Friday, December 30, 2011

Inner Game

I had a fabulous ride yesterday. We flatted (har har) in the big arena. I kept Izzy forward and flexible, and then we headed out and hacked part way up the little hill by ourselves. Away from the barn and friends and food. Izzy was really, really good. I turned her around earlier than I wanted to, but at the same time, I wanted to keep it pleasant and happy for everyone. This can be fun. I felt great and couldn't wait to jump again.

And then I stressed out all morning because I was so nervous for my jumping lesson (which went great, btw).

It's so frustrating to deal with mental/confidence issues. I'm fine one moment, gone the next. I'm a very self-contained and self-controlled person normally, so it's driving me absolutely batty to not be able to deal with this effectively.

Blogosphere to the rescue!! I read a post by Cherie at Golightly Sport Horses dealing with sports psychology and the mental game that all athletes face, particularly in relation to their confidence. Then Ellie at Cedes of Change (yes, the amazing photographer) wrote another post about dealing with mental issues in her chosen sport, dog agility (which is wicked cool). Her post talked about making a list of five things you love about your chosen sport. Not goals, not plans, but the things that you actually enjoy, the reasons you got started in the first place. The idea is to help you refocus and figure out why you do what you do.

I gave it a shot. Here's my list of the five reasons I train for eventing:

1) I love the puzzle. Feed, farrier, vet, chiro, barn management. I like the challenge of finding the problem and fixing it.

2) I love the partnership. Finding what makes me horse tick and how to get the most out of her and myself.

3) I love the people. I'm constantly surrounded by people who share my same driving passion and interests.

4) I love the purpose. Each phase helps us develop as a well-rounded team, the strongest and most effective we can be.

5) I love the pride of working toward perfection and being judged by an objective standard. Because we can fail, we can also succeed.

The nerdier among you are appreciating my alliteration right now.

I feel like I'm starting to get my bearings. Writing out why we're working with an eventing trainer when jumping still scares the sh*t out of me helps clarify my position with myself. I always see eventing as the end goal of any training schema--you need the power and poise of dressage, the forward adrenaline of cross country, and the exacting discipline of show jumping. Maybe you don't--I do. It makes for well-rounded riders and horses and keeps riding interesting.

I am moving forward. I had an excellent (and non-terrifying) jumping lesson this morning. I do not understand where this fear came from, but I am attacking it from every angle possible. The more I ride well and get comfortable, the less fear I will have from the actual experience. I am trying to spend some time each day visualizing jumping well and safely so that I can start seeing myself being successful. I am also interested in reading up a bit on the mental game. Any sports psychology book recommendations, helpful blogs, or websites out there for me to look at?


  1. Thank you for posting about this. You mention often about your confidence issues but never really spoke in any depth about the where, when and why of the origin. I think writing this all down is a huge step in the right direction. I am also very glad to hear that you still desire to train for Eventing.

  2. I'm constantly impressed with your good attitude. Well done!!

  3. Time Magazine just ran and article on why anxiety is good for us. I didn't quite finish reading it, but it might be worth a look.

    Good teaching and a skilled trainer to work with you can often build your confidence better than anything. The key is to work on the basics, get them solid, and then build up, step by step.

    I think you are on the right path to getting where you want to go.

  4. I didn't learn to jump until late(19 or 20). I had a good instructor, but what helped the most was bringing along my horse, teaching him to jump (so not a rusher, my worst issue for fear), to know that refusal is never an acceptable answer, and knowing that he had the scope to clear anything *I* was willing to point him at.

    I know he could clear at least 4'9", and jump 12 wide from trot, so added to doesn't rush and doesn't stop, all I really needed to do was steer, support the forward if it was something that backed him off, and hang on.

  5. I found Riding With Confidence to be a helpful book in dealing with confidence / anxiety when I backed my horse.
    Maybe try going back to look at much older posts and pictures and look at the two of you now. I'm not criticizing where you were, but the frame, fitness and harmony are very apparent in their development, so you're doing really well. Happy New Year!

  6. I should clarify - I'm always dealing with confidence issues at some level, not just when I backed my horse :)

  7. This is a great article. I am always dealing with confidence issues, especially after not riding for almost 20 years. I would love to jump again, but I don't know if I could muster up enough confidence to get over even a 2 foot jump at this point. Reading your point is giving me a little courage.


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