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Confidence o/f

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  • Confidence o/f

    I have been having a lot of trouble lately building confidence over fences. In early December I had a pretty scary *but fairly painless as fall go* fall due to incorrectly judging a distance and basically getting launched. Since then I really have not been confident at all to the point where I dread jumping. I second guess my distances all the time, and I really don't know what to do. Do you all have any tips for getting over confidence issues? A particular song to sing in my head? A phrase to repeat to myself? Exercises? Anything?


  • #2
    I kind of wish this whole concept of 'finding' a distance never existed. You don't 'find' it - it comes to you by you focusing on your track, rhythm, balance, and pace.

    Since your confidence is busted, I would go back to poles on the ground for a week or two. Focus on what your horse is doing around the corners and on the line - is he falling in? bulging out? Are you speeding up? Slowing down? Is your horse balanced? on his forehand?

    Next to you. Are your heels down (really really important)? eyes up? soft, relaxed, following hands? Back straight but soft? Equal pressure in both legs until otherwise needed?

    Once you 'master' these, finding a distance is really a matter of making sure that you get your horse balanced, in front of the leg, straight, and staying on the same rhythm. If you miss, go back and try to figure out which one of these went wrong. Singing a song is helpful in keeping your rhythm and pace. I usually just count numbers to help keep my rhythm.

    Sometimes a little counterbend out of the corners will help you keep your horse straight.

    Just canter poles until you can't stand it anymore - all the while focusing on track, rhythm, balance, and pace. When you feel like you've got a good handle on it, try some crossrails. Then some little verticles. Linda Allen's book might have some fun exercises.

    Another helpful exercise in judging distances is set up two poles x strides away from eachother. Canter in and count and get x strides. Then try to get x-1 strides, then x-2 strides, then x strides. This will help you learn to judge how far away you are from the pole and what you need to do when to fit the strides.

    Try to avoid focusing on how scared you are. Focus instead on solving the problem and using your tools to answer your questions.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      Are you on your own horse, or a schoolie? I think some lessons on a confident schoolie is the best bet... the kind of horse that can see a distance from a mile away and don't bother trying to interfere with their flight plan because you're merely a passenger with a very competent autopilot. (:

      I had a couple falls last summer as I started to ride my own green horse over fences--just because if I wasn't super-confident, he would get confused and stop, and I had never had to project that kind of confidence before. So then my confidence went down the toilet, and so I've been focusing more on riding lesson horses who could see a distance in their sleep. Now I am starting to finally feel like I can feel a distance myself and start controlling it without overjudging or messing my horse up, so I'm rebuilding my confidence, and feel better about riding a greener horse like my own.
      "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

      Graphite/Pastel Portraits


      • #4
        I had a confidence issue of sorts this Spring when I re-started taking lessons. Previously I had evented, foxhunted on staff, and exercised/jumped steeplechasers. So I knew I could jump some significant height at speed. My problem was that I felt comfortable galloping fences from a 6-8 foot distance but had totally lost the ability to jump from close in. So I was getting nervous and dropping the horse at the base of the fence and jumping quick. None of which was helping my horse. In fact she was getting quicker and I was getting more frustrated. Started taking lessons on a wonderful schoolmaster who doesn't have a stop in him and is more of a "sit there, I'll do it" kind of guy. What was awesome was that I could basically point him through the corner then close my eyes, make only the adjustments my coach asked for, and let the horse take me to the right distance at the right pace. The distances were much closer and the pace much slower than what I had grown accustomed to and I couldn't break that habit on my own. Now that I've gotten better at feeling for that close distance at a slow pace I can comfortably canter around a course and not drop my horse and just sit there two strides out. Not the same sort of confidence issue, but the solution might be great for you too.

        Ride a been-there-done-that schoolie who you can point at a line of poles and close your eyes. Ask the coach to call out your adjustments and pay attention to how the horse is making his own adjustments. When you feel comfortable with that exercise open the eyes and see if you can replicate the feeling by making your own adjustments. As you're ready make the last pole in the line into a 12" cross rail and do the same sort of exercise. Keep rinsing and repeating until you feel comfortable with your rhythm, pace, and distances and the jumps are just an after thought. Good luck to you and hope you have some fun!
        "Beware the hobby that eats."
        Benjamin Franklin


        • #5
          I use to get left and get launched. I was the worst feeling...you're flying through the air, not quite sure you're going to land anywhere near the horse's back. Ugh...it's the worst.

          Ever watch the good riders and wonder how they don't get launched when they get left behind ('cause you do realize that they get a little left sometimes, right)? Or how people training the greenies can stay with those crazy greenie leaps? You need to learn how to do that and then a bad distance isn't a bid deal.

          It starts with a strong base. Your legs needs to be correct and under you. Relaxed, but heavy. They need to be strong enough to direct your horse WHILE in two point (can you use just your legs to steer while in two point?)

          Seat should be either out the saddle in two point or be a light brushing seat...not fully sitting and behind the motion. If you're in a light brushing seat, you won't get launched, even if you get left. There are times when you will have to sit but you can't be stiff when you sit. Stiffness, along with sitting and weak legs are what gets you launced. Remember that a few decades ago, every sat on their horse over the jump...there was no break over. If you can be soft/relaxed in your body, you will go with the horse, maybe not prettily, but you'll avoid the smack in the bottom that throws you up in the air and on the neck.

          FWIW, the last time I fell off was at a ditch when I thought my horse was stopping. I was sitting hard on his back, urging him forward and then he jumped almost from a standstill. I got launched up his neck. If my weight had been in my heels, with a light seat and relaxed body, I would've been fine...instead of clinging to his neck...which then freaked him out and landed me in the dirt.
          Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
          Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"


          • #6
            I learned to jump in not the best way, resulting in many glorious crashes. Low confidence.

            Then I learned to do it a better (more correct) way, and my confidence naturally improved.

            Stupid as it might sound, hearing little snippets of wisdom from experienced people (trainers or clinicians) to play over in my head works. Even if I intellectually know them to NOT be true (or not be true all the time). Such as:

            "You can't fall off if your heels are down"
            -This makes me drop my heels deeper and mind my lower leg is ON.

            "The jump can't go wrong if you ride it to the base of the fence and sit deep"
            -This reminds me to not try to jump before my horse and stay WITH his center of gravity.

            "You can't fall off if you keep your head/eyes up"
            -Fairly obvious, but if the fence is scary-looking at it, I tend to stare. I suppose you could call me "looky"

            "Your horse can't refuse if you keep a constant rhythm and pace all the way to the base of the fence"
            -Again, keep my butt in the saddle and my body relaxed and consistent. I get excited before fences (last three strides) which has resulted in some VERY interesting things...

            That strategy works if your fundamentals are pretty solid, and you just have a mental block...trick yourself into trusting your seat and legs, I suppose.
            Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior


            • #7
              Holly Hugo Vidal's book called: Build Confidence Over Fences. Available on Amazon, etc.

              "If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it." by me


              • #8
                I got launched several times as a youngster because I had ZERO idea what I was doing. I would just jump. I got left behind, launched, jumped ahead and so on.

                Now that I am learning the right way to do it. It is much more fun and the ground doesn't come up as fast.

                I do a lot of work with poles and setting where he is going to take off. My horse is a point and click type of boy but if you don't do your part he will tell you. Usually with a buck..and when you do it right, the jump is beautiful.
                OTTB - Hurricane Denton - Kane - the big dog!
                Tuggy - RIP 9/12/2016 - Wait for me at the bridge
                Foster LolaMaria AKA LolaBean (Boxer)


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rugbygirl View Post
                  "The jump can't go wrong if you ride it to the base of the fence and sit deep"
                  -This reminds me to not try to jump before my horse and stay WITH his center of gravity.
                  Gotta say I disagree with sitting deep unless you are skilled enough to stay relaxed when things go wrong. You DO need to stay tall, wait and ride to the base, but you can do all that in a light seat. Keeping your butt firmly planted in the saddle but a stiff back gets you launched over the neck when you get left behind.
                  Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
                  Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"


                  • #10
                    I have been up and down the confidence ladder a couple of times this year. They way I got over it was by starting over and doing trot poles to a jump. My horse and I are both green and he likes to jump to soon and he is very round so I too have had one spill and a few close (on the neck) calls. With the trot poles he won't take off until he is at the last on and by then he won't jump too big. I also needed to push my leg forward much more to keep my center of gravity back and keep my eyes up.


                    • #11
                      Gotta say I disagree with sitting deep unless you are skilled enough to stay relaxed when things go wrong. You DO need to stay tall, wait and ride to the base, but you can do all that in a light seat.
                      I see where you're coming from. Use of the little mantras I listed definitely depends on where you're specifically going wrong and what you need to work on.

                      For example, I was originally taught to assume my two-point three strides in front of the jump. That method didn't really work out well. For me, keeping my butt in the saddle PERIOD was a big habit to have to get into when I started lessons with another teacher. I won't say that I never get left behind, but it's definitely ALMOST never. I have the opposite issue.

                      If your particular issue is sitting deep and stiff, I can definitely see why that would be a bad mantra to keep in your head!
                      Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior


                      • #12
                        I confess to almost be phobic about anything over 2'9". My very patient instructor has helped by getting me to concentrate on the rhythm and keeping the horse straight-that's what gives you a consistent distance. Nothing new or magic there, it's all been said before.

                        Keep the fences at your comfort level, even if that's a pole on the ground. Set them at easy related distances. Ride a horse with a sense of humor about pilot error. As you canter, count out loud to help feel the canter. If all else fails, sing-no kidding. Many folks find "Row Your Boat" to work-I sing "Dixie", but keep at it until you find what works for you.

                        And remember-it's supposed to be fun-lots of people ride their whole lives and never jump a stick-and that's okay-good luck!


                        • #13
                          In the words of George Morris, "Distances are like men.... More will come along." If the horse jumps the fence, hey, he has found a distance!

                          Personally, I was so nervous O/F that I went back to doing W/T lessons and poles for months — tons of flat in full-, half-, and quarter-seat, with and without hands to remind me to stop gripping for dear life, emphasizing a steady, controlled pace.... one day, my trainer turned the crossrail to a two-foot vertical and, viola!
                          "Go on, Bill — this is no place for a pony."


                          • #14
                            I had a series of bad falls a few years ago. Every time after that for a long time I was terrified to jump but never told anyone, and just sucked it up and did it. My trick was, before starting any combo of jumps or even just one, I would take a DEEP breath and I would say to myself "Inhale all the insecurities, focus..." then I would exhale and say "exhale it all out!" It's a cleansing thing I guess, shake away all the jitters. I would feel focused and after a few months of small jumps, I became what I am now known as the farm's daredevil. I will ride anyone, jump anything and do whatever is asked of me.

                            Try it and let me know how it works.


                            • #15
                              Lessons on a good school horse will do wonders. so does counting out loud!

                              I had a few weeks where I COULD.NOT.GET.A.SINGLE.DISTANCE.RIGHT.

                              it was EXTREMELY frustrating. I dont know what changed to make me completely lose my sense of rythm and balance, but I think i was just trying too hard to micromanage my pony and really just ended up getting in his way. he needed constant riding, but micromanaging went too far i guess you could say. sometimes you just have to let the horse do his job. create a good canter. you wont get 8 perfect distances most of the time. there is such a thing as a good long spot, and there is such a thing as a good short spot. it's all about decision making. what is most practical for the line at hand?

                              also, as far as singing goes--really, sing a song. something with a consistent rythm. OR, i just count. my trainer has forced me and a couple others who have been having distance-freakouts to just COUNT. and what do you know, it works. lol. i think sometimes when we try to visualize and "find" the spot, it's a lot harder to see and we kind of distort the distance visually, if that makes sense. we think WELL that fence looks faraway let me open up my stride more. which makes sense to an extent, except sometimes we overthink it. if you count outloud, you can hear your own pace, and you can essentially time your speed if that makes sense coming up to the fence. you then realize "okay, i have time for X more "one, two, three's"

                              again, let me emphasize that no while you dont want to get the long distance most of the time, SOMETIMES it's the right choice. if you have your horse balanced and coming up from behind, horse should mostly be able to take any distance acceptably. if you come up and the only logical choice seems to be a long distance as opposed to a deep burried spot, and your horse has the momentum for it, then go for it. if a long spot seems like its going to end up scary, but the regular distance is just not going to happen, yeah, its a good idea to get in deeper.

                              Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


                              • #16
                                lots of REALLY good advice here! read through everything and pick what you think will work for you.

                                i have to side with everyone who suggests singing a song or chanting a phrase, the words calm you and the RHYTHM of your speech or singing keeps you and your horse steady.

                                i've been riding a lot of quick, catty, jumpery types lately and it makes me snappy in the air, and my brain has been in fast forward when i jump!

                                what works for me when i start getting too fast, or need to calm down and stop panicking (lol) is either to sing, or repeat one phrase in rhythm with the canter i want. my latest one has been "tight in the tack, slow in the air"

                                but taking it slow, doing poles and grids with an awesome schoolie, is always a confidence-builder.
                                Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique