Confidence - Josephine

Josephine is a keen, confident, competitive, amateur show jumper who has had some good results too. 

Riding’s always been ‘her thing’…, and balances her very busy, demanding, full-time IT job.

She tells her story of how a fall affected her confidence and so much more...

"After tragically losing my amazing, established horse, I bought a well-produced, competitive 6 year-old mare.

My riding’s limited to weekends and sometimes an evening, so I knew this would be very different. My existing trainer was going to help us grow together though, riding her during the week and training us at weekends.

Everything was going brilliantly....we began slowly, getting to know each other, and started getting good and exciting results.

Then, one day, I unexpectedly came off and broke my wrist. I couldn’t get back on as I normally would. 

I’d never fallen so badly before and was pretty shaken.

Whilst I recovered, my trainer rode, and successfully competed, her too.

When I finally got back on, I was so unbelievably anxious jumping. Approaching a fence my heart would race, my whole body tensed which wasn’t me : she’d tense, the take-off was then awkward, making things worse, creating a vicious circle.

I was astonished how much the unexpected fall had affected me; frustrating, and baffling too, as I wasn’t an anxious person.

My anxiety sabotaged my confidence. I asked around and researched anxiety online. I tried several things, but couldn’t control it.  Peoples’ well-meaning comments such as ‘you’ll get there in the end’, ‘give it time’ didn’t help.  

My trainer was incredibly patient.  However, as I couldn’t overcome it, my frustration and anxiety grew. I was upset that my horse was now struggling too. I began thinking I wasn’t good enough and my self-belief crumbled.

Other liveries started commenting, some sympathetic, others hurtful. I started avoiding them, only going to the yard when it’d be just me and my trainer. I only posted things online about my horse’s progress with my trainer. 

Then I’d see derogatory, nasty, unkind comments about why I wasn’t riding her.

Meanwhile, work was still ok, but my personal life became difficult. My beloved ‘thing’, my previous and precious joy, was now the problem. I was stressed, exhausted, irritable at home. My partner was getting to their wits end too.

I then started really struggling. I got very low.

Depressed I guess. I felt lost….. trapped…. stuck….,and not being able to fix this, fuelled my frustration, my anxiety, adding to my misery.

My mental health deteriorated. I was shocked how low I was, and, could easily have fallen lower I think because I felt so hopeless.

I finally, yet reluctantly, saw a mental health professional.  That was an unexpectedly good experience. I learned a lot about myself, and some very helpful techniques to manage my anxiety.  

My trainer was very supportive too. We talked frankly and devised a plan. They’d ride and compete her.  I’d go back to basics, with poles on the floor.

We’d train when no-one else was around, so I’d be comfortable and able to focus without worrying about others watching. We set a realistic timeframe for my return to competition, factoring in wiggle room though, should my progress slip a bit, to ease the self-pressure.

This was such a tough decision for me. A real setback I thought given what I had been doing before. But, I’d finally accepted this was the right thing to do for me, and moreover, my horse.

I had to put my inhibitions aside; ignore comments; stop comparing myself to others; put things in perspective. Afterall, my horse was still young, and I had plenty of time.  

It took a while.  There were highs and more lows that I’d imagined, but, gradually my anxiety lessened, and my confidence returned.

And….I’m now back competing!  …. getting good results too but more importantly, the fun’s back!"