Choose Your Own Adventure

In riding, as in many areas of life, we have the ability to choose our own adventure much more than we think.

While it's necessary - and healthy - to accept that there are things which we have absolutely no control over, there are quite a lot of things that we can change for the better if we just put our mind to it.

Since going to the Riding With Confidence clinic and starting lessons with Elissa again, I've come to understand that many of the problems I encounter in my riding have just as much to do with Dino's confidence as they do with my own. I can choose to perpetuate a confidence-shattering lack of trust that spirals into failure, or I can choose to be the one who creates confidence in our partnership.

So, today, I set up a grid. Nothing crazy, just a crossrail bounce and one stride to a 2'6 vertical. My intentions were twofold: to get Dino thinking about compacting his stride and jumping from the base, and to give him an "I can do this!" confidence boost with the built-in rhythm of the grid.

He warmed up great on the flat, and I trotted him over a couple small single fences to get ready to jump the grid. Dino was a very good boy and got right to the base of each jump instead of launching from the long spot. He was feeling calm and focused, and ready to jump the grid.

Enter my negative self-talk.

I've jumped grids before with Dino, and I love them as training tools, but I've never successfully jumped him through an entire grid on the first try. He gets overwhelmed when faced with that many jumps and poles in a row, and I usually have to deal with a few stops, or start with fewer elements, until he understands the grid enough to jump the whole thing in one shot. All of those experiences came flooding into my mind as I got ready to tackle the little grid. I started anticipating a stop! I was expecting failure.

Um, wow. Way to set yourself up for a terrible experience, Alli.

Instead of accepting a stop or an awful first ride through the grid, I chose my own adventure.

I chose to ride confidently. I chose to believe that my pony would be brave, I chose to support him through an exercise that had overwhelmed him in the past, I chose to be his confidence.

And so I rode all the way to that first placing pole blathering like an idiot.

"You are a brave pony! You can do it! It's just a little bounce to a one-stride. You're going to go: jump, bounce, jump, one, jump, okay? You are such a brave pony! You can do it!"

And Dino was brave and jumped the entire grid the first time through like a total champ, even though he was hesitant stepping into it. Having been successful the first time around, after each successive try he became more and more confident and I had to give less and less input to him on the approach, because Dino knew exactly how to jump this thing.

The negative voice in my head does not get to decide where my jumping adventure goes next; that's up to me.


  1. I too suffer from negative self talk. Right now its out of control and I gotta work on it :/

    1. It's really tough! What has helped me is a group of really encouraging friends as well as a trainer who I trust. Start small and build on your successes!


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