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Turning Dreams Into Reality

Now and then it’s good to ask ourselves:

What is it I truly want?

Now, if you know the answer to this question, it could be that you notice that there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be

And this could make you feel a bit uncomfortable.

It might even create some pain, stress or frustration when the ideal picture of your life doesn’t match your current life conditions.

Then, the next question to ask ourselves is:

What’s holding you back to live the life you want?

That’s because a common thing when setting goals is, that we subconsciously put the brakes on it.

We’ll start to say: “Yes, but….”.

So we make up a story why we cannot have it.

We might come up with a list of excuses.

We start to believe that “that is just not for us.”

But it’s important to tell these Gremlins to shut up 😉…

And to write down what you really want…

And to forget about what you think you can or cannot…

Or what other people are telling…

Or what is possible in your country…

So ask yourself:

What do you want?
What level of skills do you want to achieve?
What lifestyle do you want to have?

And…. very important:

• What do you want to do in return?

Because defining what you want is not enough…

As one of the greatest body builders of all time, Ronnie Coleman, said:

“Every man wants to be a body builder, but no man wants to lift heavy weights.”

So the main question is not WHAT do you want, but WHY?

Because if there’s not a strong enough WHY, you won’t achieve your WHAT.

On the other hand, if there’s a strong reason WHY, you’ll make it happen!

Just by taking little steps in the right direction!

One step at a time.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Now let me tell you a bit about my dream and my gap and my ‘why’ – and I hope this brings some inspiration and practical value to you.

My why

For several reasons, in 2003, right before Christmas, I ended up with:

  • no job
  • no house
  • no relationship
  • hardly any money
  • a horse – Maestro
  • a dog – Max
  • and a suitcase full of clothes.

So I hit rock bottom at the age of 36

But I had a deep desire for an independent life, where I had the freedom to grow.

So I had this strong ‘reason why’ to start my own company, called ‘Paarden Begrijpen’ – which means ‘Understanding Horses’.

This company was founded on January 15th of 2004.

And I started renting a small room, made some debts to buy a car and started teaching.

I drove around in my car all over The Netherlands, to teach riders and their horses, one on one.

It was hard work, with many hours, long days, and a bunch of set backs (car broke down a couple of times, I had an accident, difficulties with my horse Maestro, and some more challenges…).

But it was worth it, because I could serve many riders and horses and help them breakthrough and progress

And over the years, my ambition to help more riders kept growing, because I noticed the tremendous amount of pain and frustration many riders and their horses had.

So, my reason WHY started to expand:

I was not only doing this work for growth, freedom and feeling independent anymore.

Of course, it was awesome to be my own ‘boss’ and to have this freedom and independency, but I noticed, that only contributing to the well-being of lives of others is completely fulfilling.

And over time, the demand for help became bigger

So I started to rent a central place in the Netherlands, to be more efficient with my time (less travel expenses) and to be able to serve more people by giving clinics and workshops to groups of riders.

And at some point, I started to teach mainly instructors to create even more leverage to help as many people and horses with my training methodology.

Plus, I met Marc!

My partner in life and business!

Thanks to him, I could create even more leverage, because Marc took the use of the internet to a whole new level.

This way we could reach and help many more people, first through Youtube, and a little later also through other social media and a Dutch membership.

However, also people from abroad wanted to learn more….

So in 2010, I started to give live online webinars, where I answered questions from people all over the world.

That lead to a strong demand for ‘how to’ information.

So I started to film my entire approach and created the ST Mastery Program, which is the encyclopedia of Straightness Training with hundreds of ‘how to’ videos and manuals.

And this program made a huge positive difference for many riders and their horses all over the world.

It was hard work to create it, with many hours and long days behind the computer, and a bunch of technical and translation hurdles to jump (because I was neither skilled with the computer software nor with speaking and writing English…).

However, until now, what drives me most is to share all that I know with other riders, so that they can make a positive difference for their horse.

And so far, it was most important to me to create a movement and an empowering learning environment where people and horses can learn and progress – wherever they are in the world.

And this led to the founding of the Straightness Training Academy in 2014 , with not only the ST Mastery Program, but also the online video lesson system – the ST Evaluation Program – and the international ST Instructor Program.

Again, it was hard work, with many hours and long days, creating the structure, designing the systems, coaching many Mastery students online, educating ST Instructors and ST Evaluators. Again, with many challenges, set backs and obstacles to overcome.

But it was worth it!

And here we are in 2017!

A lot has changed since 2004…. from back to square one… and now helping thousands of riders and horses all over the world!

It’s so great to see the group of ST Mastery students, ST Instructors, and ST Evaluators growing and growing!

And since we are a big fan of CANI (constant and never-ending improvement) we are always looking for: how can we serve the ST Community even better.

So we asked ourselves THE question again:

What is it we truly want?

Our dream

Our next dream was: to have our own farm again.

And the ‘reason why’ behind this is:

We want to be able to serve the horses and people in the Straightness Training community the best we can.

Therefore, it’s important to create new and improved videos and other content on a more frequent basis.

Because that will support our mission even more!

And to create new content, we need well-trained horses and a nice environment that is available at any time of the day, 24/7 and 365 days of the year.

Now, of course, we explored the Netherlands

But the Netherlands has at least six months of the year a lot of windy, rainy, cold and dark days.

And already back in 2012, to escape these gloomy and cheerless days in the middle of the winter, Marc and I went to Lisbon, Portugal!

And there, our next dream took shape on the horizon…

We certainly didn’t think we expected to fall so head over heels in love with the country:

But we loved:

  • The comfortable temperature in December…  
  • The deep blue sky and rural nature…
  • The friendly culture and relaxed atmosphere…
  • The Atlantic Ocean and its amazing waves (Marc loves to surf!)…
  • The Lusitano horses…
  • The environment and nice views…
  • Enough room for horses and farms…
  • And farms that are affordable…

So within a couple of days, we had this strange feeling that Portugal could be the place to be for us and our horses!

A seed was planned, and a plan started to form in 2012 to find…

A Farm In Portugal

Now between 2012 and now, again and again, we have explored a lot of Portugal, and we knew for sure we were going to move there someday.

At that early stage, we weren’t sure how… we contacted some people… we did some trial and error…

And at one point, our good friend and ST Instructor Victor Gueiros Freire from Brazil brought us in contact with a relative of his, who was a lawyer and lived in Portugal.

One day, this enthusiastic and very helpful lawyer took us on a trip to visit a farm that was for sale…

But we never found this farm, since we got lost…

We asked for help to a man who didn’t know where it was either, but what he DID know was, that his brother had a nice house…

A house that was not on the salesmarket yet…

But it was only 5 minutes away from us…

He said “We should definitely take a look at it…”

But were a bit hesitant, because…

Hey, ho, we’re looking for a farm, not for a house that is not yet on sale

However, the man was very relaxed, polite and friendly, and we thought:

Whatever, let’s give it a try... it gives us at least a comparison opportunity and an opportunity to get familiar with the process of exploring real estate.

So by coincidence, we stumbled upon this house…

And it appeared to be a really, really, lovely house

And in a way, the house’s energy said: “Welcome, I am your new house!”

Since we could not believe this energy, we thought, this is too good to be true

So we made up a list of ‘excuses’ why NOT to go for it:

  • The house is not for sale yet…
  • There is no riding arena…
  • There’s not enough land for the horses…
  • We haven’t seen enough other properties yet to be able to compare…
  • We taught “Where’s the catch?”…

So we made up a lot of excuses why this house could NOT be ‘Da House’…

But all excuses were tackled – one after one!

And again…

It was not a highway to success

We had to take the tourist route

  • We had to visit Portugal many times to meet with our lawyer, the owner of the house or the bank…
  • Documents had to be created and approved by Dutch and or Portuguese offices…
  • We researched everything to the finest detail…
  • We had to figure out where and how to buy extra land for the horses…
  • How to get a license for the riding arena…
  • How to transport our 5 horses…
  • And a few times it looked like it was not possible or not going to happen…
  • But we kept searching for ways to get the job done…

And now it looks like we are actually doing it!

After a couple of years…

By taking one step at a time…one after the other…

By taking a bunch of hurdles…

Our dream is turning into a reality!

I remember, we started the countdown

The last time we went to Portugal, in July 2017, Marc pointed out it was now only 2 months to go

2 months from turning our dream – formed in 2012 – into reality in September 2017.

Lessons Learned

Reviewing our process of moving to Portugal, this is what we learned, and may be it’s helpful for you too:

It’s important to stay connected to what you truly want, to define a purpose and a burning desire for its fulfillment.

– It’s also important to feel deep in your heart WHY you want it.

– Then, an inportant ingredient to keep you going, is to keep feeding your desire by visualizing your outcome on a regular basis. The clearer the picture, the more magnetic the picture will draw you to your destiny. And because of this magnetic effect, you’ll be surprised how help pops up out of nowhere and how creative you become to take the next hurdle.

– The believe that everything is figuroutable is a major ingredient too. Because whatever you start – when you take on a new sport, a new relationship, a new study, a new house, a new anything – you will hit plateaus, you will face obstacles, there will be challenges along the way. So….. why quit over something to be expected? And…. Why stress out over something to be expected? Just figure out: Who’s been down this path before me? Who knows the way to the next step? Who can save me a day, a week, a month, a decade…. by knowing the 2 mm. So we seeked them out.

A major key was to create a plan and to express it in continuous and persistent action. Now, our first ‘trial and error’ steps were a bit helpless and shiftless, but they were a kind of in the right direction. So at some point, we could hold on to something… we got a small fish on our line… it became bigger and bigger… so it’s important to keep going! Taking action is important, and consistency is key. Remember: Your ambition to fulfill your dream shows you the path to success, but persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.

– Despite the process took 5 years, it feels like we realized our dream quite ‘fast’. In general, we overestimate what they can do in 5 months and underestimate what they can do in five years. It’s the combination of patience and persistence that is omnipotent. Remember:

  • Knowing trees, we understand the meaning of patience.
  • Knowing weeds, we understand the meaning of persistence.

So big dreams can be conquered by 5 years of consistent believing and persistent doing. Again, remember:

A Journey Of 1000 Miles Start With A Single Step…

And we are still not at the end destination!

Yes, we bought a nice house and some extra land…

But, there is no riding arena at all…

There are no stables

There are only some nice paddocks and a shelter for the horses.

But we will keep on dreaming!

So the riding arena will be our next dream and we hope to realize it in 2018.

Yet, first things first, so let’s move the horses to Portugal.

Follow My Horse’s Journey To Portugal

If you want to see how Maestro, Romanesque, Prince Elmelund, Toronto and El Blanco are being transported from the Netherlands to Portugal, keep an eye on this website for a series of videos about this international transport.

Some of my horses have been to Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain and now Portugal and I’ll show you that traveling with horses doesn’t have to be a drama.

It can be a totally relaxed and comfortable experience and I’ll show you how.

So stay tuned 😃!


This is another post in the series of ‘Moving To Portugal’
and just in case you missed the other episodes, here they are:

► Turning Dreams Into Reality: Why Portugal? >>

► Day 1: Start In The Netherlands >>

► Day 2: On Our Way To France >>

► Day 3: Transport To Spain >>

► Day 4: Arrival In Portugal >>


18 thoughts on “Turning Dreams Into Reality

Comment author said

By Lindsea on 30 September 2017 at 20:12

Thank you for this sharing. My life also shifted gear at age 36…4 years later I am still catching breath and planting seeds. I found this post inspiring and encouraging and it has offered the opportunity to just continue….one small step at a time. Beautiful.


Comment author said

By Anne-Lie Höög on 30 September 2017 at 20:57

Lovely ❤


Comment author said

By Dr. Sabine Ulmrich on 30 September 2017 at 21:40

This is so encouraging and beautiful!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience!!
Thank you for your teachings, the home study course which I have booked so far has been a real blessing for my horse and for me.
With lots of love,


Comment author said

By Johanna Th. on 30 September 2017 at 22:46

Dear Marijke,

Today I fortunately clicked on you post and I was blown away by your courage and will to succeed.. This is really outstanding and inspiring in many ways!! I wish you lots of blissful moments and harmony in your new home Portugal!

Best wishes,
Johanna from Austria


Comment author said

By Jillian Etherington on 1 October 2017 at 07:28

Dear Marijke, very many congratulations on your move to Portugal, I wish you, Marc and your horses all happiness and success . What you have achieved is amazing, particularly as English is not your first language. We also moved to a new country in 2009 (France) to enjoy more space with our horses. I have ridden lusitanos in Portugal and it’s a lusitano who bought me to ST in a bid to understand each other better. A long process as they are sensitive horses! Wishing you all good luck with your new life, Jill


Comment author said

By Nicoleta on 1 October 2017 at 10:03

Dear Marijke,

It was lovely to read about your journey. I am now 36 and made a major change in my life by realising that I wanted to be closer to nature and horses and to be sorounded by inspiring people. I am taking small steps and experiencing other levels of life.
Your post was like a friendly tap on the shoulder, like an encouragement. Thank you for that.
I look forward to learn more about your journey and also about transporting horses.
With love,


Comment author said

By Erica Schwing on 1 October 2017 at 12:14

Dear Marijke and Marc, this is so well deserved and I am so happy for both of you and your horses !!Thank you for sharing your success story with us as an inspiration for us too. What a wondetful place you have there, wow ! 🙂
I hope you keep inspiring us from warm and friendly Portugal, because the Mastery Course has been giving major changes in my life too ! I have had some difficult circumstances too, and this program is giving me a whole new direction in life 🙂 🙂
I never thought I could achieve what I am achieving now with horses. It is CANI for sure. Parabéns, boa sorte !!


Comment author said

By Patrick on 1 October 2017 at 16:55

Marijke you are a good writer. The latest blog article ……excellent content. Good luck in Iberian peninsula ( I will be there also).
Yes you’re latest thoughts can help anyone at any lifetime stage.
Thanks for devoting the time to think and write.


Comment author said

By Doerte Cappellato on 13 October 2017 at 21:33

Very true, Patrick, it did speak to me very loudly!


Comment author said

By Frédérique Henrichs on 2 October 2017 at 01:41

Chère Marijke,
Merci de partager votre histoire. Ce que vous nous racontez est très beau et touchant. Je vous souhaite, à vous et Marc, une belle, heureuse et épanouissante nouvelle vie au Portugal !


Comment author said

By Hanna on 2 October 2017 at 09:32

Dear Marijke,
You are such an inspiration. I’ve just taken my first baby steps towards my dream. Reading your blog is really a good help to strenghen others to dare to follow your heart. It’s great to have someone like you to look up to. Keep on the good work you are doing and I hope to see you in sunny Portugal.
Best wishes from Hanna, Sweden


Comment author said

By Lara Pieret on 2 October 2017 at 11:40

Thank you so much for sharing your 2mm steps to realising your dream Marijke and Marc! Wishing you all the very best in this amazing new adventure!!! As always…. I am printing this out and keeping it close to hand – thank you for your insights and inspiration 🙂


Comment author said

By Lynette on 2 October 2017 at 13:10

Whow! Amazing to hear your story. So inspiring and thanks for sharing. So good to know where your started, your ups and downs and the ability by just changing your focus into positive energy. Again we are the product of our own choices. Most of all to stay humble, take day by day and even if you get set backs just pick yourself up and try again. We are so privileged for you to share all your many hours work to enriched our life’s with our horses. Understanding them and the gift by giving us the tools to understand them better and the knowledge to train them in such a respectful way and as a bonus get the horse mind. The willingness of your horse when they understand. Wish you many years of success and happiness. You and Marc deserved it for sure.


Comment author said

By Joy Gifford on 2 October 2017 at 15:41

How lovely to read your story Marijke. I spent 3 days riding the lovely Lusitana horses in Portugal. You are right is is a wonderful country with a lovely climate. I wish you and Marc all best wishes for your future plans. You are an inspiration to all us ST Students. Will be great to hear how your plans are progressing. Best wishes. Joy.


Comment author said

By Leyers Veerle on 2 October 2017 at 23:12

Dear Marijke ,

Thank you for sharing your difficult but educational journey through your live. This is very inspiring and I wish you and Marc a happy life in Portugal.


Comment author said

By Susan Schramm on 3 October 2017 at 06:42

Inspirational indeed!
Thank you.

Think I will forward to my son.
A sometimes struggling 24 year old.

So applicable at any age.

Perspective is invaluable, appreciated.

Happy Trails,


Comment author said

By Sarah Orr on 4 October 2017 at 14:07

Thank you Marijke for sharing your life story and congratulations to you and Marc on your latest adventures with the big move and realising your dream. Sometimes things are just meant to be and you just know when a place is right for you. I keep finding parallels in your journey that make me smile. I too am setting out on a similar journey, although not from rock bottom..hats off to you. My husband and I, our 3 horses and a dog, are moving into our first equestrian property in 3 weeks, I want to offer barefoot rehabilitation, livery and training services, and I am so excited to be finally getting started. At 50 I decided to make big changes in my life and follow my dream. There will be big challenges ahead I am sure but I am so happy to be finally on this journey. I look forward to reading more about the developments in your new property…a little green at the sun and beach shots, we could do with more of the sun in Scotland ;-). xx


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