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Do nervous/timid riders "make it" ?

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  • Do nervous/timid riders "make it" ?

    I apologize if this topic has been done and covered- I did a small search on the subject.

    I was just curious if there are any BNR/BNT's out there who still get the queasiness, the shivering hands, tense back and arms, the weak muscles.. the physical things. My nervousness really messes me up, and though I try to push it aside and THINK that I'm putting it all in my head, it still translates right through my hands and seat.

    I HATE it and it drives me crazy! I feel like I can never progress with my riding, but I want to so badly. I see all these amazing riders, even the ones from my own barn, and they're just not scared. Even the littler things like crossrails.

    Are there riders out there who jump big, but somehow manage to channel this energy? How did you do it? I'm going so far as to consider anti-anxiety medicine.
    "You either go to the hospital or you get back on! Hospital or on!"

  • #2
    If you find the answer, please let me know! I have fear issues stemming from dirty stoppers and being over faced.


    • Original Poster

      The horse I last leased was a dirty stopper... it really made my confidence nosedive.

      He was excellent in all other aspects, perfect angel on a loose rein down to the buckle in the pleasure classes. He might not have been happy jumping, now that I think of it, or even had issues with back problems.

      All things aside, it's just really done damage to my coping skills as a rider..
      "You either go to the hospital or you get back on! Hospital or on!"


      • #4
        In some of the big venues, of course riders still get nervous. You can't tell me a rider goes to the Olympics or Spruce or any of those big classes and feels no nerves at all. I think the important part is to take a DEEEEEEEEEP breath (seriously even on course because it forces your body to relax) and remember to break everything down into parts. Do your best then discuss everything with your trainer and try to do better. It takes time and countless hours in the saddle to get really good, and even really good riders make mistakes. Riding isn't about being perfect, it's about constantly finessing your errors or potential errors to have the best round possible. The one class is not the be-all-end-all and it's about improving you and your horse, that's it.

        Take it one step at a time and HAVE FUN!


        • #5
          me three! Please let me know the solution. When I was younger I schooled 3'6"-4'0" regularly. I had jumped as high as 4'9" but it was outside my comfort zone. Taking several years off caught up with me. I get the same thing. I'm fine at home (most of the time) but I get to a show or clinic and I turn into a gigantic ball of nervousness and anxiety. So bad that my body begins shaking as if I'm shivering. I did try an anti anxiety med before a show and it helped, but I'd prefer to find a non-medicinal way to treat.

          Be Brave- mine stems from overfacing and a nasty crash through a rolltop. I look at anything round, even an 18" rolltop and I lose all of the color from my face. I almost passed out (literally) my first approach to a rolltop 2 years ago, luckily I just vomitted instead.


          • #6
            Read the George Morris article that was posted not too long ago. He talked a bit about his nerves and how they translated into better riding for him. Perhaps you could write a letter to him asking about he deals/dealt with his serious nerves.

            Last edited by kmwines01; Jan. 10, 2013, 09:11 PM. Reason: Added link to article


            • #7
              Originally posted by kmwines01 View Post
              Read the George Morris article that was posted not too long ago. He talked a bit about his nerves and how they translated into better riding for him. Perhaps you could write a letter to him asking about he deals/dealt with his serious nerves.

              This. He is very good about responding to letters so don't hesitate to send him one. I unfortunately do not have his information but I am sure someone on this board does.
              There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the
              inside of a man.

              -Sir Winston Churchill


              • #8
                My trainer is also a sports psychologist and talks a lot about dealing with your "nervous butterflies" - she suggests naming them and talking to them (quietly or in your head if you're around people) to deal with your nerves!
                Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!


                • #9
                  We get nervous because we care. You might really want to talk to a sports psychologist to get some help on tactics to combat the show nerves. There are also a few good books on the subject. Tonya Johnson's comes to mind. Good luck!
                  “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
                  ¯ Oscar Wilde


                  • #10
                    I have always been a nervous rider, but it got worse when I became an adult re-rider. What's helped me now is riding a brave, no-nonsense horse who will go over - or through- anything I have had to talk myself into many things, but I have gone from trotting cross rails to jumping up to three feet in seven months! I tell others beforehand to MAKE me do certain things while I'm riding and ask them to hold me accountable.

                    Underneath it all, I know I'm capable of more than I think I am. I just have to push through until I'm more comfortable. I'm sure others are the same. I do a lot of visualization, and it really helps.
                    Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PaintedHunter View Post
                      I have always been a nervous rider, but it got worse when I became an adult re-rider. What's helped me now is riding a brave, no-nonsense horse who will go over - or through- anything I have had to talk myself into many things, but I have gone from trotting cross rails to jumping up to three feet in seven months! I tell others beforehand to MAKE me do certain things while I'm riding and ask them to hold me accountable.

                      Underneath it all, I know I'm capable of more than I think I am. I just have to push through until I'm more comfortable. I'm sure others are the same. I do a lot of visualization, and it really helps.
                      I think having the right horse makes a huge difference. I used to be a pretty timid rider as a result of a few bad falls as a teenager. My current horse may not be fancy but she will jump anything. When I increase jump height, I do it through a gymnastic first so I don't have to think about the height. Having someone who will push you but not push you past your limits is important.

                      As far as showing goes, I used to get nauseous before every class. I really think it was just frequency of showing that fixed my nervousness. Especially two-day shows. I find that early morning classes where you don't have to wait around all day are best.


                      • #12
                        Don't give up! I used to work with a very BNR who was still terrified of the water jump. Didn't stop him/her from winning some of the biggest GPs out there.


                        • #13
                          I don't think there are pros who still get physically sick/nervous. I just don't. Can you image how long you would last at your job if that's how you felt going into work every day?

                          I do think virtually all pros have nerves and have learned to channel them into a competitive edge. Even GM said he'd be nervous riding into a pre-green under saddle class tomorrow.

                          As a junior, I had the "bad kind" of nerves—where you go in and sort of freeze and go on autopilot. Now, for some reason, as an amateur, my nerves have transformed themselves into that "edge" I was talking about—I'm still a little nervous at home, but the second I step into the show ring, that all goes away and I'm able to make calculated decisions and process and really ride. I wish I could explain what clicked in my head, but I can say that showing and riding A LOT makes a big difference.

                          If your nerves manifest themselves physically—queasy, shivery, weak muscles—I would look into medication. In fact, on the natural side of things, I actually like Bach's Rescue Remedy.

                          (Also, don't assume all these "confident" riders you see truly are that confident. The other day, someone watched a pretty mediocre lesson of mine—the ring was crowded, a lot going on, and I was very nervous. Afterward, they told my trainer "She just looks so confident!" My trainer (who knows me well) was like "Uh, we nearly had a meltdown!" So, yeah, that confident rider might secretly be thinking "I'm going to die!" as they canter down to every jump. )


                          • #14
                            Hell, one time I was warming up for a CIC** (fences can go up to 5'-6' with brush) and had to stop after a fence to puke, I was so nervous. The subsequent conversation was,

                            "Lean out in the gallop to avoid puking on your horse and tack."
                            "Beer puke doesn't stain a bay!"

                            Matt Ryan, a World Cup rider, Olympian, went to Rolex multiple times, would ride to the start box, hop off, puke his guts out, hop on in time to get the starter signal to go. The result is port johns being placed close to the start box nowadays.

                            Nervous reactions you get are not good. It takes away from your ability to physically function. Anti-anxiety medicine, e.g. xanax, is NOT the answer as it can also disrupt your reflexes. I suggest a sport psychologist and MILES, MILES, MILES.

                            Over in the eventing world, there is a quote from Karen O'Conner is the key to being an effective rider is to "get the butterflies all flying in the same formation."


                            • #15
                              I second the not assuming the riders that look confident are confident. I was jumping a green bean for some sale pictures the other day. Nothing high, 2'3" maybe. But he is a BIG jumper, especially over anything new or "scary" like flowers. I was incredibly nervous each time the jump came up a bit or got a bit scarier for him, because I knew he would make a huge effort and once or twice I was jumped out of the tack. We got through it well and I was fine by the end, but his owner asked how I was so fearless, and I had to tell her that I wasn't. At all. I just take a deep breath and head for the jump, and much more often than not, we come out in one piece on the other side.

                              But I've never gotten the shivers/frozen up about jumps....only flying in planes. I second the miles, miles, miles. And a sports psychologist couldn't hurt, if you have access to one. Anti-anxiety medication for anxiety that isn't chronic and constant is not a good idea for something like riding. I have a scrip for Ativan and it's great for things that give me panic attacks - i.e. planes - but I would not want to ride after having taken one. Reaction time just isn't the same.


                              • #16
                                Not sure how related this is, but I watched an interview with Adele where she talked about how she still gets so nervous before shows sometimes projectile vomits backstage.

                                To me, Adele is to singing what McLain is to show jumping...so just picture him being that nervous and realize that you are definitely not alone!


                                • #17
                                  I am not a BN anything but I have been known to puke because I ate before the show started.. I decorated my horse, jumps, the ground between, judges ( that did not go over well..) etc. So I stopped eating before shows and did not eat until I was done for the day.

                                  I an a very nervous rider incase you did not guess. To this day I am nervous to get on a horse. But in all fairness that could be because of things that I have no control over. But some were there before. But I some how made my nerves work for me ( after I learned not to eat before shows). I made them to where if there was a particular jump that I had not jumped before or one that spooked me I made that jump ride more aggresivly or something so my horse and I would get over it.. It may not have the most beautiful jump but we got over it stop was not an option.

                                  Know that you are not alone.
                                  Friend of bar .ka


                                  • #18
                                    Lisa Slade has done some excellent writing about this topic for the Chronicle. She wrote this... http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/...rts-psychology for the website and then a great, in-depth article for the Dec. 3, 2012 issue called "Battling The Butterflies."

                                    An excerpt from that article... "You’re waiting by the in-gate when your heart starts racing. All of a sudden your palms are sweating, you feel sick, and your mind goes blank—except for a mental video loop showing you crashing through the first oxer on course. Then you’re ushered into the ring, and you pick up a canter only to realize you have no idea what comes after fence 1. You feel disconnected from your body, and your horse, which usually jumps just fine, is suddenly snorting at trolls in the judge’s stand.

                                    When performance anxiety strikes, competent riders may become frozen passengers. Almost everyone takes lessons in jumping or flatwork, but studying the art of staying calm and focused? It’s not so common. You can learn to battle the nerves that can accompany competition, but it’s a skill that requires practice, just like the rest of your riding."

                                    Go to http://www.chronofhorse.com/subscribe to subscribe to the Chronicle for more great articles like this!


                                    • #19
                                      This is something I've always had a problem with too--nerves to the point of being unable to really function properly on a jump course, i.e. I'll end up just sitting there and praying my horse will take care of me as long as I steer and try to find a distance to each jump. Not good.

                                      I think it's part personality as well as experience, both good, bad, and/or lack thereof. I had a trainer who was an amazing rider and said that she never really felt nerves, no matter how big the jump or green the horse, ever, since she was a little kid. She just naturally had a mental steeliness to her riding, and it showed. So those people do certainly exist.

                                      For me, a forgiving, brave horse and miles in the saddle instill confidence and help tamp the butterflies down. I am a naturally nervous person in general, however--I take it you might be too? Rather than medication, I have considered learning how to meditate, as silly as that may sound--I've talked to enough people and read enough about it to think that it would do nothing but help me learn how to stay calm, focused, and in control in situations that would usually push me over the edge.


                                      • #20
                                        Please keep suggestions coming. I got so nervous jumping that I went back to X's. I am so frustrated. I can't work through it. I am doing DRessage but I miss jumping even though my nerve is gone.