CONFIDENCE IN JUMPING - Top tips to trick yourself into it!

Advice from horse riders

Please note: This advice is from a range of us as riders, we are simply giving advice from our own experience and are not claiming that anything that has worked for us will work for you. This advice is for you to take and leave as you please and is about helping the way you think to overcome fears. If you are having serious issues with your nerves or your horse it is best to seek professional help from local instructors/trainers.
Fear is a beautiful thing, because without it you can not get that most incredible feeling of having overcome those fears, a feeling like no other. 



Confidence in jumping

Confidence in jumping is something everyone has dealt with at least once in their riding life. There aren’t many people who feel 0 butterflies when the obstacle’s higher than they’ve ever jumped before, or there’s something scary looking, or you’re just not sure what your horse’s reaction is going to be to a certain jump. You have different approaches depending on your situation.
If you’re competing you don’t have the opportunity to show your horse a jump that's concerning you beforehand or work on it a few times to build that confidence up, you’re just having to ride straight on into it. This is why you need to work hard as the rider at all times at home, even when it feels like your horse will carry you through because you don’t know when you will be in the situation where your horse needs you to bring the confidence.
It is great if you have a very confident horse, but don’t become lazy because what happens when the next horse you have needs to get that confidence from you? This is what can be so beneficial from riding a range of horses. It is very easy to get into your own ‘way of doing things’ with your horse, but can make your life a lot harder when moving on to something else.
If you have regular lessons on riding school horses/ponies, remember the horse that isn’t the easiest to jump, that makes you feel a little more nervous than the rest, that is the horse that is going to teach you the most. Yes, great to enjoy a lesson on your favourite that loves their jumping, pulls you over everything, gives you the confidence and makes your feel like an amazing rider because you know they’re unlikely to refuse or they'll sort your line out for you, but you don’t want to become a great rider on only one type of horse, do you?
If you want to beat nerves, repeat repeat repeat. The more you repeat the action, the better you will become and you'll feel those nerves slowing dying away.
The main thing to beat a lack of confidence in jumping is pushing yourself, and whilst you’re doing this, you’re teaching yourself how to overcome obstacles in other areas of life too.
We all know though, that when psyching ourselves up to ‘push ourselves’ we need ways of thinking, of putting it all in perspective to help us gain that confidence, to take the chance and go for it. So here are our top 5 tips on what to think about to get in that zone of confidence and just go for it:
  1. Remember that your horse or pony can probably jump that from walk or stand still. Unless you’re jumping huge, horses can jump pretty high from a stand-still or a walk. Reminding yourself of this can help to shrink your nerves and the obstacle in your head so that you ride into that jump as if it were a tiny cross-pole. If your horse has hang ups about the size of the jump, you can remind them of this too. Work on building the jump up but only jumping from trot, then once you get nearer the height you want to jump, start allowing the canter (if you want to) and the horse/pony will feel the jump is easier than before anyway and is likely to have more confidence in themselves over it. But even if you’re not acting upon this, just reminding yourself that your horse could jump that from a stand still if they really wanted to can help you to shrink the issue in your head. 
  1.  Sing, chant or count. Ambassador Daisy says; “When I used to get nervous jumping I would sing out loud. It really helped to calm me down. It took my mind off the nerves and when you’re talking your body generally relaxes more, (which also benefits your horse). You don’t have to sing, you could chant the alphabet out loud, count to 100 etc, anything that gets your mind off will help.” There is a lot of truth in the use of distraction for both you and your horse. Doing as Daisy is saying, by singing or counting (in your head if you don’t want to do it out loud) is a good way to avoid growing the challenge into something much bigger than it is in your head. Distract and then go without letting your mind try and talk you out of it!
  1. See that green grass on the other side. Another great piece of advice from ambassador Lily this time; “Constantly remind yourself of how well it could go and how proud you would be of yourself if you overcame those nerves. One of the main parts of being confident in the saddle is not thinking about the bad bits; never think about how badly it could go when you’re riding, just think about the good bits and you will achieve them.
(Image above: DVR ambassador Lily)
  1. Focus on your horses experience, rather than your own. Remove your own thoughts of how you’re going to cope with this jump by focusing solely on your horse and making sure they’re going to cope ok. It’s like what I said in the last post about thinking of you as the parent and them as the child. They need help too, your horse needs the encouragement and to be guided safely. If you’re concentrating too much on your own nerves you’re going to confuse your horse on what you want from them. Imagine you are teaching someone else to ride, or teaching this horse to jump, find confidence to give to them. Even if they are the most confident horse, you can still pretend to yourself that they're the ones with the nerves and you are the confident one helping them through. Go into that jump willing your horse on in your head, telling them they’re doing well and reminding them that they’re simply popping over one small (even if it’s not) obstacle.
  1. Don't be embarrassed to seek help. Another great piece of advice from ambassador Daisy is to get an instructor if you think you may have more serious issues with your confidence. Or if you already have lessons and are suffering from confidence issues, try a few private lessons or try out a new instructor. Daisy says, “Instructors are amazing at calming you down, making you feel safe and helping you to focus on what they’re asking of you, rather than what your horse is thinking or going to do. They help you bring the control back to you.”
(Image above: DVR ambassador Daisy)
Practical ways to improve yours and your horses jumping confidence:
  1. Jump more often, but not the same things. New things. Be as experimental as you possibly can.
  1. Gridwork, gridwork, gridwork!
  1. Jump courses, concentrating on focusing on the next jump every time.
  2. Have fun in your jumping. Set up a round against the clock (safely) so that you distract yourself from the jumps and focus on getting a good time. Keep all jumps the same apart from one (somewhere in the middle) so that you can gain confidence before and after and work through the nerves over the middle jump.
  1. Chase me Charlie! If your nerves are to do with height, work on chase me Charlie, as with number 4 you could put your chase me Charlie jump within a little course or just as one jump, or even better, within grid-work as this way your horse doesn’t notice and you won’t notice as much either. 
  1. If it’s confidence in cross country for you and/or your horse, then pairing up with another horse and rider is a great answer. Following a confident pair can really help to boost your horse’s confidence over the jumps as they’re distracted with keeping up with the horse, and you are pulled through any nerves of a jump because your horse is most likely going to follow the confident pair over whether you like it or not. This is a great option until you feel ready to take more of that control yourself.
(Image above: DVR model Dede)
Remember, experience is everything. Trotting or cantering was scary when you first learnt it from walking, now look at how confident you feel to ride these gaits because of how often you have practised. Take the thing you find the scariest, and do it as often as you can. If you go for what affects your nerves the most, you will be helping yourself overcome all the things in the middle too.
Each jump is only a few seconds of your life, you might as well go for it. Don't give up, the reward you receive will be a life lesson you'll never forget. 

(Image above: DVR ambassador Max)

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