Sometimes Jumping is More like Interpretive Dance…
Hi EN Readers! Humble Guest Blogger Lacy here, ready to share a little adventure from my recent exploits as an online personality. HaHa, yes, I said Personality!
Because I’m a techie nerd as well as a horse rider (Fun Fact: I work in IT at a Newspaper Corp!), I think you’ll all be unsurprised to know I spend a lot of my leisure time on the internet. And what am I doing on the internet? Talking about Horses, duh. This means I’m a regular at most of the prominent horse-related message boards, newsfeeds, and blogs, where I lurk and flail my arms at photographs of poor equitation. Riding is an addiction that most of us can never get enough of, and in this age of digital technology there is an endless source of horse related topics to fuel our obsession.
So with my online (geek) presence in mind, it’s not uncommon for me to receive messages asking for advice or seeking to discuss training and riding issues. While I am certainly not an accredit advice columnist (can you even be accredited for something like that?) I try to offer my best and most helpful opinion whenever possible. I thought I might share some of these opinions with you guys. Because, hey, Visionaire gave me access to the EN Admin Dashboard, and I aim to use it!
So anyway, I offer the below exchange:
A high school student and aspiring rider expressed her frustration over making progress in jumping. She wrote:
I’ve been horseback riding for about eight years. I own a horse and ride 3-5 days a week. Now, you WOULD THINK that I could jump about 3 or 4 feet, love competition and love to come out. WRONG. I have been working on 2’6 ft jumps my WHOLE life. I feel like i’m never going to push past that point and my teacher just never put the jumps higher. I have 2 years left of high school and my goal was to have jumped 3 or 4 feet before i graduate.
I feel pathetic, because people I know that NEVER ride are doing more than me, are more confident than me, and love horses.
I HATE COMPETITION, I hate lessons, I just want to learn how to jump high then, honestly, I might even quit. BUT ill never quit till i get this goal. I just love to ride and have fun without worrying.
Now im stuck with a low self-esteem about it, I’m afraid to jump higher, afraid to tell my teacher I don’t want to compete and would be devastated if I left the bard quitting like a looser. I have competed and I’ve won a lot of 1st places in 2ft and under. Im done. I want to jump a high jump , be proud of myself for once and maybe move on.
I dont know what to do and I HATE IT. Glad I got that off my back.
Response: I would like to thank you for this honest message about your personal frustrations and fears concerning your riding abilities. Not everyone can be straightforward about the obstacles they face in this sport, especially not when surrounded by other riders that seem to have such an easy time of it. I think your insecurities are more universally shared among equestrians than you realize. I know I have often felt similarly, like I work and work and yet never experience the payoff, never reach that elusive goal. Every rider has a set of personal demons they must overcome in their quest to improve!
Okay, so. The first and most important thing I’d like to ask you about is exactly why it is so important that you obtain this goal of higher level jumps. I see you write that you hate competing, which is completely fine. Many people spend their whole lives riding horses and never once go to a horse show. It’s just not for everyone. But you also mentioned that you hate lessons, and that it’s likely you will quit riding after you have managed to reach this self-determined goal. Why is that? Is horse riding itself no longer enjoyable for you? Do you feel like the trainer you ride with makes horse riding less fun or rewarding? The only reason any person should ever ride a horse is because they love it and they want to. Not because they feel that they Have to, and certainly not because they feel obligated to!
I hope you understand that you, as a young person, are growing and maturing, and that part of that process is discovering which passions in your life are longstanding and which should be set aside. It is possible that horse riding itself is not something you wish to continue pursuing like you once did, and that is perfectly okay. Ultimately, what is most important is what makes you happy! And if riding a horse no longer brings you joy, then why continue torturing yourself?
However, if your love of horses is definitely not the issue, I propose a couple other factors that can affect your progress over fences. First and foremost is the Fear you feel when jumping. Can you determine why specifically you feel this fear? Is it a lack of faith in yourself? Your Horse? Your Trainer? What elements are leading you to doubt your ability to jump higher, even when you want it so badly? These are questions that need honest answers before you can move to fix the issue.
There is also the matter of your trainer (and I say that with the utmost kindness). A person who takes it upon themselves to teach others to ride horses must make sure to do so in a way that is educational, safe, and rewarding for their clients. This means empowering the rider with the tools they need to obtain their goals. Not all horse trainers are created equal, and someone that may work for one person may not suit another. Some more questions to ask yourself:
1. How long have you been with this trainer?
2. Do you both communicate openly with one another about your skills/needs/expectations?
3. What is your trainer’s opinion of moving up in jumping? Do they use Gymnastic exercises, longe line work, and position exercises to improve your riding?
4. Also, what level does your trainer currently ride/compete at herself?
Moving on. As I’m sure you know by now, horse riding is a mutually cooperative partnership between yourself and your horse. You said in your message that you own a horse that you ride regularly, and compete. That’s great! That means you’ve already developed a relationship that is hopefully healthy and rewarding. If you could, I’d like to know more about your horse, because it’s very possible some of the limitations you are dealing with have to do with him/her.
A couple of questions to ask yourself:
1. Do my horse and I work well together? Do they respond appropriately when I ask them to do something?
2. How advanced in training is my horse? Are they young or old? Do I feel like I know more than my horse does about jumping?
3. What is the scope of my horse? Do I feel like they are physically capable of safely carrying me over 3 – 4 foot jumps? Do I feel in control when I jump them?
Answering some of these questions may give you a bit of insight into why either you or your trainer doesn’t feel you are ready for higher jumps. Because riding is so much a partnership (and jumping even more so), trust in your horse has to be absolute. A gap in education between one or both of you will make the concept of moving up very difficult.
So maybe this response isn’t so much offered advice, as it is guidance for you to really reach the root of your problem with Jumping. I only wish for you to be safe and happy with your horse, and I hope that is what you wish too. You may find that jumping higher just isn’t in the cards for you at this point in your life, and you will be faced with the question of whether you want to continue to pursue jumping, or if you want to content yourself with what you have already accomplished.
Please don’t let other people make you think that stopping at 2’6″ jumps is somehow a failure. It most absolutely is not! Riding at the level, and Winning, is a huge accomplishment! I have had 50 year old students who have only ever jumped 2’3″ – 2’6″ and they are happy as clams. You know why? Because they don’t concern themselves with what everyone around them is doing. All that matters – in horse riding and in everything else – is your personal satisfaction and happiness, and if you spend your life comparing yourself to other people, you’ll never find fulfillment. There will always be someone out there who is going further, jumping higher, getting richer, and doing better. And they probably won’t deserve it half as much as you or I do…. But that’s life, and you can’t change it. So there is no point in letting it bother you.
Again, I earnestly hope you find a satisfying solution to your problem. You honestly have all the time in the world, so cut yourself some slack. These things have a way of resolving themselves. I know that whatever you choose to do, the experience will ultimately make you a more competent and mature individual.
Now because the Eventing Nation Census results recently came through, I know that many of you EN Readers are competing at an upper level, and have an average of twelve years experience. That More Than qualifies you all to your own opinions about dealing with jumping frustrations! So please, sound off in the comment thread, offer your perspective! There is always more that we can learn from one another, no matter how experienced we get.