I have always loved show jumping but last year I had a bad experience with a loan pony, which made quite nervous of cross-country. The pony would take exception to certain fences, stop dead and then buck and rear continuously until I gave up. When we bought my new pony, Kevin, it quickly became apparent that he really enjoyed jumping (particularly cross-country), so I was determined not to let my fear stop us from doing something he loved. We arranged for my instructor, Liz, to take us out schooling around a course with lots of different types and heights of fences to improve my confidence.
A shaky start
Our day did not start well. We arrived to find some horses turned out near the car park that had decided there were monsters in the hedges, and were galloping around their field like lunatics. This made me even more tense than I was already, particularly when Kevin tried to charge off and join them. The faster he went, the more rigid I became and the higher my hands rose, which spooked him even more! Despite Liz firmly instructing me to, “Breathe! Relax!” I felt physically unable to unlock my elbows and unclench my terrified hands. I very nearly gave up there and then but thought that if I couldn’t overcome this barrier, I’d probably never be able to really enjoy cross-country.
Taking a deep breath I lowered my hands and brought Kev back to trot, making him work in a circle. Soon we were both calm enough to try popping over a few small logs, which didn’t look too terrifying and managed to reassure me a bit. However, it was all too soon before Liz led us through to another field filled with much scarier and more complicated fences.
Jumping the fence
She indicated an evil-looking corner fence. “Jump it just the same as you did the others – you’ve just got to be committed,” she said, ignoring my expression of panic. Summoning up every ounce of determination I turned Kev towards the jump, focused on a conveniently-placed tree in the distance and pushed him into canter. From the moment he locked on to it there was never any question about my pony jumping that fence! The enormous leap he made, clearing it by miles, couldn’t help but make me smile, despite myself.