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View Full Version : Regaining Confidence in Jumping - Basic Questions



Bobblehead
Apr. 29, 2009, 04:58 PM
As I've gotten older, I've gotten more and more nervous about jumping, to the point where just thinking about it give me stomach cramps. My current barn is an H/J barn with an excellent trainer, but about 6 months ago I told her I wanted to stop jumping. She was perfectly fine with that. I have jumped up to 2'6 in the past (about 10 years ago now), but never showed much and don't plan to ever show again. Still, there is a desire to jump - it is fun when I succeed - and I'd be happy to stay at the 2'3 to 2'6 level if I wasn't so terrified. I'm currently doing first level dressage with my horse, but she really loves to jump and is very honest and safe about it.

The most scary thing to me is cantering fences. For some reason, as I visualize the footfalls of the canter, I can't imagine how the horse can jump correctly from the three-beat gait, and it freezes me up. Also, I am no good at picking spots, and my horse will take a long spot in preference to a short one.

Another thing that gets in my way is that I always "feel" the landing as a hard bump, even when my instructor tells me I'm not bumping the horse's back. I have an image that if I was doing it correctly, I wouldn't feel anything special on the landing, it would just flow. I still feel like (and probably am) a raw beginner after jumping for years.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to overcome these unreasonable fears? I do actually want to jump, and I trust my horse as much as I could trust anyone.

Foxtrot's
Apr. 29, 2009, 05:07 PM
Grids? Everything is set up for you. You can concentrate on yourself.

billiebob
Apr. 29, 2009, 05:14 PM
For the cnatering fences one--how do you feel about cantering ground poles? I'm not super fond of cantering fences either and that has helped me to no end.

Your fears aren't unreasonable. If you really want to start jumping again, just take it super slow. Do poles and xrails until you could do them backwards in your sleep. A good instructor won't push you past your comfort zone unless they think you can handle it.

InWhyCee Redux
Apr. 29, 2009, 05:17 PM
How high are you jumping now? I was (am) in a similar position and went back to square one for several months — we're talking poles on the ground and tiny crossrails, taken at the trot or canter on a very, very loose rein.

MistyPony
Apr. 29, 2009, 06:06 PM
Can you have someone video tape you? That might help with yours fears on the landing side of the jump. I have a problem where what I feel happening when I'm riding doesn't look at all how I am visualizing it. Watching a video tape of myself helps me reconcile what my body is ACTUALLY doing vs. what it FEELS like it's doing. I've had meltdowns before about how awful a lesson was only to watch the video and realize I looked pretty darn good!

JOBEAN
Apr. 29, 2009, 07:28 PM
video is the way to go!

Linny
Apr. 29, 2009, 09:25 PM
A re-rider friend of mine was helped by http://horsebooksetc.com/products/Build_Confidence_Over_Fences-62-40.html

Wizard of Oz's
Apr. 29, 2009, 10:00 PM
I agree with all of the above suggestions, but would also like to add that watching other riders might help you. Watching lessons where people are jumping might help with your visual aspect of it, since you said that you have a mental image of horses jumping from a 3 beat gait. I love watching other people ride to help myself because if you are having a problem with your riding, chances are you aren't the only one.

mypaintwattie
Apr. 29, 2009, 10:46 PM
A re-rider friend of mine was helped by http://horsebooksetc.com/products/Build_Confidence_Over_Fences-62-40.html

A great book, helped me when I was starting to jump again after an accident. Start slow, stay in your comfort zone, and don't be afraid to trot poles or crossrails until your confidence improves. Watching videos of yourself riding is a great tool, as well as watching other riders.

fargaloo
Apr. 29, 2009, 10:46 PM
Hey Bobblehead, I feel your pain! I was a confident junior who degenerated into a weenie re-rider scared of 18" cavaletti. I was frustrated with my "irrational fear of jumping" until I had a road-to-Damascus realization -- my fear of jumping was not irrational; it was entirely rational because my position was inherently unstable. I couldn't get confident until I got better. (I mean no disrespect -- just sharing my experience!)

My suggestions:

1. Invest in a good saddle. You can't feel confident over fences if you are fighting your saddle every step of the way. I finally bought a good saddle that fits me and my horse, and the love I feel for that object borders on unhealthy.

2. Strengthen your leg. My confidence over fences soared after I took the stirrups off my saddle for 2 months. A strong base of support will keep you stable even with an ugly spot. The knowledge that you are stable will keep you from freezing when you don't see a spot. You mention that you worry about "bumping" on landing: if you don't feel stable, you will not hold your jumping position long enough for a smooth landing and getaway.

3. Flatwork is the key. Working on suppling, rhythm & impulsion will pay huge dividends over fences. If your horse moving with straightness and impulsion, you don't need to find the spots -- like the KGB, the spots find you. Use your feel for the 3 beats to keep a good rhythm into the fence. Remember, a jump is more or less an elevated canter stride...

I really hope this helps you. It helped me (it also helps that I have a saintly horse and a saintly coach.) Good luck -- life is too short too miss out on this much fun!

(p.s. we schooled over 3'6" oxers on the weekend and it was awesome!:D)

cnvh
Apr. 30, 2009, 10:21 AM
Ground poles, ground poles, and more ground poles. Cantering a ground pole will give you just a teeny weeny little bit of the sensation of jumping and should be just enough while you work on your own form/position.

Janet
Apr. 30, 2009, 10:52 AM
For some reason, as I visualize the footfalls of the canter, I can't imagine how the horse can jump correctly from the three-beat gait, and it freezes me up. Also, I am no good at picking spots, and my horse will take a long spot in preference to a short one. That is because, on the takeoff stride, it stops being 3 beat and becomes 4 beat.

Bobblehead
Apr. 30, 2009, 11:22 AM
Wow, thank you all so much. Some of you are saying things my instructor also tells me. I had a lesson last night and confessed my stupid image about the legs in the canter. She valiantly tried not to giggle as she said, "So you know you have an irrational fear and you want me to explain why it's so irrational?" I said yes, please. She mentioned the same thing as Janet, adding that there's a leading leg in the trot, too, so there's really no difference, and also that the leading leg is the LEAST likely one to bang into the jump because it goes up first. Not to mention the idea of the natural "jump" in the canter. Duh.

And for all the people who say ground poles, yes, that is my homework for the next forever. Cantering 4 ground poles on a 20-meter circle. Trying this in my lesson last night, we have a long way to go as my horse's idea of rhythm is whatever won't take too much effort at the moment. I can see how much this will help. I'm actually excited about it.

Fargaloo, no offense taken at all. I've had saddle issues recently and have been riding bareback more, recently got the nerve to canter bareback and saw instantly how much more I could be gripping with my legs. D*%$^& those stirrups! My instructor reminds me that everyone gets more fearful as they age (and I'm over 60), but still I know my position is far from perfect. And about your #3 - my instructor said *exactly* the same thing to me last night about rhythm.

I do watch other people ride, but that seems to be counterproductive for me, as first of all I have a hard time watching the RIDER instead of the horse, and second, the riders always look so great. I don't seem to know what to look for. Also, they're all young kids and that does get discouraging. My video camera got stolen a few months ago and I haven't replaced it, foolishly thinking my new digital camera would do the trick. I used to tape myself long ago but got out of the habit. But it might just be worthwhile. Think something like this would work? http://www.amazon.com/Flip-Video-Ultra-Camcorder-30-Minutes/dp/B000V1PXL4/ref=br_lf_m_1000367771_1_1_ttl?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&s=photo&pf_rd_p=475964551&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_t=1401&pf_rd_i=1000367771&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1FK4V9PTGWJM7K2Q29D1

Linnie and Mypaintwattie, that book looks *very* interesting, I'll look into it.

Spud&Saf
Apr. 30, 2009, 11:27 AM
Ride a super safe horse that you know will go over and stop over thinking it. My new trainer is constantly telling me to "ride like a pony kid". :D Just sit there and keep your leg on and grab mane if you want to.

It's really MUCH easier than the adult brain wants to make it, I promise! :yes:

Tivas_a_Diva
Apr. 30, 2009, 04:02 PM
Some good advice here. Especially the strength part. I'm still working with finding my distances, but having that good base of support and knowing that you can hold your position - no matter what - really helps with your confidence. It did for mine. Good luck with your riding! :cool:



Hey Bobblehead, I feel your pain! I was a confident junior who degenerated into a weenie re-rider scared of 18" cavaletti. I was frustrated with my "irrational fear of jumping" until I had a road-to-Damascus realization -- my fear of jumping was not irrational; it was entirely rational because my position was inherently unstable. I couldn't get confident until I got better. (I mean no disrespect -- just sharing my experience!)

My suggestions:

1. Invest in a good saddle. You can't feel confident over fences if you are fighting your saddle every step of the way. I finally bought a good saddle that fits me and my horse, and the love I feel for that object borders on unhealthy.

2. Strengthen your leg. My confidence over fences soared after I took the stirrups off my saddle for 2 months. A strong base of support will keep you stable even with an ugly spot. The knowledge that you are stable will keep you from freezing when you don't see a spot. You mention that you worry about "bumping" on landing: if you don't feel stable, you will not hold your jumping position long enough for a smooth landing and getaway.

3. Flatwork is the key. Working on suppling, rhythm & impulsion will pay huge dividends over fences. If your horse moving with straightness and impulsion, you don't need to find the spots -- like the KGB, the spots find you. Use your feel for the 3 beats to keep a good rhythm into the fence. Remember, a jump is more or less an elevated canter stride...

I really hope this helps you. It helped me (it also helps that I have a saintly horse and a saintly coach.) Good luck -- life is too short too miss out on this much fun!

(p.s. we schooled over 3'6" oxers on the weekend and it was awesome!:D)

norcalammie
Apr. 30, 2009, 04:20 PM
Get the flip video camcorder - they are awesome. Easy to use and easy to download onto your computer. Love mine.

Yes, when you are over 60 it is so much harder. I love cantering poles and jumping the smaller fences now and have no plans to show - just have fun. Enjoy it and canter poles in a little course or just canter past the jumps in a course so you can look for the lines out of a corner, feel the rhythem as it is like a course of jumps but with no jumping. Lots of fun as you can regulate strides, etc.

equest
Apr. 30, 2009, 10:39 PM
I agree with the advice above - especially the part about strengthening your legs and working w/o stirrups and in two point.


Bobble, you mentioned that your horse has not been jumping a lot lately and is lacking with "rhythm" right now, maybe you can hop on a lesson horse who is a steady eddie over fences and build your confidence up ? Does your trainer have a school horse that will "take you to the fences" so you can just focus on your position while taking some lessons? It's nice to not have to worry about your horse's training, and just focus on your own position. After some more confident lessons you'll be able to return to your own horse and be more self assured.

It sounds like you are on the right track though! good luck!

3 is the limit
May. 1, 2009, 01:50 PM
I think everyone who has posted has really great advice. And video taping yourself is a good place to start.

Something that has yet to be mentioned (in addition to doing all of the above (starting small, no stirup work, counting, etc) is the use of a qualified hypnotherapist. After I had a series of 'unscheduled dismounts' and became VERY scared, I went to see a hypnotherapist and I can't tell you how much that helped me.

My story (in a nut shell): Broke my arm 2 years ago, I broke my secrum last year due to something REALLY stupid: the last jump of a 2'3" course ended by trotting over an X at which point my horse and I had a different understanding of when he would leave the ground. I continue to have dumb 'setbacks' from time to time....

Anyway, I became very affraid of jumping even the little stuff (even sometimes poles on the ground). My trainer always said I could do it physically but after all those accidents, I lost all confidence.

No matter what you can do physically, you'll never rise to that level unless your head is completely in it and you believe you can.

It is hard to explain how/why it works but I was thrilled that it only took 3 sessions. After the first session (no one at my barn knew I was doing this lest they think I was nuts) I had a group lesson and everyone (including my trainer) noticed my riding was much more confident and focused.

My last session was April 1 and I am pleased to say that I am back to jumping confidently and with less stress around 2'6" courses with oxers! :)

BTW-I have fallen since April 1 and was able to stay at the same height and not be freaked out (where in the past, we'd be back to lowering the fences after I fell).

Let me know if you have any interest in more informaiton about this and I'll email you privately.

Above all...good luck!

Linny
May. 1, 2009, 07:59 PM
If you are concerned about the footfall pattern you might have concerns that your horse won't be able to manage all four feet to make it over. If that is the case, can you watch the horse jumped by someone else so you can see that he really does know what he's doing?

serendipityhunter
May. 1, 2009, 08:22 PM
I have been working on cantering over raised cavaletti (singles and lines). It has really helped me with feeling the rhythm and with my position. I like to get ahead of the motion over fences which is not acceptable to my horse!!

Bobblehead
May. 4, 2009, 05:04 PM
Well, I got the flip camcorder, can't wait to use it. I probably need one of those grabby tripods since our arena is a Coverall. Equest, I actually do have confidence in my horse, she really loves to jump and is pretty brave. The first time she was pointed at a liverpool (different rider, not me) she jumped it with no hesitation - I was so proud of her. What she is lacking is rhythm. My instructor also recommended your idea, Linny, of not only watching her jump under a different rider, but also she wants me to lunge her over higher jumps to improve her style, since she's sloppy at my low level. But she almost never runs out or refuses; the problem is mostly lacking energy and poor spots, and those are me as much as her.

3, I am fascinated by the hypnotherapy idea. I've been thinking about a sports psychologist, but there don't seem to be any in the boonies where I live. Was yours already familiar with riding?

Serendipity, my problem is leaning back. My instructor says I give the impression of saying to the horse, "You do it, I'll meet you on the other side."

Lots to work on, thanks for all the ideas!

MistyPony
May. 4, 2009, 10:03 PM
I bought a couple sports psychology books a couple years ago when I bought a horse that rattled my confidence. The Rider's Edge by Janet Sasson Edgette did wonders for me. It's not going to teach you techniques to deal with your fears, but it tells stories of other riders so you realize you're not alone and you just feel soooo much better, well at least I did!

magnolia73
May. 5, 2009, 02:46 PM
As a jump phobic, I made the excellent decision to buy a greenie*not*. Lucky enough to have people to jump her.

I am now OK trotting little jumps and just make it a part of every ride so it is boring for everyone. I started literally- poles on the ground. Then raised poles. Just walk/trot- every pass around the ring going over tiny jumps. The first times were bad- I did 2- point and got all uptight. Now I just am like whatever and ride all loosey-goosey.

Now we are onto canter- it is so much harder- luckily my horse "jumps" canter poles so it is great practice- but really - just cantering around picking up the poles, staying loose, thinking of other things. When I panic, I get in my horse's face, so reprogramming myself to choose to grab mane instead is helping. I'll get there over time.

I will say- you need to be set up so that each jumping experience is a good one. If my horse is a bit up, I go back a step or two- maybe I just trot poles on a circle. If my horse is awesomely lazy- I move up a bit- maybe trot the gate or canter a flowerbox.

OneMoreTime
May. 5, 2009, 02:51 PM
I've never been a big believer in sports psychology or hypnotherapy, but I was really surprised by how well the following CD was for me! My hubby and daughter also listen to it, just to alleviate general stress (4-yr-old dd calls it "the relax tape":). Sharon Shinwell is English & her voice is so soothing & calming. I really noticed a significant difference in my confidence.


http://www.positivelyriding.com/catalog/item/2116534/1638623.htm

I will admit, though, that my ultimate confidence came after being treated for general anxiety by my MD. I know some will disagree with this, but my life has been SO much better in the past year because of it.

Good luck!