Monday, June 16, 2014

Catherine Louise Birmingham, Equine Author

Catherine Riding in Germany
Author Catherine Louise Birmingham is an internationally acclaimed dressage rider, and trainer. Her career spans Germany, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and JakartaIndonesia. Her expertise in horsemanship is recognized and respected around the globe. 

Catherine is a world class teacher and pioneer in both human and animal behavior. She is available for talks and seminars for businesses and riding centers worldwide.

Catherine’s articles have appeared in Danish horse magazine Ridehesten and The Horses Mouth Australia. Her first book Ride for Life; The Three Golden Principles for Riders is available in English and Danish with Wiegaarden.

Welcome Catherine!
Catherine Riding Baronette - Arthayasa Stables
When was your first encounter with a horse?
I don’t clearly remember as I was very young but when I saw my Prep (5yo) School teacher at a Primary School reunion she said ‘Oh I know you. You are the one who LOVED horses’.

Do you have a favorite breed?  
For Dressage I love the Warmbloods, their physical strength and agility added with their patient character for intense learning. In general all ponies, donkeys and horses are truly amazing beings to me and the horse one has is exactly the horse one is needing at that point in their life.

As a coach, what is the most important rule of riding?
There are three most important things in riding;
No. 1 – Focus
No. 2 – Focus
No. 3 – Focus

Do you have advice for novice riders?
The horse needs you to guide it. Even if you don’t know how to do it, always trust your body to do the first thing that comes to you to get the thing you want. 99% of the time it is exactly the right thing that needed to be done.

As a trainer, what method(s) do you use?
Classical German dressage mainly as a system and base for training, with a mixture of trusting my initial feelings of what horses are feeling and needing emotionally as well as physically, with a little bit of horse behavioral psychology on the side ;-)

What books have you written?
So far two but currently writing a third. One horse related book that non-riders are finding very helpful with their life and another book that speaks to each individual about the importance of their life and how to face and overcome fears that come their way.

Just Be You
(soon to be released this year 2014)


Can you provide an excerpt...
Ride for Life; The Three Golden Principles for Riders
Option 1 - From Introduction
These principles are here to help you excel in your learning and assist you in becoming aware of your greatness. Riding is an amazing and never-ending journey of self-discoveries, each being a beautiful new destination. There is no limit to what you can achieve or how you want to achieve it. Within riding, you can create whatever you desire and for however long you want.

It is your choice. There are no rules or limitations on who can love and enjoy riding. If riding is something you have chosen to experience in your life, then why set a limit on it or judge if you are worthy of it? How you experience riding is exactly that – your experience. This is what you will be sharing with others.

Don’t just use these principles to excel in your riding, use riding to excel in your life. Use the greatness you become as a rider to develop greatness in every other area of your life. The time spent training while riding uses the same skills needed for a more fulfilled and centered life. This is another of life’s opportunities to grow. It always has been and always will be your choice as to whether you decide to embrace it. If riding is where your passion is, let it be the place where you find awareness. Become aware of your body, become aware of your horse, become aware of your life and become aware of yourself.

Give yourself something to feel passionate about. Let your riding be your time to shine and your time to take risks and achieve something great. Learn how to have pride and passion, discipline and strength. Riding is your path to the warrior within.


Option – 2 The Principle of Action
Every skill that is learnt in life has been developed over time, with practice.
Your life begins now. If this is something you have dreamed of doing there is only one person stopping you! Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are part of learning. If you haven’t made any mistakes then you haven’t tried anything new. Take the precise timing and skill that a gymnast requires to perform their routine. For every perfect routine came hundreds of falls beforehand.

You cannot read a book on how to swim, and then jump into the ocean expecting not to drown. But you can read that book and go into the shallows to practice those techniques. Take action. Learn how.

Every staircase begins with one step. Every mountain climb begins with one step. Every great ride begins with one stride.

.........Let go of the fear of it not happening. Allow it to happen.

If you have asked for a medium trot, allow the horse to create this. If you have asked the horse to relax on a long rein, allow it to happen. When planting a seed you wouldn’t dig it up to check if it is indeed growing. Without a doubt you know it is there. When you are in the middle of winter, you cannot yearn for summer and expect it to come tomorrow. It will happen when it is ready to happen. Everything is working towards a greater picture. The developing and training of a horse works in alignment with this.

When you become more aware of your body and your actions, you begin to do more with this awareness and, in turn, ask more from your horse. As students develop their skills, many ask why their horse is doing things that it never did before, ‘Why is he getting worse? He never used to do this.’ And you never asked! I remind you that the horse does not have a manual of what we want it to learn. It does not know what is right or wrong, it only gives responses. Every horse is different. If you are asking the best of a horse, it will give you exactly that. Make sure you know what that is. The reason being that the best and the worst of the horse are in the same place. It just depends on what you need from it that determines whether it is right or wrong.

....Bring out everything he has to give you, asking only for more of what it is that you want and not allowing anything you don’t want to develop further. How much you ask will always depend on where you and your horse are at, no more and no less.

A happy horse is a confident horse. A confident horse is a horse that through consistent training knows and understands exactly what the rider wants it to do – for any discipline.

Book 2 - Just Be You

Living life in fear
Do you want to live your life in fear? Trapped in a cage seeing the beauty of life happening all around you, waiting for something or someone to save you? Filled with anxiety not knowing when the next tormentor is coming to see you. You can’t sleep and when you do you wake in the morning with your teeth clenched, on defense mode always ready to fight, living life that every day is an ongoing battle. A battle to fight cancer, a battle to fight creditors, a battle to fight an abusive partner or a battle to keep your house.
All the while that you are in that cage it takes an old person to come up there and sit with you and ask you a question. ‘How did you get in this cage?’ Slowly you begin to speak, to release all your rage, anger, pain and sadness. Slowly you begin to understand why you are there, how you got there, why you stayed there. Peace begins to appear and one day as you look up to the sun with a deep breath the hand that had been clenched in a fist for so long lets go, as you look down there in the palm of your hand is the key to your cage, it had been with you all the time.

The need to control
When we are afraid we live in a state of wanting to control things because we do not feel free on the inside, there is a lack of trust, understanding and detachment to what is happening.

A person in fear will find great difficulty in accepting and letting go. They replace the risk of pursuing their true selves with the false security of staying with the known, of staying with what they can control. To let go of the reins is almost impossible to a rider suffering from fears.

Fear has no trust of another possibility, fear has no faith so it closes itself off from all learning and growing, it wants to stay with what it knows. But by doing this it creates a life of repeated situations, just with different people, places, events and body parts. Misfortune, illness, injury, accidents and ‘bad luck’ are a common occurrence in life because it doesn’t believe anything else is possible. ‘This is just the way life it so get used to it’ fear sees only the box it sits in.
Fear produces, stress, worry, anxiety, tension, despair, sadness, guilt, incompleteness, loneliness and disappointment.

Fear is attached to anything with a need. The need to be loved, accepted, recognized, or understood.

The need for wealth, possessions, clothes of a certain stature, the job or position within that environment, fear even needs the illness, poverty or sadness to gain a sense of worthiness to be loved, cared for or receive help. It also doesn’t want these things for the fear of what people will think of them for being or having these misfortunes.

All of these things are not necessarily ‘bad’ and can have a beautiful effect on the life we live but when we are attached to these things that we are in fear of not having them, that without them I am somehow ‘less’ of a person than I was when I did have them lies the attachment to these things.

Fear is never happy no matter what you have or don’t have because fear is always relying on the outside to determine what it is, looking at who you are through fear is always looking at the wrapping of a present but never seeing what is inside.

Your job is to unwrap yourself and see what gift you are to the world.

Do you have a favorite equine anecdote?
I was giving a lesson to a lady on my horse Lee. She had no stirrups on and was cantering around in the indoor arena. Just from loss of balance she slowly slid and fell off, Lee kept just nicely cantering around the arena until he came behind me and saw that she was on the ground and cantered to her before I could get to her. When I got there he was standing over her licking her arm that she had hit the ground on. She was fine but it I realized then how special Lee was.

Tell us about your horses and who is in your stable...
At the moment I am based at a Stable in Jakarta Indonesia with a lot of very lovely horses. Most are Warmbloods from Holland. A few of my favorites are – Baronetta, a 6yo mare with really powerful but graceful movement and a beautiful character. Cassini, A 5yo Warmblood showjumping Stallion that has become like a best friend and protector; and Boyan, surprisingly a small grey Warmblood gelding who has gone through some difficult experiences but is slowly becoming a divine little friend and dressage horse. My horse Lanavar Leiber (Lee) is still in Australia a now 16yo Warmblood gelding who will always be my greatest teacher.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
Horsemanship is the desire to understand horses mentally, physically and spiritually in order to create willing and harmonic partnerships with joint goals.

Connect with Catherine…




Catherine Riding Cleo - March 2 Trot 2

4 comments:

Catherine Louise Birmingham said...

Wonderful Gina, it looks really lovely. :-)

Michelle Sgro said...

Really enjoyed reading the interview with the most lovely, beautiful, intelligent Catherine Louise Birmingham.
Can't wait to read Catherine's second book !
The first one 'Ride for Life' is still picked up and read from time to time, when reminders need jogging for ones mind!
Well done Catherine x;-)

Anonymous said...


It is a really enjoyable interview. So deep and wonderful the Catherine's words. I hope I can get the books in Spain.

Catherine Louise Birmingham said...

For the enguiry about availability of the book in Spain, you can purchase it online from here and they ship worldwide. http://www.barkerdeanepublishing.com.au/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=49&category_id=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=7&vmcchk=1&Itemid=7