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Feel the fear and ride anyway – October 2018

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I’m preparing for my eventing regional final and I’ve got a lot of work to do! Because of the hard ground, we’ve only managed to get to three events this year. Plus, I ended up taking an unplanned holiday mid-season because I was burning out quicker than a cardboard candle, which was lovely, but that hasn’t helped with Pat’s training plan either.  

A confidence dip

When I got back from holiday, having not ridden for almost eight days, I got that sinking feeling of terror. Luckily for me, my first few rides were non-eventful, so I decided to enter a dressage show the following Friday. Dressage is the one phase I feel most at ease with. I’ve practised enough over the years that even with limited confidence and fitness, I can muddle through a test without feeling like a failure. 

Pat and I have only ever competed in unaffiliated dressage and he’s willing to try hard even when I ask him to get us through an Elementary test. But to boost our confidence and get back out there, I entered the Prelim and Novice classes.
In eventing, the tests for 90cm and 100cm are Prelim level, so I thought this would give us the most accurate reflection of our capabilities. Did I feel ashamed about stepping backwards? Not at all. 

Feeling judged

It turns out there were some folk who thought I shouldn’t be riding at this level because they think I’m too advanced and I beg to differ. I wanted to get out with my horse after a little break and compete at a level I felt comfortable with, so both of us had a good time. Putting the pressure on to perform a test we both found hard wouldn’t be fun at all. 

Was I bothered that people were questioning my motives? Well, yes. I don’t like that I’ve made other people feel insecure and even though I’m eligible, I’ll probably ride at this level non-competitively in future. I want mileage, notches on my competitive bedpost and experience in show conditions, that’s all, and I think that’s okay. 

You shouldn’t have to push yourself outside your comfort zone to appease others, ever. It’s okay to step back to go forwards, that’s allowed, and you should feel proud to be out at any level – as long as you’re having fun, what does it matter?

Back to basics

In training, we’ve also stepped right back to basics. I’ve found that most of my lack of confidence stems from poor balance and I’m sure this happens to a lot of you, too. If Pat spooks (which he does often) I find myself gripping on with my thigh and knee, drawing my leg up and taking hold of the reins to stabilise myself. My signature ‘grip and grab’ dance moves then make him panic, then I grip and grab again, and it turns into a vicious cycle. It’s strange how your body reacts to fear.

Every time I ride, I’ve been working on loosening off through my thigh, opening my hips and securing
my lower leg, mainly in walk, and I’m now far more balanced on my horse as a result. 

Take a step back

You really shouldn’t feel ashamed about going back to the beginning in your training. The benefits can be huge, so why not give it a try? Enjoy revisiting things and filling in any gaps in your horse’s training that you’ve missed along the way. I was surprised to find going back to basics far more challenging than I thought possible, but I’m glad I’m building firm foundations for a good future and more confident riding. 

Love as always,

Vic and Pat

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