Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trust and Confidence

Ever since I started riding Cuna, I realized that jumping didn't have to be terrifying. In fact, it is safe to say that I have actually had fun jumping him on -several- occasions. That's why it's so frustrating for me to see that we were on the schedule for a lesson today and feel mind-numbingly afraid. Again.

There is no reason on earth to feel this way. Logically, I should not. Cuna is a good, solid horse. He will take care of me. Stephanie is a good, insightful instructor. She will not ask me to do more than I can. Yeah, Izzy and I had problems, but that's over now. Besides, one time Stephanie asked me what it was that Izzy did that scared me so much. I couldn't point to a single moment anywhere in my riding time on her when she did something categorically bad and scary. Looking back, I think that was Steph's point, but the issue stands.

Every time I thought about jumping this morning, I felt nervous and sick. I didn't want to do it. I knew Cuna could do it. I knew he'd get me through it. I trust him to go, rationally. It isn't a rational fear anymore and I think that's what bothers me. I am now dealing with the ingrained emotions that have built up over the past few years and that is freaking hard.

When I point a horse at a jump, I do not trust it to go. In my mind, the approach is one thing, the jump something completely unrelated and dangerous. I can ride really well to the base of the jump, and then just freeze and not function. Izzy dealt with the problem by stopping, generally. I mean, it was a fair response--all of a sudden she had zero input from me and she was entirely too smart and green to just do my job and hers because it was fun.

Cuna isn't like that. He has jumped so many fences in his life that my input is really not that important. He likes it if I ride to the base of the jump and give him some direction, but if I don't, he can handle that. As long as I stay out of his face, he doesn't care a lot what I do on top. He doesn't demand accuracy over 2'6" fences. He's so freaking big that he doesn't even really jump that much over 2'6" fences.

Today I got him deep to the base of a 2'6" oxer. I freaked out because somehow in my mind in that brief second before takeoff, I thought he was going to coil like a spring and then bascule over it like a 4' working hunter and totally jump me out of the tack. The exercise was a one stride angled jump to another angled jump. I had already expressed my opinion that it wasn't really possible, but I proceeded to pull an even harder angle in one stride so I could get out of jumping the next fence.

Here's the kicker: even as I did that, I could feel that the second fence would have been fine. Yeah, it wasn't the best distance I ever found, but Cuna is a big guy with a big stride, and it would have been FINE to jump the second fence. Later I pulled him out of a two stride (crossrail to oxer) because I just couldn't mentally take it. Both times I rode like I meant to do it all along, so I wasn't training him to run out, but I just couldn't seem to get my crap together.

Poor Cuna. His rider really is a crazy person.

I finally got my head on straight. The beauty of the exercises today was that they were extremely technical (2 stride bending line, say what?) so I had to really focus on my line and pace and direction and balance and a more limited amount of time to spend freaking out as the lesson progressed.

I know that the only way to overcome this mentality at this point is to just motor through. I am riding the right horse with the right instructor. I need to be able to ride through the fear and have a good experience, over and over, in order to build a new understanding. Trusting my horse to build my confidence is incredibly hard.

PS For those who asked, Izzy was lovely for her trial ride Saturday, but it was not a good match. There is another test ride this weekend.

PPS Furthermore, I call Cuna the "old man" because he is 19.


  1. Very eloquentely put EXACTLY how I feel. There's no rhyme or reason to it--we're just crazy people.

  2. Time and miles, that's all that will do it. Don't be surprised or even worried when the fears pop back up - they're built into muscle memory and will take time and repitition to erase. It's OK to have these moments - I have them too.

  3. Jump the easy stuff (small jumps and easy lines) until it is boring and do not move up a moment sooner. That is what I would do if you were a horse feeling over-faced.

    19 years young

  4. I totally understand the irrational fear and how frustrating it is to be paralyzed by it. I often say I wish I could go back to being a D2 when you have no idea what a distance is, you just sit there and kick and everything magically works out. I think part of it is learning to accept the fear and then learning to think through it (I'm still working on this!). Give yourself a break and I have a feeling Cuna will take care of the rest.

  5. Its ok to be scared and pull Cuna out at times. To me every time you do it your confidence will grow just that little bit more. It will probably take a long time and don't be too hard on yourself! 19 and still going so strong! I love it. The problem we have here in Australia is 15yo is retirement age to most people and to me the horse is in their prime and can offer soo much!
    I am sure the right rider will come along for Izzy!

  6. Girl i feel your pain! It's crazy how the thought of jumping rings fear through my body! I think about it the whole lesson! And then after when I am done I think oh that wasn't too bad- when you figure out the trick to letting go, please share! :) You'd think after 19 years of riding and many many horses and awesome trainers id be over it buuuut no :)

  7. It will click. It just does. I cant really explain it. I had a similar issue with Pong. I was so scared that something bad was about to happen at the base of every jump, then I realized even at five years old, he'd NEVER given me a reason to question him. I decided to trust him, focus on my position and get out of his way. We've been soaring over crazy a$$ stuff ever since. It just clicked, I got over myself and we're having so much FUN! You will get there too, dont over process it, you're doing awesome...dont look back on the past, we're not going that way, we're going forward with our new lovie Cuna!

  8. It's amazing how riding a 'bad' horse can make you hesitant to trust horses you KNOW are good. Cuna sounds like he'll be great for you.

  9. Fear is a hard obstacle to overcome. Just be patient with yourself and try hard to put your trust in Cuna. As long as you are jumping the lower fences--and 2'6" is nothing for him--there's not too much that can go wrong with an honest horse. It's just like a big canter stride.

    Sounds to me as if Stephanie is challenging you with exactly what you need--lots of mental puzzles that force you to concentrate on getting to the fence, which is the only real key to jumping well. Cuna will take care of the rest.

  10. When the time and the day comes that you learn to trust your horse, not just Cuna but any horse you ride, you will have taken all of that fear away. Until then, just remember to breathe, relax and you will be fine. Cuna will take care of you and teach you how to trust again. At 19 he has probably been through dealing with riders who were much worse. You'll get there. We all have our own inner deamons to slay, you just know what yours are.

  11. Way to go! And the old man sound like a fantastic teacher! thanks for sharing!

  12. First of all, don't beat yourself up for feeling the fear. Just accept that it is there and move on. :) I know easier said than done. Phobias (irrational fear) can be very difficult to deal with, but it is possible to get past them! Just the other day I had a spider land on me while driving and I'm TERRIFIED of spiders. I shook it off and was freaking out because it was either on me or below the seat and going to crawl on me, but on the outside I stayed calm, crossed the bridge I was on and parked. Then I jumped out and when it fell to the ground I stepped on it (used to I couldn't even step on a spider, I had to use a fly swatter or have someone else kill it, that's how bad I was). I was proud of myself for keeping my cool while driving. And then afterward I just let it go (well besides brushing my legs when something would tickle). It's hard to completely get rid of the paranoia. However, normally when I find a spider on me I spend the whole next day looking around for them everywhere totally freaked out and if it touched me I have to wash my skin where it touched, like my hand, but I didn't wash my hand this time and I didn't keep looking around for spiders. It's hard, but it's totally possible, so stick with Cuna and you will get there. We know you can do it! Now just convince yourself you can too. :D


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