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Getting Distances

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  • Getting Distances

    I have been riding for most my life and have never had an issue such as this: I am AFRAID to jump because I have a fear of messing up my distance to a jump.

    I ride a greenish mare who had a tendency to add a stride (even when there seemed to be no room to add) if she felt inclined to. Although it seems she has gotten over this habit, it has made me an extremely cautious rider.

    Now, I have practiced distances over poles repeatedly. I can get it 9 times out of ten and can see the distance 5 strides away. However, place a jump in front of me and I start second guessing. 9 times out of ten I get the wrong distance when a fence is in front of me.

    I have tried counting (it helps a little) and having a ground rail 9' away from the fence. Hasn't fixed the problem. I don't have the possibility of riding something with more confidence at this point. I have a coach who helps me too, it's more of a mental block, not problem with my riding.

    So, what do you think would help me get over this 'fear'? Thank you in advanced for taking time to help me!

  • #2
    When you find out will you let me know? Because I'm right there with you honey. In fact, I'm going to counseling to deal with my fear and anxiety as it relates to jumping lately.

    The true secret is to just ride the rhythm. I tried the counting thing myself but it jacked with my head more than it helped. I usually just count "one, two, one, two" and if there's an extra stride I make it to three. But if you're really scared then riding the rhythm won't matter becuase the second guessing will start you picking and pulling and adjusting stride the whole way down.

    It seems like it should be so easy, but I fully understand that it's not.

    My suggestion to you is do low jumps until you're comfortable, bordering on bored. Then bump them up until the next level. Thinking of only one thing. Whatever that one thing is. Leaving your hands at the martingale, sitting away from your shoulder, whatever it is.... That seems to be working for me!


    • #3
      Sounds like you need some relaxation techniques so you can control your mind.

      I've found a lot of great videos on youtube that help me with relaxation and being able to keep my mind clear.

      Training your mind is just as important, maybe even more important, than the physical training.

      Your "coach" should be helping you with the mental game too.

      Try giving yourself just ONE thing to think about and don't let your mind wander, but this takes a lot of practice away from the horse. Meditation... you know, you can control what you think and how you think.
      Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


      • #4
        My suggestion to you is do low jumps until you're comfortable, bordering on bored. Then bump them up until the next level.
        This!!!Since you seem to be able to get your strides 9 out of 10 times when doing ground poles maybe do very low cross rails, then once you get comfortable with that move it up just a little.

        Seems that you don't trust your horse to get the correct distance. So maybe work on "you controlling your distances instead of letting your horse find the distance for you. Maybe work on adding or taking away strides.

        My trainer had me working on getting different number of strides.
        For instance:

        On a six stride line she would have me ride and add (so I would intentionally try for 7 strides) then she would have me intentionally get 5 strides. Working on my adjust ability really helped with my distances. We did this at cross rails so I wasn't concerned with the height just getting the distance that I wanted. .
        The Love for a Horse is just as Complicated as the Love for another Human being, If you have never Loved a Horse you will Never Understand!!!


        • #5
          Could you try some simple gymnastics? This puts the responsibility on the horse to get the correct distance and lets you focus on yourself. Set up some simple, low gymnastics, point your horse, close your leg, and let it happen. If you find yourself picking at your horse, tie your reins in a knot and drop them once your horse is committed to jumping. This should let you get the feel of what a good distance feels like when you get a good canter and let it happen. It should also raise your horses confidence as she won't be micromanaged


          • #6
            Green horse that "tends to add"?

            Move your fences in. No point repeating things wrong and no harm in just pushing the fences in. Or just plan the add and ride that canter if you can't move the fences.

            Also, have you measured those lines? Maybe they are too long? A "correct distance" at 3' is not going to work at 2' because the horse does not jump in deep enough down the line and they HAVE to add to get out and keep the same canter. 11' or even 10' is correct for little fences or ground lines so you don't need the run and gun ride to get out of the line-and running to get out? That's the last thing a green horse needs.

            You might be beating yourself up over something that's not really your fault and it is sapping your confidence.

            Are you working with a coach or trainer? Maybe you can take a few lessons on an older, finished horse to help your confidence???
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


            • #7
              The horse i ride will happily add a stride if my leg isn't promising him that yes, I want him to jump. He will also add a bitty stride in if I let the line drift AT ALL, in or to the outside. I don't have much to add to what others said already, except focusing on a steady, consistent rhythm and hold your course/path every step.

              Good luck! I'm interested in what others can add as well :-)


              • #8
                are you afraid that you're messing up your green mare with the crummy distances, or is it fear in a self preservation way? ( like her deep distances have chipped you off in the past). Also, what height of fences are we talking about? If your coach is having you do 3' fences and you're having major confidence issues, I would be questioning them.


                • #9
                  Also ditto what crazy4aottb said. Work on getting adds and subtracts. It gives you a feeling of more control and getting in tune with your horse. I work on that on the flat (extension and compaction of the stride) and then over poles, then over low jumps. I make my horse work more of my seat than off my hand so I don't hang on him. My particular beast has a very soft mouth and he'll throw his head of invert and stay that way if i use too much hand.


                  • #10
                    Something else you might consider is quit looking for a "distance" altogether on low jumps. Concentrate on a nice forward even rhythm and get good at knowing what is going to happen. Have your trainer help you figure out your horses "margin" of error, i.e., what is too big and too close. At low jumps, you really don't need any more "accuracy" than that. Then when you are good at that, you can finesse with finding a "good" distance.
                    Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


                    • #11
                      I have (had?) a tendency when jumping to think of nothing but THE JUMP, thus forgetting that "the jump" is really just another stride. So I would ride my corner staring down "the jump," ride the line staring at the first jump (and thus usually botching that distance), then only thinking about the second jump after I landed from the first, then forgetting what I was doing after the second jump until several strides out... and repeat. What resulted was a wiggly, inconsistent ride with me either pick-pick-picking at the jump or making a huge move at it a couple strides out. Not cute.

                      What my trainer always reinforces is that "the jump" is not the final destination, it is just another step in a nice, consistent, rhythmic, balanced canter around the ring. I don't even really look at the jumps now. Instead, focus on getting the right canter and maintaining it, without bulging or wiggling. Since you mentioned it's more of a mental thing, try focusing your energy on that -- the right canter/the right track -- and you may find that the jumps become less significant, rather than the ONLY thing on your mind. Start doing that with just poles, then bumping up to small verticals, etc. when you are comfortable with thinking of them as just a little "speed bump" in your track.


                      • #12
                        You screw up a distance. So what? Stand ringside long enough and you'll find plenty of very qualified professionals miss a distance here or there.

                        If your horse has a balanced canter and you are balanced on top of her properly, she should be able to jump at least a crossrail (if not up to 3' or more) from a bad spot.

                        Don't think! Feel. It sounds like you have the skills. Just stop thinking. My best courses ever have been ones where I didn't think. You have the muscle memory - just allow it to happen.

                        Instead of focusing on the distance, focus on the canter. Feel the rhythm. Feel the shoulders and the haunches. Are they straight? Is your horse balanced? Those things you can control and practice and do something about. Focus on those things and not on the jump. Discipline yourself to focus on the canter.

                        Also try singing. =D

                        Riding will never be perfect. Very few people can nail the same spot over an entire course time after time. It's not about being perfect, it's about learning how to ride the imperfections.


                        • #13
                          My advice, after dealing with a similar issue recently:

                          Find an eventing/dressage trainer who will work with you on the flat and over small XC fences. As far as flatwork is concerned: increasing the adjustability of your horse's canter (responsiveness to leg and half-halt) on the flat will translate into increased confidence over fences, as both you and your horse will be able to adjust more quickly and easily to a long or deep spot. If you are having to yank for the add or kick and gallop for the long spot, you're 1. focusing on the distance, not the canter and 2. going to miss a lot more often.

                          Also, working over small XC fences (logs etc) with someone who events will be an eye-opening confidence booster for you and your horse. I have found that eventers are much less focused on getting a perfect distance and also expect their horses to take a lot more responsibility in getting themselves over the fence safely. For me personally, trotting and cantering small solid fences was incredibly helpful--my focus was getting my horse over the looky jumps, not how pretty it looked. I found it to be a HUGE relief and I missed less frequently without even trying. My horse also learned a lot from it, as he started picking his own spots without me--a confidence boost for him and an anxiety reducer for me.


                          • #14
                            I also have to count. But not 1,2,1,2. I have to count 1,2,3, 4.....35,36,37..... All I do is count. The whole time cantering, all the way around the ring. I land and just keep counting. If I count and only think about counting, I will get all my distances and strides and the course will look smooth. If I forget the simple process of counting, I will chip, get a long spot and just have a heck of a time keeping anything consistent. Maybe it goes with, less mental thinking and more just riding the canter. I don't know, but seriously counting will help and does work. Singing too, but I find counting is just a little easier for my brain to keep thinking and going. Anyone can count to fifty....


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by HRF Second Chance View Post
                              When you find out will you let me know? Because I'm right there with you honey. In fact, I'm going to counseling to deal with my fear and anxiety as it relates to jumping lately.

                              The true secret is to just ride the rhythm. I tried the counting thing myself but it jacked with my head more than it helped. I usually just count "one, two, one, two" and if there's an extra stride I make it to three. But if you're really scared then riding the rhythm won't matter becuase the second guessing will start you picking and pulling and adjusting stride the whole way down.

                              It seems like it should be so easy, but I fully understand that it's not.

                              My suggestion to you is do low jumps until you're comfortable, bordering on bored. Then bump them up until the next level. Thinking of only one thing. Whatever that one thing is. Leaving your hands at the martingale, sitting away from your shoulder, whatever it is.... That seems to be working for me!
                              I'm sort of on the same boat, too.. although I don't have anxiety when it comes to jumping and still love it, I second guess myself left and right. I have a good eye and can generally see my distance 5-6 strides out (more if there's room) but I try to make crazy adjustments the last few strides and end up totally blowing my spot.
                              I'm excited to read some of the tips on here.. hopefully they'll help!
                              "It's hard to wait for something you know might not happen, but it's even harder to give up when you know it's everything you want."
                              Blog | YouTube


                              • #16
                                My original coach stressed "finding a distance" so much, without actually being able to explain the technique, that I STILL have anxiety about it. It wasn't until I started just having fun that I realized a distance is about 3 things:
                                1) Even rythym; have enough pace as you come out of the turn, and then just stay the same to the jump. Counting 1,2,1,2 helps.
                                2) Straight horse/approach.
                                3) Have the correct position; sitting up, eyes up and so on.

                                And finally remember that horses have eyes, and can see the jump for themselves, so often the less you do the better...let the horse have some responsibility for getting over the thing.

                                I also came to realize that horse's don't really know what a bad distance is unless you tell them by making a big deal about it. Keep your position quiet, and don't catch them in the mouth, and they are pretty happy to deal with the rest on their own.

                                A fun finding a distance exercise is to set to small jumps far apart and to try to add or leave out strides between them. This helps train your eye, but because the goal is a certain number of strides rather than a perfect distance it tends to reduce the inherent anxiety about distances.
                                Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                • #17
                                  I have extreme performance anxiety. I didn't ever have these issues growing up but as I got older it really became a problem.

                                  It became such a problem that even if we just turned on the video camera I would have anxiety. It really had a negative impact on my riding.

                                  I ended up having my husband video a lot and forcing myself to smile and relax. This anxiety carried over to the warm up ring and the show ring. To the point where it was really something I was struggling with.

                                  My brother is on the Olympic shooting team and has sent me a great book on the mental side of coaching and he has also had a lot of good advice on the mental side of sports and how important having a good mental relaxation training program is. So that has been my main focus this year as I move my horses up the levels in the jumper ring.

                                  By the last day of the show last month I had the absolute best time on my beloved horse that I've ever had at a horse show. I just rode the track and reminded myself that he and I are partners and that we're like a dance team... just traveling on the track around the course together. I kept my mind clear and just stayed in the present with him, not mentally racing ahead of him.

                                  I find it fascinating, really, how tension can cause me to ride like freeking monkey. LOL.
                                  Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


                                  • #18
                                    When I returned to riding a little over two years ago, I too, had extreme anxiety about jumping even 2' or 2'6" fences. Before a lesson I would go over and over in my mind the mechanics of jumping a jump and would freak myself out because I was afraid I was going to mess up. I had butterflies in my stomach as I drove to the barn and tacked up my horse. But once I was in the tack, I would push that all behind me and focus on riding the horse under me. I would just focus on pace, rythm, straightness and not micro-managing the horse to the jump. I had to keep telling myself over and over -- it is not as complicated as I am making it out to be. I had to try really hard keep my mind still and focused when the jumps went up, an oxer was set, or I was doing something complicated. I really had to force myself not to over think it and seek out the distance -- usually with my hand.

                                    When working with my greenie, my trainer would encourage me to let him make the mistake, rather than finding the distance for him. It was one of the hardest things for me to do -- know you are going to get there wrong, but grabbing mane a couple strides out and letting your horse make the mistake. You know what? He learned to pay attention to me and how to cover a moderately sloppy distance. I learned to trust my horse and not micromanage (well, I am still working on it, but I trust it a lot more than I did!)

                                    So - Moral of my story, OP, is don't be afraid to mess up or let your greenie mess up. Its how you both learn.


                                    • #19
                                      I agree with ToTheNines. I count 1,2,1,2 and get on a forward rhythm and let the distance come to me rather than trying to find it. Let go of the feeling that you have to get the distance every time, just a distance that your horse can safely jump out of. When bringing along a young horse they have to learn to jump out of shorter and longer distances not just the perfect distance, because well, we're ammies and we're not always perfect.


                                      • #20
                                        I know for myself that whenever I concentrate on finding a good distance, I am doomed to nitpick and actually create bad distances. My coach has a couple exercises that have really helped fix this and make me confident about letting things happen instead of micro-managing. One exercise is he will stand off to the side of the track you're riding over the jump (so you have to look away from the jump as you approach), then hold up several fingers and insist you tell him how many fingers he's holding up as you jump the jump (or sometimes, you just have to maintain eye contact with him over the jump). Not "staring down" the jump allows you to ride off the feel of the canter. Works like a charm - the distance will be good every time.
                                        Second, to demonstrate that the horse usually has quite a good ability to find a decent distance on its own, he will have you drop all contact with the bit 4-5 strides away. My own horse will usually move up rather than add if we need an adjustment, but i have to admit, she hits a good distance every time on her own. This isn't a regular exercise, just something to remind me not to drive my horse crazy being a control freak.