I’ve written a lot about my own struggles with confidence on this blog and you all have indulged me by reading and being so supporting each time I do. It has been a long, laborious process. But you know, I think I’ve finally found that sweet spot where I have my confidence but still have a healthy respect for the type of fences I’m asking Gus to go over. They do not fall down so making sure we’re both ready for the next step is important.
New Trainer, also known as LT, told me after our XC schooling the other week that “confident riders are made when they know their horse can move up to a spot and get them out of a tough situation but a confident horse is made from the rider.” Or something like that. I was so high on the great ride that I wasn’t completely listening and I may be paraphrasing a bit, but I get her point. Because the really miraculous thing is I’m not the only one who is feeling confident and ready to tackle the next step, Gus is too. And I did that.
I don’t know if you all remember, but the first time I asked Gus to go over a little cross rail, it was a disaster. Not only did Gus not know where to put his feet (not surprising) there was a complete lack of understanding on why the heck he would be asked to go over a pole and I was generally afraid that he didn’t like it. But I kept on it. I lunged him over poles time and time again. I build a jump chute hoping that maybe if he had some freedom to jump without me on his back it would help (it did not… it was a disaster). And mostly I just kept asking him to go over little jumps anytime the jumps were already set at 12-18 inches. Eventually Gus got the idea and would willing go over the fence as long as I was riding confidently.
Only the problem was that I didn’t feel very confident. Gus was not Dandy, which is both good and bad. I know, without a doubt, that Dandy will go over any fence he’s pointed at as long as his rider doesn’t get in his way. Gus does not have that natural confidence. He wasn’t born understanding this like Dandy. At the same time, I stopped trusting Dandy a long time ago so it doesn’t matter whether or not he can jump the moon, he’ll never do it with me on board. But Gus doesn’t know about all that history and he needed me to tell him that jumping was all right. That jumping might even be fun.
That’s hard to do when you’re not even sure that jumping is fun. But I had a memory of it being fun and I had a memory of being confident. So I dug down for that memory and held on to it as I faced those fences. Then somehow, at some point, that confidence stopped being just a memory and started being real. And while that was happening for me, Gus found his own confidence.
It’s not over. Training fences still look huge, not every Novice fence is inviting, and I still have to swallow down a little moment of panic when LT goes to move the jump cups up. But I have confidence in Gus and, I think, he has confidence in me now too.