When I was 6 years old, I was kicked in the stomach by a rather naughty pony named Gomez who obviously thought I was holding him up on the way to his dinner. For a long time after, though I still loved horses, I became very anxious around them, particularly riding. It wasn’t until middle school that my family acquired a bombproof Haflinger that I gained confidence on, before moving on to the slightly more forward thinking Tanner, and finally, graduating to a ‘real’ horse and taking on eventing with Merry.
Merry going Novice @ The Fork
Even though my confidence in the saddle has come in leaps and bounds since the days of W-T-C, sometimes I find myself needing a good pep talk. Self doubt loves to creep in, especially when on on my own in the arena. All those what-if’s buzzing around can be distracting and worse case scenarios can easily start to haunt every other thought. As part of training my own horse, I am required to be a leader as well as a partner to him, and keeping confidence is something I am aware of all the time.
The areas I can improve directly relate to problems #1 and #5 in the article. I try hard to break the cycle of negative thinking, but it’s my greatest issue. This directly relates to my avoiding certain spooky situations. For instance, Foster likes to spook at horses or humans walking up the path to the outdoor arena. I’ve been guilty of allowing him to stop and watch them come up- instead, I should press on with our work. While I know as I’m doing it that it’s wrong, I haven’t made myself correct the behavior entirely.
We talked recently about the rider’s mental game and how it leads to successful showing experiences. But being confident and focused on the positive can certainly apply to everyday riding too, especially when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone.
What do you do to feel confident in the saddle? What are your fears and anxieties that you are currently trying to master?
Saturday’s ‘lesson’ with A and J was a success in that they really helped me find the ‘feel’ for the canter I’ll need at Training level. We dabbled in several different exercises, which I will do a better recap of in the next couple days.
For now, I am trying to allow their voices to fill my head- specifically the following phrases:
More canter, more engagement!
Thumbs on top!(this having to do with a following elbow/hand)
Use your outside rein, dammit! (shoulder popping is for the dance club)
Lower calf on!! (Keep the whole leg on, not just my ankle/spur kicking)
Upper body back! (pumping is *not* attractive)
dammit can I not ride with my mouth closed?
(and most importantly…) You can do it!
A + J (behind the camera) are my new schizophrenic influences, er, best friends!
Last night Nicole asked if there was a training debut in our future, and I have to admit, I’ve been keeping a couple little events to myself. As it turns out, I do have something planned!
The first is a clinic on February 11th. While not a traditional clinic in the sense that you essentially take full lessons with the clinicians, I think this set up will be just as beneficial. First we’ll do a course walk with Marc Donovan (course designer), Lizzie Snow (25 under 25), and Bobby Costello (former Olympian and Olympic selector). Then Will Faudree (2012 Olympic short list) and Robert Stevenson (Olympic selector) will do a judged ride-a-test (dressage) with us. Followed by a showjumping warmup with Robert Costello and then a ‘judged’ jumping round with Marc and Lizzie. Read Eventing Nation’s article on this clinic series here.
Will Faudree @ Aachen/Photo via The Sport Horse
Informal riding attire in encouraged, and so I am hoping to go into this somewhat casually at the Training level in order to fill in any blanks in an actual show atmosphere (clinic is at the Horse Park) before a real competition. I’m lucky to have two great friends willing to come help me get prepared this weekend, and I’m super grateful. *If* things go as planned, I might have photo/video to share next week of this mini-lesson with friends!
Assuming we don’t walk away from the clinic with our tails between our legs (let’s face it- it’s me, so it’s possible), then our first real Training competition will be a Combined Training show in March!