Thursday, August 19, 2010

On confidence....

"It takes a good deal of physical courage to ride a horse. This, however, I have. I get it at about forty cents a flask, and take it as required."  Stephen Leacock

To my mind, the quote is about obtaining courage, or confidence, by whatever means available - and affordable. I can empathize with Mr. Leacock, and while I'm known to imbibe and adult beverage or three, I wait until after I ride, as riding can be challenging enough without adding impaired judgement and lack of balance into the equation. 

According to Wikipedia, confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. 

I find that confidence often eludes me when I'm riding.  Eludes me in the sense that I am not always certain I am applying the correct aids, doing the right exercise, or most often, that when I am cantering down to a jump that the horse and I are going to make it to the other side of that jump in one piece.  Basically, I often question the hypothesis that I will indeed get from the vertical to the oxer in a flowing 5, and of course, when that happens, I don't.

This frustrates the hell out of my trainer no end.  I think if we could figure out a way to lobotomize me for the duration of my lessons, we would.  She tells me I am a good rider, but I need to stop over-thinking things too much.  Welcome to the club, Annabel, you are not the first to notice this!  In my first clinic with Irish Olympian Eric Horgan, he sussed onto that element of my personality immediately.  I think it was my first time through the second exercise when he said to the other participants, "Watch this.  She's psyching herself out already and she hasn't even turned down to the fence yet."

I'm not even jumping large fences.  I jump (or rather, my horse jumps) fences in the neighborhood of 3' or a little higher.  My horse can do this easily.  I am quite capable of jumping multiple 3' obstacles in succession on occasion, although not as consistently as I'd like.  What I need to figure out is why do I sometimes get that crippling lack of confidence (fear?) that we're going to wind up in  a heap, and on other occasions, power around a course with abandon.

I need to be able to think on course.  One has to be able to remember the plan (stay out on the turn and slant across the planks, turn again come down the line in a slow 4) and execute it, or make adjustments when things change.  If I try to think, I seem to over-think and ride indecisively.  If I don't think and just ride off my gut, I generally have pretty good outcomes, but I'm concerned I'll get into trouble by not sticking to the plan.eventually  For example, getting to a fence short because I didn't bell my bending line enough and being so deep she can't take off.

Perfect example from last night's lesson.  I did an exercise with 3 verticals on a semi-circle.  Did those a couple of times really nicely.  The Annabel added on a circle to a 5 stride line with a vertical to an oxer.  I over-thought the approach to the vertical so much we had to take off from practically underneath it, which meant I had to kick her into high gear to make it over the oxer in one piece.  I wanted to keep riding the line until I got it right, Annabel nixed that and added 6 more fences to the course, complete with rollbacks and slices.  I was so befuddled I had to have her repeat it twice, then walk it for me.  Needless to say, neither of us was anticipating a good outcome.

Off Sug and I went.  Not only did we make it through the entire course, we did it really well.  Go figure.

So what's the trick?  How can I be decisive and confident some times, and a marshmallow puff of insecurity others?  I do this in my personal life as well.  I can make certain decisions regarding work and the kids in an eye blink -- I just know what to do.  Other times I waffle myself into paralysis.

If you have any ideas, send them my way!

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