The Monday Backache

Kaylee jumps with Charlie Brister. Photo by Holly Covey. Kaylee jumps with Charlie Brister. Photo by Holly Covey.

I think my back aches on Monday in direct proportion to how well my horses jumped over the weekend. If it is just a little sore, I’ve probably not done very well. If it’s poking-out-your-eyeballs, gasping-in-pain sore, they probably jumped the snot out of everything!

You must be joking, I thought, as the clinician, Charlie Brister from Australia, said, “Go ahead and canter that,” on the horse I haven’t jumped over two feet in two years. Sure. Sucked it up and shortened my reins and off we went.

It’s not easy to address fears about riding when you are riding regularly, have all the safety stuff, good instructors, safe environment, etc. But the fear is still there, a tiny little pinprick in the back of your brain somewhere, ready to balloon to a full blown panic attack should the need arise.

To some extent, as students, we can dictate what the lesson brings to us. I can say, “I don’t want to jump that,” and I don’t have to. With some instructors, you don’t get that leeway — and for some people, that’s fine. If you know what you can do, and ask NOT to be stressed over your comfort level that day, and your instructor agrees with your assessment.

Where students get into trouble is that self assessment stuff. This is why we go to instructors and ask them to help us — to see what we are doing wrong and correct it. Having eyes on the ground is a thing that every single one of us from a first-time beginner on up to the most competent Olympian needs.

Almost the first thing I told the instructor yesterday was, “I am scared to jump this horse.” And I think that was probably the first thing he ignored. To my benefit. What he did was go right on with his teaching, giving me a tool to work with my tough, big horse that made him way more rideable.

Then we just jumped it. And added a few more. And cantered. And added a few more. And I ended feeling like, “Gosh darn, that wasn’t so hard,” and my horse was very proud of himself. So confidence is a thing that can be both withdrawn and increased, just like a bank account. It isn’t one thing — that once you lose it, it never comes back. It’s incremental, it ebbs and flows.

And that’s because we are working with big animals with minds of their own, a self preservation system based on a herd mentality, and the ability to learn from human direction that just astounds me on a regular basis. The miracle of confidence-building instruction can never be underestimated.

If you are at home, saying the same things to yourself — I’m scared to jump that horse, I’m scared to do cross country, I’m scared to compete, etc. — remember confidence is like a bank. Put some currency into it and then you can withdraw it when you need it.

Happy Monday backache to you!

Go eventing!