When you suffer a fall, no matter how bad it is, it can really have a lasting impact. It makes you question your abilities and it can break the trust between you and your horse. And that trust goes both ways. After a fall we tend to think of ourselves as not being able to trust our horse but a lot of people don’t realise that our horses can also lose trust in us. So depending on the situation it can take a lot of time to build yourself and your horse back up again – believe me, I would know after the amount of falls I’ve had even just this year! While I’m fully aware that my falls could have been so much worse (as we all know how bad they can be), it still didn’t lessen the impact they have had on my own confidence as a rider and I’ve definitely seen the impact they’ve had on Coco.
The good news is that there is always a way to get back to where you were. I mean, look at Jonty Evans after his catastrophic fall at Tattersalls last year. The man was in a coma for weeks and only a few weeks ago he was back jumping around the cross country field. And while I know we’re not all Jonty’s, he is still an amazing example of what the love for our sport can push us to do. We just need to allow ourselves the time we need to have that “I’m Back” moment.
If you’re struggling with your confidence after suffering a fall, here are some of my suggestions for helping yourself get your confidence back…
Take it one step at a time
Depending on the type of fall, this could mean any number of things. If you fell while jumping then it’s no harm to decide to take it easy for a little while. Why not stick to flatwork for a week or two and throw in some polework. This will not only help develop you as a rider but depending on why you fell it can also be a great place to start working on whatever issue may have caused the fall in the first place. Either way, don’t feel like you HAVE to start jumping straight away. The jumps aren’t going anywhere, they’ll be there for you when you’re ready.
Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing more than you’re ready for
It’s very easy for people to tell you what you should be doing. They imagine how they would act in your shoes and they feel that you would benefit by doing what worked for them. And you know what, maybe they’re right. Maybe their advice to get straight back into jumping or riding through the bucks that landed you on your arse is the best thing for you. And if you feel that will help get your confidence back then go for it..but if you don’t think that’s the best way to go, then don’t do it. It’s not worth shattering your confidence any further or even worse, giving yourself a more severe injury. You do you and don’t worry what anybody else thinks.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’ve gotten to a point where you don’t feel like your confidence is getting any better then maybe it’s time to ask for help. This help can come in the form of a trusted instructor, a friend or even your yard manager. Talk it through and come up with a plan of action even if that plan is to maybe start from scratch in a riding school with a school master to build your confidence back up. Just don’t be afraid to do what you need to do.
Learn to trust your gut feeling
Sometimes you can find yourself in a situation where you feel like history may be repeating itself. The circumstances are all screaming “It’s going to happen again” and you have that gut feeling that something bad is going to happen. It’s natural instinct. Our bodies do this to protect ourselves from getting hurt again. There are times when we know we need to push past that feeling but there are also times when we need to respect that feeling and listen to it. If that feeling is so strong that it’s making you doubt yourself every stride then sometimes the best idea is to stop and try again another day. There’s absolutely no shame in it..it’s all part of the process.
Know when you’re ready to push yourself
After all the hard work of building back your confidence, there comes a moment when you have to decide whether or not you’re ready to push yourself to try again. This is a vital part of the sport we love. We know it’s risky and we know that if we want to do what we love then we are going to have to try again some day. It might be jumping by yourself for the first time since your fall or it could be trying another canter after your horse bolted off the last time. Whatever it is, if you decide you’re going to go for it, then give it your all. There’s no point making a half attempt. You need to believe in yourself and know that you are 100% ready for whatever happens. It’s the only way you’ll be able to achieve that glorious “I’m Back” moment
My “I’m Back” Moment
I had my “I’m Back” moment at our show last weekend. Me and Coco were in the middle of the worst showjumping round of our lives. We had dropped two poles and after two refusals (where I nearly came off on the first one) I was struggling to even get her to pick up canter. I was nearly at the point of giving up and retiring but then I thought “No. I am going to get her over this double”. And with that, I settled her for a second, picked up a trot on a circle and asked for canter and straight off she picked up the right canter lead. We turned the corner for the double, I gave her a tap on the shoulder with my stick to tell her that I meant it this time and she soared through the bloody thing without thinking twice. After that I was just so happy she did it that I contemplated finishing the round on that (as my head was certainly not in the game for many reasons) but I thought again and said “No. You’re finishing this god awful course”. And we did. It wasn’t pretty by any means but by god did we finish it and I left the arena laughing.
While a part of me was disappointed in myself for riding so terribly and letting Coco down, I was also so damn proud of myself and Coco for finishing. It was a massive step for the two of us. Even a month ago and that round could have ended with Coco having a full blown strop and me on my arse at the bottom of the fence, confidence well and truly destroyed and me resigning myself to the fact that I was going to be a dressage rider for the rest of my life. How grim would that have been?
I hope that this post helps someone get their nerve back after a fall. It’s not an easy thing to do but with determination and a love for the sport, it is something anyone can do. Have you had any bad knocks to your confidence? If so, when did you have your “I’m Back” moment? Tell me about it in the comments, you never know who could be reading who could use the pick-me-up!
Thanks for reading,