I know there hve been a billion of these, but i am really having a hard time trusting myself when it comes to distances. I second guess myself all the time and I don't really know what to do. The jumps are super small (think 2'0-2'3). I did have a nasty fall and had to stop jumping for a while, but I've been like this for the past 6+ months since I've been back. It's not the height or the horse, but rather micro managing (or simply letting go because I think the horse is just going to do it for me) I can't seem to find a happy medium or trust my eye for distances and rhythm.
The hardest thing in the world is to do... nothing. Just wait.
My coach from before I moved used to insist that we're all control freaks. His mantra was "Don't touch, don't touch, don't touch..."
If you are having trouble at 2', go back down. To crossrails, or even ground poles. Do that until you are bored to tears, then work back up.
I lost my confidence riding another horse when mine was lame, and ended up taking lessons on an ancient school horse and jumping only crossrails until I got comfortable again.
I don't think you need to worry about distances all that much at 2'. Producing a good canter that does not change before or after the jump is much more important. You'll never see a distance if, for example, you are leaning and the horse is taking longer and longer strides. (My usual problem!)
Are you doing this on your own or working with an instructor? Any chance you can take some lessons on a been-there-done-that type who will pack you around so you can learn to relax?
I've been doing ground poles & xrails for over six months, and it has gotten to the point where my trainer points me at a jump and tells me to get my a$s over it so to speak. Which I am OK with. When I do get the right distance, everything just clicks and it feels GREAT. When I don't, it just screws up my confidence. But thank you for your suggestions. Ground poles, cross rails, it doesn't matter if I don't get the distance it still makes me feel the same way?
Oh, and I do realize that over 2'0 the perfect distances aren't really a concern because most horses can just canter over it. But when I'm talking about missed distances I am referring to "Oh crap my horse isn't going to go over this" or "Oh crap I'm going to get jumped out of the tack this distance is so tight"
I just second guess my own decisions before the fence way too much, and I don't have acess to a horse who will just pack me over and find his own distances. Don't get me wrong, my guy is GREAT, and he goes over just about everything if you give direction, but that's just my problem, I can never seem to "see" or even decide what direction to do. Keep in mind that I was doing the 3'0 divisions a year or two ago, and as a teen I was fearless at 3'6. HAH!
Read it, it'll give you great ways to cope with mental challenges. It helped me a ton.
One of the biggest points he makes it to stop thinking about what you shouldn't do. For me, and it sounds like for you too, I kept thinking "Don't miss don't miss don't miss..." and then I'd ride up to the chip. Lovely. In the book, he points out that whatever you think about not doing, you're automatically going to do. When I say "Don't think about the color red" what do you do? Exactly.
"Are you yawning? You don't ride well enough to yawn. I can yawn, because I ride better than you. Meredith Michael Beerbaum can yawn. But you? Not so much..."
Yep! Any sports psychologist/therapist will tell you NEVER imagine falling/missing the goal/hoop, getting in too deep, etc.!
Our minds VERY much dictate what our body does. If you've ever ridden a sensitive horse, you have felt this when you begin to prepare for a transition - they feel the transition coming before it's even close to being asked. Why? Because tiny little muscles are already sending out messages to THEIR brain and their bodies are preparing to react to their brain's stimulation!
I am a rider, a therapist and the daughter of a basketball coach, so I have had some of this beaten into my brain until it has become second nature, but here is what I did when I had a similar issue with confidence/distances:
First, I convinced myself that I was going to go over the fence. I did this by guided imagery. It's more easily done by a therapist, but I had no money, so I did what I had done on clients on myself (I am certain I sounded like a nut doing it too!). I spent not just a few hours doing this, I spent days doing this. I had been in an accident with my then-horse and I was pretty shaken, but I wanted to ride again so bad. Not only did I think about it and say it out loud, I journaled about it - sounds really stupid, but I made myself BELIEVE (hon!) that I was going to not only get the distances, but that even if I chipped in, I was going OVER that fence and coming out fine on the other side.
Second, I was lucky enough to have a trainer that forced me to ride w/o stirrups and blindfolded me while longing me over cavaletti jumps to remind me to WAIT for the jump and to feel it - that instilled confidence.
Third, I learned to "drop" my eyes three strides out - I think Rodney Jenkins taught this - I found that unless I had a related line, I had trouble with my distances, and this trick is by far my favorite - you can glance sideways, you can close your eyes, whatever you do, just forget that you need to see for a second - your horse has eyes and as long as your body is setting him/her up, that split second ought not be a trouble-maker.
So, basically, you learn to believe it, practice it and then act it. It kind of reminds me of the way you draw something you cannot draw - just turn it upside down and then you trick your eye (brain) and you typically can draw it quite well, even with proportion intact.
you've got really good advice here, and i agree. Take a step back until you're not nervous ok... even if you hafta step right back to ground poles. Whatever you can make HARD courses with just ground poles! (eg: trot poles, roll back to a single rail... go thru trot poles on an angle, then canter thru a 5-stride, come around again and make that same 5-stride into a 6, then a 4 stride... all done with ground poles). Its fun and still technical.
I will add tho... i believe that any horse can jump from any spot at 2'6 and under that height. That said, you dont absolutely need to pick your spot at this height. Ride your forward rhythm, dont f*ck around with slowing down and then fast then slow then fast, etc...
If you need tuff love suck it up! ride your rhythm, keep a soft contact, ride your rhythm, breathe, ride your rhythm, look past your jump, ride your rhythm ... it'll all come back to you... just go slow.
Adding, to help give you confidence that you can handle a chip or tight spot easily, practice to get those lower legs of iron! On a flat day, hike the stirrups up 2-3 holes over jumping length, then see how long you can canter in two point. Rest, do it again, rest, do it again.
Do that exercise twice a week & I bet in 3-4 weeks you'll get the feeling with your stirrups in normal jumping length, that no matter what happens, you are going to be tight as a tick secure! Just something else to add confidence, taking away the worry about finding the distance (which will then likely let you relax & let it happen!)