With horses we regularly have setbacks, be it either with yourself and your riding or your horse with a loss of confidence or injury. An important part of owning and riding horses (particularly if you are a competition rider) Is being able to move on from setbacks and try to turn them into a positive learning experience. Other than injury to either the horse or rider one of the most common setbacks that riders face is a loss of confidence, frequently when jumping.
On Monday I competed at my last one-day event of the season with Hattie, my top horse, at BE Advanced level at Little Downham. Typically, you always want your last run to be a good one, so that you don’t have to spend the winter worrying about the following season or looking at that big fat E on your record. Therefore, last Monday I decided that as Hattie and myself are both still so new to this level that we would aim for a confident clear XC round, not taking any risks to any of the fences or push too hard for the time. Unfortunately, Hattie and I came a cropper at fence 8 on course, a big open ditch brush fence. We don’t really know why it happened, be it a mixture of slightly wet and chopped up ground, me not being on a perfect stride and Hattie not quite reading the open ditch in front. Anyway, it ended up with Hattie standing in the ditch and me looking down at her from the other side (I managed to jump the fence!). Usually Hattie is a super bold XC horse, she can be spooky and have the odd look and things, but I trust her to go when I say.
Analysis paralysis; I have replayed our approach to that fence a million times in my head, was I too fast? Was I too slow? I’ve thought about how she felt before, was she sticky over the first few fences, did she not feel quite right in the dressage and showjumping phases? Basically, I have come to the conclusion that it was just a mistake, they’re allowed to happen – albeit it very irritating! Now my focus needs to be on how we are going to resolve this and move forward in a positive way, not keep dwelling on the fall itself (although I feel that it is very important to sit and think about what happened, not just brush it under the carpet!).
I have now made a plan of action, I’ve spoken to my coach and we’ve decided that the best thing to do is check that Hattie is ok and not too sore, then go XC schooling up to Somerford Park where there are some big open ditch brushes. As long as Hattie and I are both happy jumping those and she feels confident in her ability she will have her end of season holiday as planned! If not, we will decide on a plan B and work on building both her and my confidence back up. We just need to make sure that this type of fence doesn’t become a ‘bogey fence’ for us – otherwise how are we ever going to jump the Cottesmore Leap! Haha! I always try to find a positive from the negative experience and the best thing I can come up with from this event is: most riders’ worst fear would be to fall in the ditch of this type of fence, now it has happened to me and it wasn’t that bad, we’ve lived to tell the tale, so what have I got to worry about!