I’m not a super nervous rider anymore… as long as I stay in my comfort zone. My comfort zone over fences is very decidedly in the 2’6″ – 3’0″ range, and as I get closer to 3’0″, the butterflies start acting up.
Tebow is young enough that he still needs miles over the friendly, lower fences. So far, he hasn’t needed me to really push myself. Our goal over fences is to teach him to think for himself, and this is best accomplished over smaller stuff where he can make mistakes and figure things out with minimal risk. My job is to balance and keep him moving his feet.
But he’s getting ready to move up to novice, and he’s ready to be a big boy now and start tackling some bigger stuff. Not every jump lesson or anything, but occasionally.
And that means I need to get comfortable jumping bigger than 3’0″.
Ideally, I’d love to do this on a horse who already knows how to jump bigger fences and can show me the ropes, but I don’t have access to a 3’0″+ schoolmaster. Fortunately, my trainer is here to show us the way. Extra fortunately, Tebow is probably the most honest horse I’ve ever ridden (and I’ve ridden some super honest horses!).
We were working on bending lines and broken lines. Bending line: stay on the same lead. Broken line: should change leads, assuming you have enough time (or angle your fences if you don’t). Tebow did great with both over our usual novice height fences. So trainer raised the second element of the broken line.
Honestly, I was nervous. I wasn’t thrilled with my riding that day anyways: I felt loose in the tack and out of rhythm, enough so that I talked to my trainer about it. Trainer reassured me that it’s because I’m consciously adjusting my equitation right now, and change can feel weird. I’ve struggled with bracing my lower leg, getting in a chair seat, and being too rigid in my equitation, so softening all that may feel sloppy while I learn. Trainer clearly knew I was nervous, even though I never say anything when I start to worry – talking about it makes me more nervous and seems to legitimize my fears, so I shut up and trust that my trainer would never ask me to do something that I’m not capable of.
Basically, the lesson consisted of a lot of me trusting my trainer and taking her word for it that I’m not a totally incompetent bozo on an overly kind horse. Trust is so important when someone asks you to step out of your comfort zone.
The first time through, we knocked it. I think the bigger height caught him off guard. The second time, though…
He nailed it.
It felt so awesome. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling for the past 2 days. He is so athletic and he jumps so fantastic once the fences get to a more respectable size. And he obviously loved it! Trainer joked that we should skip novice and just go up to training level (ha ha ha no thank you please, I am still a coward).
Here’s the video. We almost had the lead change, but I didn’t quite commit enough to it because I was thinking too much about the big fence I was trying to get to – flying changes are still a new development for him; he’s only started to get them this past month. I also sat too early because I don’t have a good sense of timing over bigger jumps yet. For both of us, it’ll come. This felt like a really successful first attempt: we got over it clean, confident, and happy. I was thrilled anyways!
And my trainer’s super sweet caption that she posted with the video:
Grace and Tebow working in their lesson tonight […] on bending and broken lines. And Grace pushing herself that little extra bit to show Tebow how amazing he is.
P.S. I didn’t measure it, but based on counting holes and standing next to it grinning like an idiot a few times over the past couple days, the back rail seems like a soft 3’6″, or as I like to call it, “boob height”.