Web editor Victoria knows what she needs to do to produce a good jumping round, but when it comes to the crunch her mind goes blank...
"Why is it I’m fine at learning the theory of riding – but terrible at putting it into practise? I have all these things that I need to remember, but it all goes out my brain at the worst possible times.
This only applies to jumping. In flatwork, whether I’m schooling alone, having a lesson, or doing a dressage test, I find it much easier to think straight and the work through any issues in a logical fashion. But as soon as those poles and wings appear, I have what can only be described as total brain freeze.
Take this recent example. Yesterday lunchtime I popped along to a local arena eventing clear round. And from the minute I got to the yard and dug out my mare’s travel gear, I started the usual internal battle.
What I needed to do: Leave plenty of time. Don’t get stressed. Remember that a bit of nerves is normal, but also I was doing this for fun and that I ALWAYS feel great afterwards.
What I did: Cut things fine. Ran around like the proverbial decapitated poultry. Felt dreadful and spent the journey there questioning WHY I wanted to jump solid fences when I could just trot round in ever decreasing circles instead.
What I needed to do: Allow my mare some time to walk round and settle. Make sure she was paying attention to me by doing lots of transitions. Get her soft and concentrating before jumping. Then start with some small cross-poles and work up to an upright and oxer, jumping each several times. Prepare at the right time so she’s still focused when it’s my turn to jump.
What I did: Pranced aimlessly around the arena on my extremely fresh mare. Questioned why she was attempting to do passage when she’s a seven-year-old Thoroughbred and hasn’t even heard of the movement, let alone performed it. Bounced with excitement every time another horse came close or went over the practise fence. Decided to start jumping despite knowing she wasn’t concentrating, purely to get it over and done with. Approached first jump with her paying zero attention and looking everywhere except at the fence ahead and then stopping in alarm when we arrived at it – something she almost never does, therefore blatantly my fault.
What I needed to do: Watch a few other riders go and memorise the course, working out my route and considering how to make smooth turns between the fences.
What I did: Stared in panic at the other riders, forgetting the course after the first three fences, and focusing more of my attention on which jumps I was dreading the most.
What I needed to do: Go into the arena, get her cantering in a forward, rhythmical manner before attempting to jump. Maintain that canter throughout, ensuring she stays in front of the leg. Don’t worry too much about spotting strides but just get her cantering forward and trust her to get it right. Land in a balanced fashion and make a controlled turn towards the next jump. Sit up, shoulders back, and don’t get in front of the movement.
What I did: Made a beeline for the first fence and duly knock it down. Tear round the rest in a blur, forgetting to breathe. Vary between gallop and collected canter, and therefore meet every other jump on a slightly awkward stride. Forget the course somewhere in the middle. Reach the end with oxygen deprivation and feel immediate relief that we survived. Then the dawning realisation that I did none of the things I should have done (see above) and all the things I shouldn’t.
So I regrouped, tried to catch up with my 02 deficit, and had another go - and it was a bit better. I didn’t manage to do all of the things I knew I should, but nor was it a total blur. So who knows? Maybe next time I won’t adopt the headless chicken approach. I live in hope."