Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Mental Game

I used to have way more confidence about going over course work but lately, I've been second guessing myself a lot. I'd ride into jumps that were more of a challenge than previously... maybe with a tighter approach or a higher rail. But, I started hesitating and checking out, last minute. For weeks, that hasn't been an issue as I would sort it out and get over it. Was I nervous? Every time, I approached the "big scary fence" (BSF) and you could see me tense and just second guess myself as I push to go over.

Both my instructors have said that it's mostly a mental game, to get through a course or whatever it is. An experienced instructor can make the assessment about whether or not the rider can actually accomplish the said jump/movement with the horse, so it's really just left up to the rider to get over themselves. The thing is, communication is split second fast so you really need to know what you're doing up there. When +ADW found out that I fell, he knew exactly what happened: I lost my nerve, hesitated and chickened out last minute.

The course work for the day was modest and I started the lesson with really good spirits and felt confident that the course was flowing. The first four jumps were great--I felt in control, knew where I was going and Bonsi followed me right through and it was fantastic. But, coming off the third jump, I knew I was getting nervous about that last jump--first mistake. Second mistake, I started to feel unbalanced and out of control and was panicking about bringing us back together. Third mistake, I checked out mentally and let Bonsi take over. You can see from the diagram below, the sequence of jumps laid out. I started panicking after jump 3. Then, the pink line shows where I deeked out last minute, instead of following through with the purple. I did manage it a few times prior, at the trot but the canter just freaked me right out.

After deeking out at E, I don't know what I was thinking (I wasn't) and we cut across the arena and then I wanted to go right but Bons knew that he simply couldn't fit between the wall and jump at B so that's where we parted ways and I flew into the wall and he continued towards M and C...

I'm physically tenderized and still recovering from the soft tissue damage sustained, when I slammed into the wall with my right shoulder and torqued my left knee. But the biggest challenge has been getting over BSJ mentally. The most recent lesson got me on Ariel and we were doing a couple low key jumps and again, I chickened out with a narrow jump that tests the accuracy of the approach (usually jumps are wide enough that there are few options to avoid them) and while nothing happened, it was definitely a flash of emotions and thought processes. I have gone over and over again, in my head, the approach of that BSJ that unseated me and I know I could have gone over it just fine... if I just committed to it and rode through. It isn't the first time I've had to recollect myself after a messy jump.

My heart wants to do it but my logical brain is repeatedly reminding me "oh no you can't! That's scary." I'm reminded of another part of my life where the goal is long-term and I have to keep my eye on the prize and not get distracted and make any last minute decisions away from my goal. Sure, the "jump" might not be pretty, but I have to try and do it anyway. If it's an epic fail, so be it. I gotta get into the (mental) game.


  1. You can definitely take your time if you need it, especially on tasks that are not do or die. Be gentle on yourself.

    1. thanks for the words of encouragement. i have been feeling kind of down about myself since it's happened and the sports med doctor advised i discontinue riding until things are properly addressed and i can feel good again. which really sucks but it looks like i'll be taking may off, even though i was about to start up on my double lessons again.