Elusive Confidence over Fences

Day three in Southern Pines, NC was good.  Except my confidence went walkabout near the end of the lesson.

We’d gone out and were taking the boys through a gymnastic grid, built up from poles on the ground, adding until it was a classic, 3 element grid, with poles to make striding easy.

Neuf was good with it, Andrew noticed I tended to look right, so he had me do a bit of an over-correction and look towards the left standard on the far set of jumps, and dang, I was really tending to look right.  The amount of shift to my chin was really not that big, an inch perhaps, but it felt huge.  And, the right drift went away.  At one point, I was coming off the right, holding the neck strap in my left (outside) hand and that, combined with looking left was enough to steer him left of the middle element, a runout, but not a serious one, more of a pilot error.  I was able to correct that, and we continued.

Once the gymnastic was trot poles, vertical, vertical, oxer, we’d gone through nicely, and I saw Andrew raising the oxer, and it might have all gone well if we hadn’t had a distraction outside the ring that had me circle twice, giving me ample time to obsess over that raised oxer (mind you, it was still small in the world of jumps, maybe 2’9″ or probably 2’6″) and so I rode poorly and got the middle element run out.  I rode in, again, kept him straight, and got the middle element, and rode him to the “OMG, he’s going to jump huge, I’ll get left behind, hit him in the mouth, jumped out of the tack, I should really not be jumping, I might hurt my horse” stop.

Andrew was super, he said to come again, but when I said we had just hit my chicken height, and that was ALL me, he put the fences back down, well into my comfort zone, I came through one last time and called it quits.

Where did that mantra come from?  I used to keep my riding journal on a board and a few years ago, someone wrote the following after some pictures from a jumping lesson.

Mel, you often mention that she’s heavy and not light off your aids, so I wonder if this is part of the reason you are always sort of grabbing her face over fences? Sometimes when you’re so busy trying to push push push them up into some contact on the way to the fence, and they heave ho off the ground kind of inconsistently because of their constantly changing rhythm, you get caught between the hold and the let go.

However, I do feel it prudent to point out again that your – sorry to say it – strangle hold on her face is likely causing some of the problems you are experiencing. In that last photo you are already behind her motion – maybe she was taking you to the fence more than you wanted – but with how tight your hands are and where your body is, I can only imagine the face snatch that happened upon landing.

You’re not allowing her to actually JUMP the fence. She needs to be given time (especially at her age) to have a true take off – jump – landing progression, and she needs to be allowed to start and complete the jump.

This was just part of the post and the bolding is mine, because those are the parts that basically turned into the soundtrack that starts up every time I go jump.  It didn’t seem to matter that none of that was what any of my instructors told me and this was based on my journal and photographs, those bolded words are all things that say to me “You’re hurting your horse”, and enough people chimed in, in true internet fashion, to seal it, I was that person who horrified the onlookers.  I pretty much gave up jumping.

What it boils down to, that hurt my feelings.  Why? Because I care a lot about my riding and not doing harm to my horses, because a bunch of people who I know piled on and used my honesty about what I work to improve in my riding to throw it in my face that I was being too sensitive.  I went back and read that thread over three years later and it still strikes me as mean-spirited and petty, and there is plenty of shaming in there for being honest that the above bolded parts were hurtful, in my opinion, not constructive criticism.

I went to a few more jumping lessons, decided that Bali wasn’t wanting to jump, the saddle wasn’t right, and too expensive to figure out a better one when I really wasn’t that into it,  and I quit any semblance of jumping that might be for shows.  I jumped Tanq enough to be a resale, but that was it.  Jumping out foxhunting is still fun, and I don’t worry about it there, but I sold the only fox hunter and so it is just goofing off on trails anymore.

Now, it has been 3 years since I’ve really jumped much, it turns out I’m now worried I’ll hit the horse at under 2’6″, and I ride alone most of the time, so I don’t know if I should even bother trying to regain the confidence.   I am glad that I finally wrote it down that it was hurtful and maybe I’ll find a new soundtrack when I  jump, and maybe I’ll want to do it again.

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About Mel

Random musings in a riding journal
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2 Responses to Elusive Confidence over Fences

  1. Lindsey says:

    Mel, I follow your blog because I’m an adult amateur going through many of the same challenges and triumphs bringing my horse along through third level. I posted a video of some of my horse’s very first flying changes in an Internet forum once a couple years ago. I was giddy that my horse with a flat canter could actually get all of his legs off the ground to change. My happiness was popped like a bubble when the posters began tearing apart the quality of the canter, the tempo, my leg position, and everything else. Reminding them that this was probably the 10th change ever and I was doing it in a clinic under the watchful eye of a trainer did not nothing but fuel more criticism. I finally removed the video. But those comments really made me think I had no business installing changes on my horse, I was screwing him up and I didn’t even know it. (Years later, my horse has nice changes even though I was his only rider). I have mostly given up on getting training info from forums. Everyone is a classicist that picks apart those who actually ride. Anyway, I really enjoy your blog, think you are a great rider, and hope you find your mantra to jump for fun.

    Lindsey

    • Mel says:

      Lindsey,

      Thanks for writing. Congrats on those flying changes! As you have no doubt read, I also struggle with those! I have met some of my best friends by the way of various bulletin boards. In the 1990s, I used to post on the Compuserve Horses forum, and I learned so much from that group! I too have mostly given up on good training discussions online, but I do still enjoy having “horse” friends online, my work is in no way horse related, so it is nice to have people with the same interests to talk with.

      Mel

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