We all have weaknesses, as riders. Recognizing our weaknesses can help us to improve them, and work with them. No one is perfect, but being aware of our imperfections in our riding can help us to get better.
I would say that my two biggest weaknesses as a rider are that I do not have a natural eye for the jumps, and I am not naturally brave. Those two skills can really make or break a hunter jumper rider. However, recognizing that I am weak in those areas has helped me to overcome them (for the most part). Although I am always a work in progress!
I have had to work very hard to develop my eye, and I still struggle as the fence height changes. I do have a pretty good eye for the most part though these days, but I had to train it. Jumping a lot of singles, gymnastics, and other technical exercises helped. One trainer I had drew a square in the sand where he wanted me to leave the ground. Watching other people ride, and studying their distances made a huge difference too. Working on the canter; for the inability to feel the canter and judge the pace greatly contributes to misjudging distances. And simply practicing. I am not the kind of rider who can go a month without sitting on a horse, and find every jump. I must constantly be practicing. I am lucky to have had very meticulous trainers that would not allow me to be complacent about “okay” distances. They challenged me to improve my eye, so that I am capable of finding that perfect hunter gap. And when I don’t find it, I am actually pretty good at making a miss look halfway decent!
Nerves and Fear…
This is still a huge problem area for me, but I am continually making progress. My fear and insecurity was once crippling. I would overthink everything, and Chance would feel my nervous energy and act out. Admitting fear was a huge part of overcoming it. When I first began riding, as a kid, the “horse riders have to be tough” philosophy was a big thing. While I do believe that we must be tough, fear is natural. Ignoring fear, and not wanting to seem weak, is what causes problems. Of course we are going to have fear when we first learn how to jump, or when the jumps get higher, or when our horses are bucking, rearing, and sliding to a screeching halt before the jumps. Telling ourselves we just need to “toughen up” does not always help us to overcome our fears. Facing our fears does not always help us to overcome them. Sometimes we have to take a step back, and do something that we are not afraid of, to build our confidence back up. I had to take many steps back to build my confidence back up. I also practice yoga, meditate, use essential oils, and exercise in order to keep my mind calm when I ride. Yoga and meditation have really helped me to gain more control over my thoughts and emotions while I ride. And of course practice helped me to become brave. The more I ride, the more confident I am. I sometimes struggle if I have had time off for whatever reason.
I have other weaknesses of course, but these are my two biggest that have caused a lot of struggle in my riding career. But here’s the thing, no matter what we struggle with, we can get better!! We can always improve. I had a trainer who once told me, “We never perfect our riding. That’s why it’s so addictive.” Is that not the truth? We will always have something we need to work on. Knowing what we need to work on is key to improving!