How often do you jump some fences and think to yourself ‘that will do, we can stop now?’ Or maybe you go for a quick hack and turn round before your horse has an opportunity to misbehave, spook or get excited?
A couple of weeks ago I learnt a valuable lesson about how easily I convince myself I have done enough in a lesson. We had made the long trip south for a couple of days training at Somerford Park in Cheshire and I had a showjumping and cross country lesson booked with Andrew Heffernan Eventing.
After our last run at Blair Castle Horse Trials hadn’t gone to plan, my confidence levels were not great and I was feeling pretty nervous. We jumped a few warm up fences and then started stringing several jumps together.
After a few attempts we were managing to jump the fences and every time I finished the course I felt a wave of relief. But along with the feeling of relief, I found myself saying to myself, ‘surely that’s enough, I think we can stop now’.
Clearly Andy had other ideas and we carried on jumping what felt like another 20 rounds! Interestingly he didn’t alter the fences, put them up or change the course, we just repeated the same thing over and over again.
When I sat in the lorry later that afternoon reflecting on my lesson and what I had learnt I realised just how often I say the same thing to myself when I’m jumping. I do it at every competition in the warm up, jumping as few fences as I can possibly get away with and I do it at home in my regular lessons with Team Oakden. It is definitely worse when I am having a bit of a wobble with my confidence but I still do it when things are going ‘well’.
If I think about how I’m feeling in the warm up there is often an underlying concern of not wanting anything to go wrong just before we go in the ring. If I get one good jump I would quite happily stop there! But even at home and in lessons I am clearly still at a stage where the relief that things haven’t gone wrong is stronger than my desire to keep jumping.
Interestingly I am completely the opposite on the flat. Give me an exercise to do and I would do it again and again, trying to perfect it. I don’t like stopping something until I feel we have absolutely nailed it which can lead to Splash anticipating the movement which isn’t good either!
During my lesson with Andy, the positive repetition of doing the same jumps again and again, was really valuable. After a while I stopped thinking about what might go wrong and started focusing on trying to make small improvements. I also didn’t beat myself up if it wasn’t perfect because I knew I’d have to go and repeat it again!
It must be a very fine line for a coach to know when to push and tell the rider to go again and when enough really is enough. Everyone wants to finish on a positive note but in my case I needed to be stretched and pushed outside of my comfort zone and it’s not always height or technicality that achieves that – it was repetition, repetition, repetition that was needed!
I do think that being aware of how you feel is a good step in the right direction, so I’m going to make a conscious effort to repeat an exercise until it feels easier, as I think this might be a missing link for me to help my confidence grow. I’ll check back in at some point and let you know how we get on!