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.