No point in hiding it: I’ve always been a bit of a nervous rider but I’ve gotten worse in the past couple of years. I had a fall with Schmoodle last year that freaked me out a bit: he jumped a new jump, then spooked hard on landing and scooted off right, I went left, and he whacked my wrist with his foot as I went down. End result: one broken wrist for me.
I truly love Schmoodle: he has a great character, is really athletic and fun to ride, and is good eye candy to boot. His weakness is his unpredictable spookiness, which can be quite explosive. That day was the only time he’s ever gotten me off, the only time I’ve ever even come close, and really the only time he’s pulled that big-spook-on-landing move; still, though, I have a hard time trusting him over fences. I’ve gotten better: we’ve had a lot of really good lessons together and jumped some courses that scared the bejeezus out of me at first, and aside from stopping and staring at terrifying flower decorations a few times, he’s never really let me down. He has a tendency to back off scary jumps, then jump them very hard, and it jumps me loose sometimes; but again, nothing bad has ever happened as a result – except that one time.
I try to mitigate my nerves by setting myself up for success: working on the flat so that I have a great quality canter, focusing on adjustability so I have options to get out of trouble if we run into a bad distance, working on ratcheting down his reactions to spooky things. But at a certain point, I have to just trust him: ride forward to the jumps, follow his mouth instead of bottling him up and making him nervous, and believing in him a little more. He deserves it – he’s given me a whole year of good rides; I’m pretty sure he likes and trusts me; he’s been a Junior hunter and, briefly, a 1m35 horse, for goodness sakes. He can handle my 3′ courses just fine, and intellectually, I know I can handle him if he does get out of hand. So I guess I also have to believe in myself!
But ah, to be an anxious adult amateur. My motto should be “Cowboy Up, cautiously.”