May #HeelsDownChallenge: Mind Over Matter

fear
I wish I knew who said that quote or where it came from because it is one of my favorites.

Heels Down Magazine introduced the #HeelsDownChallenge at the beginning of this month and I couldn’t wait to write my post about it. The challenge consists of a new topic each month that readers can write or make a video about, post on social media with the hashtag “#heelsdownchallenge”, and tag three of their friends to do the same. For the month of May, the challenge is “Mind Over Matter” to go with their May magazine issue and HDM asks:

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I have two main parts to my story about rider confidence;

Then.

When I first began riding when I was seven I was pretty confident about it all. My instructor had always told me that I was “a natural rider” so I thought I was fearless and ready for the Olympics. On one of my first days trotting over a crossrail, my horse landed in a canter and off I went into the dirt. It wasn’t my first fall but it hit me hard and I vowed to never jump again. No big deal, I could just ride on the flat forever, right? We even went as far as to move my pony to a dressage facility. Little did I know that I would fall in love with jumping and leave dressage in the dust.

In the midst of all this, I went out on a trail ride with my mom one day and the horse I was riding bucked hard, the bridle broke, and I landed on my back. This was my first nasty fall and I thought I was dying. I went to the hospital where I ended up with just a small chip in my tailbone and a donut pillow to sit on for the new few weeks. This was when I vowed to never ride again. The only problem was that my parents had just bought me a pony who I now refused to ride. I waited a few weeks and found myself missing it but was too afraid to get back on. Then one of my mom’s friends offered to let me ride her steady-eddy quarter horse on a trail ride, western saddle and all. As it turned out, Mr. Ziggman helped me in more ways than I can count. Even once we moved barns I would make my parents drive me back to go ride my favorite chestnut beast. While I wouldn’t ride my pony just yet, Ziggy was busy helping me regain my confidence. To this day I credit my riding to that trusty chestnut quarter horse.

Now.

I love jumping, but my falls still haunt me. I know that I can do it but my head won’t tell my body that and the higher the fences go, the more nervous I get. Some days I am fine and I will jump everything in the ring. Other days I tense up at the smallest vertical. This is a rider confidence issue that I struggle with everyday and I am far from over it. On rough days I try to just close my eyes and trust my horse, but it isn’t that easy. On good days I take advantage of any shred of confidence I may have, hoping that I will remember that feeling the next time I approach a fence. I am slowly beginning to overcome my fear, regain my trust in myself, and let go.

I tag all of my readers to participate in this challenge whether it be a blog post, a comment, or a post on social media. Be sure to check out this month’s Heels Down Magazine!

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-TC

6 thoughts on “May #HeelsDownChallenge: Mind Over Matter

  1. Oi, nerves will probably be the death of me. Joining an IEA team actually helped my confidence soar this past winter. I think I just needed a change of scenery. Riding more by myself/without constant guidance also helped me because I was forced to deal with my issues head on. If I didn’t figure it out, then I had to deal with it next ride, so I started figuring things out pretty quickly. I also threw in things that I like to do for fun: polework, no-stirrups, circles, circles with transitions, and I’ve even been trying out serpentines to see if I can stop hating them 😛 It’s all slowly built my confidence up. Even after bad rides, it doesn’t take long for me to get back in the mood to ride again and try again. I clear my head, then I think about how to make things better.

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  2. Nerves really set me back too. Thanks for this post. I’m trying to keep my confidence up so I can have a successful show season. This is a funny sport. I was flying high after my lesson last week, jumping 2’6 no problem and then this week having confidence issues over 2′. I think this is an issue that a lot of riders struggle with. Hope you have great rides this week. 🙂

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