What is it about showjumping that makes the most rational brain fall apart in eventing? I have no answer to this thought, because otherwise I feel I would be able to market it and possibly make myself richer.
I think it’s because we make the phase so hard for ourselves. I am a classic case, I went showjumping the other day to practice this dreaded phase and despite my eventing season being incredibly disappointing in the showjumping phase the horse came out and jumped a clear straight away round a decent built course.
Part of me was pleased and another part of me wondering exactly what keeps going wrong while eventing to keep having frustrating fences down.
I then promptly did the next class and rode like an idiot and then all my ponderings of why it keeps going wrong were answered. I basically completely overthink this phase. I try far too hard and think about it all far too much which means that rather than ride what I have, I ride what I think I should have which is not really the same thing. I schooled round the same course at the end and switched off all the overthinking and had a much better result but sadly eventing you only have one shot to get it right.
So now I am left with thoughts of how to switch off my brain. In all honesty its practice but I only have one horse who I don’t want to jump into the ground just so I can practice on my ineptness.
A good friend asked me why I cannot ride the showjumping like I ride cross country, and in all honesty I have no answer to this. Why can I not? When I am riding cross country I am decisive, committed and barely need to think about what I am doing. It feels natural. If the horse drops off the leg I can react quickly and rectify it. Showjumping it’s almost like all my reactions are delayed as I have to think about what I am doing and then make a decision which is usually far too late!
I guess the answer is that I have spent hours practicing cross country so it feels second nature to me. As a kid I hunted for hours and hours riding lots of different ponies and horses, scrambling round the countryside trying to keep up. I had a particularly fun day where I fell off at every hedge I jumped on my 14hh pony but by the end I had nailed it. I also hacked for hours and hours in order to be able to gallop over the hills and along the beach often being stupid and jumping gates and hedges that we came across. All these little things add up to a lot of cross country experience over the years in balancing horse, riding what you have and crossing the country.
Dressage took longer to refine as I rode like a cowboy as a kid. It did all become easier as an adult to learn feel because I was prepared to learn and put the efforts into my education. So now where does this leave me? Frankly in limbo!
So my quest is to try and improve my showjumping, through training my brain better and being better at making decisions. I know I can ride, my cross country record proves that, but now it’s time to take that attitude and thinking and try to harness it in a positive way for the phase I find the hardest and the most pressured.
So it starts this week, when I am disappearing off to France to see a friend and will hopefully ride some strange horses where I have no hang ups and see what happens. When I get back I am going to try and put it into practice with some course jumping and I am going to see if I can alter the way I walk the course and warm up to try and optimise my brain better. I am also going to try and channel more positive thinking and give myself more realistic expectations.
I am not expecting instant results in switching off my brain and just riding but I have to start somewhere and make those steps.