Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In Search of Confidence: Use Your Resources

This was an epic outfit
I've talked about how I lack confidence. Now I want to talk about what I'm doing to get it back.

On the Ground
Jess (if you don't read her blog, you should start) recommended Jane Savoie's "That Winning Feeling" to me. I believe her specific recommendation was "I don't usually like this kind of book, but it's really good". I got it on Amazon for like $4 shipped and started in. I haven't even finished it yet, but I already love it.

This outfit was great too
Program Your Subconscious
According to Jane, our subconscious is a powerful thing. Instead of just letting it run wild and screw us over, it makes way more sense to harness that power and use it to our own ends. To do that, she recommends positive self talk--saying "I will" and "I can" instead of "I'll try" and "I hope". She's also really big on visualization. I really latched on to this concept because my biomechanics coach reminds me that the human brain can only process one thing at a time. That means everything else has to be muscle memory. The nifty little aside is that the brain really can't differentiate between created memories and actual memories sooooo....

It's ok. I visualized this already.
I visualize. I try to do it every night before bed and on long boring driving stretches. I don't just visualize the action I want to internalize. I focus on the minutiae. I'm cantering to the jump. It's a good, forward going sort of canter with a steady rhythm. My heels are down, my hands are level, my eyes are up, my core is engaged, my leg is on. I picture exhaling to the base of the jump and putting my leg on. We jump across, land in a straight line, and canter away.

And then I do it again. I'm really specific about the type of jump I visualize. Things I'll see, things I know will bother me. I realize that's maybe not practical for shows, but I'm not worried about that right now. I want to set myself and my horse up for success.

I think he cleared it
In the Saddle
Everyone should have a Lindsey of their very own. I'd be sunk without her. Lindsey helps me tag team on Courage--she puts rides on him for me now and then and she's always giving me helpful pointers when we ride together. It's not that I can't ride--it's that I can get in a mental rut and it is really helpful to get those quick reminders. (I wish I could say I was equally helpful to her, but pretty much I just share tack and hold the video camera.)

Work That Conscious Mind
Here's where I really benefit from reading through old blog entries. I try to review lesson write ups and then ride. I want Courage forward and off my aids. I want him responding to me. I want his mind so busy processing what I want him to do that he isn't staring off into space and inventing monsters to spook at.

It's hard work for both of us, but it really pays off. When Courage starts saying "yes ma'am" and toeing the line, I know we're ready to jump. Right now, that means he has to put his head down (joys of remuscling an upside down neck), go forward and back within gaits, and do a solid leg yield each direction.

A little more reasonable
The Big Plan
 I know that putting pressure on top of fear is completely useless if you're trying to work through the fear (different story if you're trying to save the world, but I sort of don't see a scenario in which I need to jump 2'6" on my greenie to avert planetary destruction in the near future.)

So. I've been setting jumps at my comfort height. Sometimes poles. Sometimes 12". Whatever. I let that be the height for the day and I jump it until I'm bored. Then afterwards I think about how fun it was. I smile (release the endorphins!!) at the memories and I incorporate in emotions from other times I've had fun jumping.

Tuesday we jumped through the course that Lindsey set for Prisoner. We did the baby crossrail until I was happy with how I rode it. We did the bigger crossrail until I was happy. Then we strung the two together. Then we added the barrels and the vertical.

One step at a time. Each when I was comfortable with it. On my timetable.

There is a time to push and I time to just create calm, positive experiences and really soak them in.

I did a photo editing thing
Does It Work?
I think yes. Not only do I have fantastic jumping pictures, but I think I rode better than I have in ages and I feel very happy with the ride. Courage did some typical green horse wiggly stuff and I was able to confidently ride him through and git'er done. That is the ingredient I was lacking and I feel like it's back.

I'm going to keep things slow and advance when I feel confident and continue to use the hell out of my resources, but I'm on the right track and I'm excited about it.


  1. Huh. I got "That Winning Feeling" in the COTH Christmas thing two years ago and forgot to read it. I should pull it out. I'll throw my own favorite book for ovecoming riding fear: "Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse" by Tonya Johnston. It really helped me get over some riding fear things, and some showing-related anxieties.

  2. This is SUCH a great post! You make so many good points here, and it's all stuff that we all should be reminded of time and time again. You and Courage are a great team, you can tell by all of those great jumping pictures! So glad to hear that things are coming together for you :)

  3. Git er done...yep that is what you did yesterday and it put a really big smile on my face!

  4. Love it! Oddly enough, I find this works for things other than jumping, too. I tend to get really obsessive and worried about lateral work in dressage, but I've found that breaking it down and doing little chunks makes tackling a big set of shoulder-ins or half passes doable. Probably my horse is just more tuned into me, but also I've done all the pre-flight rider checks and feel totally confident and aware.

    Get it girl!

  5. Cool post! I would love to read that book! I like how Lindsey said to keep riding after the barrels. Such a simple statement but I totally get it. When we have a not as perfect distance or jump we have to regroup and let it go and just remember to keep riding! Helpful little tip!

  6. Great post!! I have have learned a lot of the same things from Dr. Jenny Susser in her sports psych clinics. You can't push yourself through fear, you have to gain confidence by doing things a little bit at a time. Your brain is in such a good place right now. Way to go!

  7. Excellent post! I have trouble visualizing (meaning zero) so perhaps I should start doing that!

    And you're right, everyone needs a Lindsey! Mine's in the form of a Jackie.

  8. I have a Lindsay of my own with Emily and she does the very same thing for me. I am terrible at internalizing my worry and she can easily snap me out of it. If she sees me getting overwhelmed she'll go back to basics and quietly kick things up while I'm riding building my confidence incrementally. One of the things I love about all of Jimmy Wofford's exercises is that they set you up for success and if you start getting frazzled you can take the whole exercise down to poles and build it back up. My confidence is in there somewhere, but some days I have to dig deep and channel my inner 15 year old fearless self, pull on my big girl breeches and get it done.

    One thing she told me last Saturday after a particularly shitty jump lesson was that I'm not just going to wake up one day and be this great rider, I'm to have good rides and bad rides, but there's always something to build on. And, despite that horrible ride, she could still find something to compliment me on, mainly that my leg is getting rock solid (my release on the other hand needs major work). She rode around Rolex when she was 19 and took 8 years off and has been back in the saddle for about 4+ years and she says that only now does she feel all the muscle memory coming back.

  9. I visualize you doing all kinds of awesome crap. Oh, wait a minute, you already are.

  10. This is great, lots of good things to keep in mind! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Lots of great tips. I took a Daniel Stewart sport psychology clinic years ago and since then I've really appreciated how much of riding (and everything else in life) is mental.

  12. I love visualizing how I'm going to do stuff. It's so helpful. I just keep doing it until my brain remembers how a scene should go automatically.

  13. visualizations are my jam too (esp when i more or less didn't ride for 4 yrs). but this whole post is great - making rational and reasonable decisions for our own riding priorities is key.

    love the video - and isn't it funny how counting out loud always smooths things out? maybe it's what you were saying about the one-track-mind, by physically counting we're forcing muscle memory to take over...

  14. I'll definitely have to check out that book. I completely agree with everything in your post. You guys look great and I really look forward to seeing how far you go.

  15. Stick to your own timetable girl, Courage is doing an awesome job of building on Cuna's foundation to help you achieve even more greatness.
    Ups & downs are part of the trip, without them life would be boring...or at least that is what a try to remember as i process similar setbacks & rises ☺

  16. Sounds like a great book. I finally resorted to a self hypnosis CD with very similar ideas. It really helps. Nothing wrong with working small jumps. You get to work on pace, rhythm, adjusting, distances, without the oh-crap of botching a higher jump. Courage had a TON of scope and awesome knees, height shouldn't be a prob with him.


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