The Coco Chronicles ~ Back in the Saddle

Well here I am, once again feeling like I’m starting from scratch all over again. Except this time it’s a little different…

A few minutes after I fell

Every owner of a young horse goes through their ups and downs, its all just part in parcel of what we’ve chosen to take on. A lot of the time when we experience our downs, we feel its because there’s an issue with the horse. They suddenly start to act up for no obvious reason, or they’ve been over-faced and have suffered a confidence set back or they’ve injured themselves in the field. But what about when the down is all due to the rider? Well, this is what happened with me and my recent set back…

The Fall

Before I start explaining what happened, I think it’s important for you to see the full video from that day. I’ll be honest, this is pretty hard to share because I know how bad of a rider this makes me look but mistakes happen and as riders we need to learn to accept our mistakes and learn from them which is what I’m planning on doing.

As you can see, I made an absolute BALLS of those first two jumps. The first one I placed Coco completely arseways and the second one she threw in an extra stride. If I had any sense, I should have stopped, regrouped and started again. As soon as I sat up after falling I knew exactly what had happened. As I had made such a mess of those first two jumps, by the time we got to the oxer Coco’s confidence was completely shattered and unless she was on the perfect stride, she was not going to jump. You can also see in the last stride I dropped the contact which gave Coco her out. And I don’t blame her. So the cause of the fall? 1. My crushing inability to see a stride and 2. I dropped the contact at the base of the fence.

How I plan to avoid it happening again?

Seeing that stride…

Well, now that I’m back in the saddle, the first order of business is lots and lots..and LOTS of polework. Its the only way I’m ever going to get a handle on my eye for a stride. But in saying that, what I learned from my lesson this week is that with the right canter I shouldn’t need to be able to see a stride. This is something that applies to most horses and I’m sure any decent showjumper knows all about it. Yet in all my years of riding and taking lessons, it’s something I’m only just learning. For those who aren’t too sure what I’m on about, let me explain…

The key to a good clean round of showjumping is the right canter. If you achieve the correct balance between impulsion and speed and are capable of maintaining the rhythm that balance makes, then your horse will be able to jump out of nearly any stride they are on.

With Coco, it won’t matter if she goes for the long one as with the correct impulsion, she’s more than capable of taking on a long distance. And similarly with a shorter distance, she’s agile enough to get her legs out of the way. My problem comes from my nerves. I have this reflex where I panic on the approach and start messing around with the canter, whether its speeding up or holding too much. When I do this, it completely throws Coco’s rhythm off and destroys the canter she needs to comfortably clear a fence. God how she must hate me sometimes!

One of those “Oh Shit!” moments

In my lesson this week, along with building back my confidence with jumping, we focussed on getting the right canter and then getting rid of my panic mode setting. It took a fair few “oh shit” moments but we definitely got there in the end. Of course it’s going to take more than just one lesson to get rid of that voice in my head that says “Just put loads of leg on and pray!” but now I know how it should feel when we have the right canter. Once I have that all I need to do is keep my leg on and maintain a consistent contact.

While falling was definitely not fun, I do feel like I’ve learned so much from it. I’m actually really happy I got it on camera too because while I had a good idea of how it happened, it was great to be able to show my trainer and have him confirm that I was right in what I first thought. I’ve always said “If you’re going to fall, you may as well get it on video so you can see where you went wrong”.

Knees up Cocopops!

So here’s to learning from your mistakes. I think this whole ordeal is going to make me a better rider overall..but sure, only time will tell!

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading. I promise from now on I’m going to stop going on about that bloody fall.

Orla & Coco