Lost confidence...how to gain back what I once had...
A couple months ago I started schooling 3'6 with the intention to show. About a month ago, I went to a local Jumper show and did our first 3'6 division. In the first class I had a refusal in which we took the whole fence down. I was able to pull myself together and finish the course. Somehow we ended up 3rd. The second course we had a refusal in which I had to make an emergency dismount before falling off. My trainer got on him after that and finished the course.
Practicing at home I would find my spots and we were doing wonderful, even started schooling 4'. I had the confidence to go for it and didn’t think twice. 3 years ago you couldn't get me to jump 3ft! But I trust my horse and know he'll go over.
Those courses took a toll on my confidence and trusting myself. I am scared/nervous to jump even 3ft now. At home my horse won’t take care of me, (completely understand since I don’t trust myself) and he’s been refusing at fences he never did. He typically refuses when I bury him in the fence, which I never use to have this habit. I guess I’m just holding too much and raising my hands too much. I just can’t find the distances anymore like I use to.
I worked with my trainer and started to get the rhythm and some confidence back, but yesterday it happened all over again and only at 3'!!! I made myself get him over it one way or another, knowing I had to get over this confidence issue.
My question is: Has this happened to you before? If so, how did you deal with it and get it back? Suggestions, exercises would be helpful if there are any.
I’m really frustrated and feel bad for my horse, cause his once confident mom is no longer present.
Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook
I always struggle with my confidence.
I would consider going even lower than the 3ft until it is boring for you and your horse. If you make a distance mistake at 2'6 your horse should be able to cope and have it not rattle either of you.
I generally find when I have rattled my confidence I need to go right back to the basics.
First off, I think you need to stop being so hard on yourself. Its only been two months since you had your show where you bumped up, and maybe weren't fully prepared (although I think I remember seeing your video, and I thought you did a fantastic job). It takes a long time to build confidence, and then only a second to take it away.
I think most of us have been where you are at some point-I was not jumping as high as you, but I basically started having the same issue. Horse started refusing, it totally blew my trust/confidence, which then made her not trust me, and it was just a whole downward spiral. We've been steadily climbing out of it for the past year, but its been hard. We did what was basically mentioned above-you restart at the level where you feel really confident, and then keep doing it until you're bored out of your mind. It also really helped me to do a lot of flatwork-to help get more connected to my horse. Then, as I got more comfortable, my trainer would make once fence a little higher, then two, etc etc.
Another little mind trick that one trainer gave me that actually helps is to go into the ring imagining everytime that you are "insert big name of choice here". I picture myself riding like them, being assertive, and just dealing with issues that come up as opposed to letting them defeat me. Its a little silly, but everytime I've gone into the ring with a real sense of purpose like this, I've always had really good rides.
Anyway, hopefully this helps you just a little, even if its just to let you know you're not alone!
It sounds as though you are "riding to the stop". This is very common, and can be quite frustrating. First, I agree with KateKat...give your self time. Many other people have experienced what you are going through right now...I am one of them What helped me was thinking "across" as I approached the jump, and knowing that I could make it to the other side. If you can give your horse confidence with "across", then he will give you confidence. Please try this with smaller jumps first, and get comfortable. Then you can move forward with you trainer's help. There should be a support group for this! You are not alone
Won't be the only time you go through this. Happens to everybody and, when you get older? Harder to overcome.
You got scared, plain and simple. Horse is now scared too. And you are overfaced. Does not mean you can't do it but it means you should NOT try it right now, it's too much. Accept that and you can start to work on overcoming it.
The immediate thing is to stop trying to jump the horse over anything or he will confirm as a stopper. Just take a break from it for a few weeks or even months-he needs to clean his head out and you need to stop kicking yourself over it.
After the break, your trainer needs to be the only one to jump him. You can flat him but do not jump anything-one error sends him back to stop city.
You need to scare up a ride on a nice old slug of a schoolie and go back to basics starting with crossrails. How long it takes to get back to 3' is anybody's guess but it does not matter.
What matters is you get your confidence back and that horse loses the stop...even if that means trainer only jumping.
You might also consider that this horse might not want to be a 3'6" horse and you really don't want to be a 3'6" or 4' rider. And that is FINE. Schooling it at home is not jumping a show course and you just don't have to go there.
You know, would not hurt to rule out physical issues too. Sometimes the bigger fences cause them discomfort and they won't give you any breaks or take any jokes because the jump hurts them. Might be some joint issues or he may just not have the conformation to jump the bigger stuff comfortably.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
A lot of people expect themselves not to be scared.
I think that's a tall order.
Lots of people ride around with a little dose of fear riding around the course with them on their shoulder. They have just learned to accept that it's there and execute the job to be done with it coming along for the ride.
Trying to deny fear makes it bigger.
Giving it a little spot to come along for the ride while you get to business anyway gives you your ride back.
Confidence takes a long time to rebuild. You go back to where it is mindless and build back from there as you get bored. If it is walking over a pole, you walk over the pole until you are bored and want to trot the pole.
Another horse to ride helps too. Once you don't trust your horse its craptastic. I got to ride a saintly jumper in a lesson who thought my pulling on the reins in front of the jump meant to add in 3456 steps and jump very carefully so as not to upset the obviously frightened woman. A few rides on a horse like that until you get your positive ride back ingrained helps.
In the meantime, someone good and confident jumping your horse helps. And watch and see how they do.
Losing trust in your horse sucks and I am going through that now (not just jumping). It seems like abandoning ship can be a good idea. If you want to stay the course, you need to celebrate the tiniest wins and push out of your mind what you did before. You also need to be prepared for setbacks.
To be a good rider, you need to get to a point where in your mind you are sitting on the best horse of all time. When something bad happens you need to get back under control and once you are, have the confidence that you are on the best horse of all time. It's really hard when you have an image in your head and you have to push all of that out. You have to ride every fence like your horse is going to jump and is a good jumper.... while knowing he has a stop. It is really hard.
Sorry for the less than positive post. It's a bit of a worst case... good luck and give yourself a ton of time.
Loss of confidence is a normal. One of the best ways to help is to go over the 'where did it start' analysis and be sure you are doing everything you can to understand the how/when/why of where it all began and then take the logical steps to resolve those issues.
Go through the logical checklist of the things you can control:
1. Have your horse checked out to be sure there isn't a physical reason he's stopping.
2. Work with your trainer to analyze your seat, balance, and base of support on the flat and then over smaller jumps and gymnastics.
3. Work on perfecting your eye for a distance with moderately sized jumps that don't overface you or your horse until you are getting those distances confidently and starting to get bored with the height.
Its all about identifying the various sources of fear, and then taking the practical steps to address it to the best of your ability. We all ride with the knowledge that "$hit happens". The confidence to continue comes from building the skills we need to deal with the more common forms of stuff that can go wrong and also being sure we're riding with enough awareness to avoid being the cause of our own problems.
Its not a process to hurry through. Tackle it systematically and be kind to yourself and your horse while you work through it. If you approach it with the philosophy of "we have all day/month/year to work through this" you'll actually progress faster because you'll have removed one source of anxiety by not putting unecessary pressure on yourself. Remember, its supposed to be FUN!
Confidence is a really tough thing to get back, so it's important to take this at whatever pace is comfortable for both you and your horse. If that means scaling back your height for awhile, DO IT. There's no point in beating yourselves over 3' if you are terrified every step of the way. Go back to 2'3", or 2'6", or whatever makes you feel confident again. School, and school, and school some more, and then start creeping the height back in little by little, if that is still your desire.
If your horse is stopping regularly, I would enlist your trainer to put some rides in to make sure it doesn't become a habit for him, and to ensure that it is 100% your confidence causing the issue, and not something unrelated. If it would help, enlist a school horse that will be a steady packer to take you around and give you a boost. All these things together will start adding up to bring your confidence back.
I'm also a big believer in visualization. Go through your rides in your head, with a positive attitude. See yourself going around with perfect striding, smooth takeoffs, and steady landings. Before you know it, the rides in your head will start to manifest in your overall attitude.
You are definitely not alone. I have lost confidence and I have also ridden horses whose riders have lost confidence. Findeight's post is spot on. You do not want both the horse and the rider to be nervous to the jumps, so you shouldn't jump together until you both are confident again. Or at the very least, you should back way down to a point (xrails, poles on the ground, if you have to) where you and he are both confident and slowly move up. Have your trainer ride him to help him work through both his and your lack of confidence.
There is a lot of great advice here. What ever you do, you need to remember that jumping is fun so you stop sabotaging the jump. In your mind, you are bringing so much baggage to the jump that it is hard to get out of your own way and trust your horse to do his job. If I remember, you posted asking about finding the right pace to the larger jumps? Then simplify it and set you and your horse up to find the right pace for the right jump. Start low and work your way up.
One of the most helpful exercises for me is using placing poles in front of the jump or other simple gymnastics. As you slowly move the jump height up, the distances between the jumps will be moved out, so you will start gaining a feel for the pace you need for the larger jumps. Gymnastics are a great way to help your horse become confident again that his rider isn't going to sabotage the jump and will help him, or at least not hinder him, if the distance isn't perfect.
This post sounds so much like what I'm going through. My confidence has been shattered due to injuries sustained last year (two major ones, both horse related). Prior to injuries, I was schooling 2'3" and showing 2' on a lease horse and had just purchased my own horse with the intent to take him as an eventer. Now xrails and riding outside of an arena can be intimidating.
I wish I had more advice (reading through the responses had been particularly helpful though!). The biggest thing for me was finding trainers - in my case a dressage instructor and a jump instructor - who could work with me where I was at, understand my goals and deal with my insecurities. They both have been great and very complementary.
As to when the feelings subside or when you return to your former self ... I wish I knew. It's a major source of frustration for myself as well Hopefully more people respond as I know this has to be an issue for many riders.
You are definitely not alone in this! I am going through the same thing. I started jumping higher with a new horse that has a very lofty jump, got tossed out of the tack pretty good a few times, and suddenly I can't see a distance for the life of me and I'm having a nervous breakdown before a small jumper class. My horse is stopping because my body language is telling her to stop. Cue me going back to 2'3" - 2'6" hunters this weekend. I figure I'm never going to be going to the Olympics, I can take this at my own pace and not start going grey from stress. We're sticking at this height until I can do it in my sleep, then we'll move up.
It IS incredibly frustrating. Hang in there... just because we have setbacks does not mean we will never get there. Maybe I'll get it back in a month.. maybe it will take me years to get where I want to be.
Oh, and since I feel bad for my horse, having to piddle around with me being all worried on her back, I am getting a more experienced rider to take her into some bigger stuff at the next show. The experienced rider can give my horse more confidence and experience in the ring, while I get to enjoy seeing my horse do her thing.
Thanks everyone for the words of encouragement and tips!
As for physical issues, Forrest is definitely cleared of those and he LOVES jumping high...well he did till mom (me) decided it was a big deal
For my riding, I am most definitely conveying issues that are making it a bigger deal. I had a lesson yesterday and I’ve always had an issue with anticipation...it’s quite bad actually, and this issue has been blown up now cause I get into a defense position (getting into two point WAY before the fence) which cause him to say forget it. He doesnt refuse all the time...actually quite rarely, but I notice he does it more when I leave the tack before a fence instead of riding to the base. We were much better yesterday and it turns out I need someone yelling at me at ALL times. We schooled between 2'6- and 3' and he was really good.
When jumping 3’6 I had a habit of holding my horse too much and adding, when at that height that is bad. So I would bury him so deep he had every right to say forget it. The margin of error is a lot smaller at the bigger fences. So I was told to stop holding him to the base and keep the same rhythm. It then conveyed into my normal riding and I got nervous to hold to the base or add...so I started to take fences at a long spot which again at higher fences Forrest was like no way...lower stuff he didn’t care.
It just seems like some big mental battle and I am most definitely making a bigger deal than it needs to be. A friend (also a trainer) told me it’s not completely about the rhythm but it’s about knowing how to help your horse over the fence (I.e. adding in a stride, lengthening, etc.)
It’s just very frustrating because I ended last year on such a high and it feels like it’s gone. I have ironically had a decent show season this year (either placing champ, reserve, or in the stakes classes) So I can’t complain about that, but it doesnt feel deserved it that makes sense.
I guess at this point its practice makes perfect...right?
Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook