that we believe are true, and may be holding us back.

If we do not believe something is possible, we’re not likely to attempt it. Even if we do attempt it, we don’t devote much energy to achieving that goal.

#2 – Assumptions

An assumption is a belief that because something happened in the past, it is automatically going to happen again. Horse spooking in the corner or refusing at least one jump on course. Assumptions are more personal than limiting beliefs, and because of personal experience, more intimately involve us.

Assumptions hold us back because, from past experience, when we believe we already “know” something won’t work for us, we’ve failed before we’ve tried. Even if we do try, we might move in a counter-productive direction. When we hold on tight to our assumptions, we miss out on a whole world of possibilities.

#3 – Interpretations

An interpretation is the opinion we create about an event, situation, or experience. In essence, we make up a quick story based on our beliefs and past experiences, unconsciously look for evidence to support it, and believe that our story is true, when in actuality, our interpretation often represents only one viewpoint among the many that are possible. More often than not, consciously or not, we continue to develop that story by overthinking the situation and continuing the search for more evidence to support our interpretation, and thereby adding fuel to the fire.

If we stick with our interpretation, we have little chance of focusing on any other possibility. As a result, we may feel that we have little control over what might happen next, and our energy remains low.

Photos by Adam Hill

#4 – Gremlin

A gremlin lies within every one of us; it’s our inner critic. You know that little voice in our head – the one that tells us not to try, never to take a risk, always to take the safe road, and to compromise our life by playing small? That’s our gremlin, and the message from our gremlin’s warnings is, very simply, we are just not good enough.

Our gremlin is highly personal and has the most intense emotional charge of any of the blocks discussed. When our gremlin speaks, it’s very hard not to listen. And when we do listen, we won’t even try something, because our gremlin has already told us we’ll fail at it, or be hurt, or be embarrassed.

As the show season continues and finals approach, write down the blocks in relation to performance and ask: “How might these blocks be holding me back? How might I look at each block and ask myself How true is it? If I approach the situation differently how can it positively affect my performance?”

Cathy Penrod is a professional Performance Specialist with 34 years of knowledge of the equestrian world and has more than 19 years of leadership, mentoring and coaching experience. Cathy specializes in helping riders break through internal barriers, conquer nerves, and take their performance to the next level using customized programs such as The Spur Factor Process and COR.E Performance Dynamics. Find out more about Cathy and EquiCoach at,

This article was originally published in the August 2014 print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine.