This weekend proved once again that my worst fence will always be the last one on course. Stadium, xc, IHSA hunters or just plain jumpers, last fence is the one most likely I will miss/screw up. Different horses, different courses. Usually I jump ahead(I know BAD! Still happens...) and most times it results in a rail down, but an ugly fence nonetheless. My first warm up jump(s) tend to suck too, then I remember how to ride and all is well until Mr. Last Fence on Course.
Now I'm willing to accept that my last xc fence yesterday could have been that I was exhausted from my crazy work week before, lack of sufficient sleep and the heat wave, but there is a pattern here. I think since I tend to ride horses that need so much support in front of fences that for the first couple I am in a you-will-get-over-this-or-face-the-music mindset, settle into a rhythm mid course and by the last fence I've become complacent and just act like a sack of potatoes ("here YOU do it" almost). My leg is still on, but I feel like I'm just gunning for the last fence.
Maybe I need to treat the exit gate/finish line as an obstacle so that my brain doesn't shut down for the last fence? Any sports psychologists out there?
If you know that it is happening and know what you are doing that makes it happen, then I don't see the problem.
Just discipline yourself to ride every jump the same way.
If it was the first fence, then you might be having trouble with getting your pace before you put your horse's eye on the fence, and that would be a training issue. But, the last fence?
You have also already given yourself the answer: Your exit circle is part of the course. In fact everything you do, from entering the ring to leaving it, is part of the course, and requires that you use your ability to make it all perfect.
Having gone over to the darkside, at least temporarily, I see that the concept of "to survive is to succeed" is the motto of many lower level riders. They do not demand enough of themselves to realize that getting around clear is not the goal. The goal is to ride your very best to every fence. Then, going clear should happen as a matter of course.
I found the perfect distance but they put the jump in the wrong place.
Do you ever count your rhythm going into your fences?
Jimmy Wofford had us start counting as we made the turn to to a jump. It does not matter how many numbers you have. You are counting up, not down ie: 4, 3, 2, 1. Sometimes I hit a 10 or 12 stride count. It does not matter. When I remember to do this, the jumps just seem to come to me.
Riding the rhythm seems to help me not to lean to early, too. When you see that your distance is too deep, think stretch up tall through your abs. This will keep you from leaning too soon.
What helped me was to 'count' or 'focus' on everything beginning with the start flags and ending with the finish flags. That way I didn't 'let down' when viewing the last fence. In short I keeping thinking, riding and focusing until I cross between the finish flags.
I know and have watched too many people drop placing or eliminate for wrong last fence, last fence refusals or rails as well as missing the finish flags altogether.
"Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
Courtesy my cousin Tim
Just to clarify, I don't have an issue going through the flags or doing a finishing/courtesy circle for Hunters. I always walk through them on my coursewalks as a mental reminder. Just actually jumping the last element before that.
If you can, get yourself to a sports psychologist. He/she will help you get out of the mindset that "whew, last jump, I'm done". Your last "jump" is the outgate/ dismounting area and needs to be ridden as such, like everyone above has written. However, I know that's all well and good for us to sit here and say that, but not so easy to put into practice, which is why I suggested the SPORTS psychologist.
I had the same problem -- fixed it by consistently riding the last fence as though it were a one-stride combination. When I walk my course, I walk it as though the imaginary jump is there -- sometimes said jump is between the finish flags, but not always. Always thought that'd go away *g* But no, years later if I don't walk it as though there's another fence immediately after the last one, the last one will be ugly.
I think that works better than "keep riding till the end" because it sets up a more specific ride.