Any of us who have ever jumped a horse know how amazing it feels and just how difficult it can be. It takes effort and time to learn how to become one with your horse, to feel just when to lift off, and how to accept that not every time will be perfect.
If it has been years since you last jumped a horse I bet you are itching to get in the saddle and soar. You might be looking for the perfect horse, the right trainer, or planning how to work up to that beautiful height you once flew over.
I am for playing it safe, for building confidence and strength, but I am also for taking the risk and starting from where you want to end up. Everyone is different and you have to gage what you are comfortable with.
This “how to” is from personal experience and there is no step by step guidance with this one. When I wanted to jump again, I just jumped right into jumping! I was scared, but it was an adventure that I needed and grew from.
In April 2013 I went with my roommate to her barn for a lesson. She trains with a man who has taken horses to the All American Quarter Horse Congress and won. I told him that I sold my horse in High School and that it had been at least six years since I last jumped.
So he gave me his tallest eighteen hand warm blood. I knew right then I was in for it. What it was didn’t reveal itself until later. We practiced walking, trotting, cantering, flying lead changes and then he set up two jumps on the left side of the arena at two feet. We went around twice and by then my thighs were on fire. It felt like needles were shooting through my legs as I struggled to hold my own weight.
He moved the jumps to three feet and I ended up on the neck of my horse. There was no time to breathe as we were encouraged to go again and again. Soon the jumps were at four and a half feet and I was shaking in my stirrups. My adrenaline was up and I was having the time of my life.
Some people may say this trainer was not being safe with me, but he knew I was a horse girl and he must have known that I needed to go all in or not at all. As we circled around the jumps to go over four and a half feet I wondered if we could make it. Could I give the horse the signal he needed? Would I be able to stay on? I found myself extremely grateful for the invention of helmets as we began to soar over the first jump.
Hands placed neatly above his neck and legs still firmly on his sides we partnered perfectly for the second jump. As we landed I was amazed at how I was still on the horse, even though it felt completely strange. I wondered at first if it felt strange because I did not expect to stay on, but as we rounded the corner I looked down very aware at how the saddle felt like fur.
I had landed on his rump and did not even notice at first because I was so busy celebrating our success!
That day I would not have won a trophy or been invited to the Olympics, but I remembered what it felt like to fly. I remembered what it felt like to take chances, to believe in myself and trust the unknown and trust a horse. This is a lesson I am still working into my own life. How to completely engage, trust the unknown, believe in myself and to do something just for the joy of it, not for the outcome.
If you have not jumped a horse in a while I hope you will take courage from this article. I was lucky not to fall off midair, but I was encouraged because I opened up to the possibility getting hurt by something I love.
Isn’t that what stops us after-all? Fear?
If you haven’t jumped a horse in a while, just do it (credit to Nike for the line). Acknowledge and validate your fear, but go for it. Put on a helmet, take a friend you trust and find a good horse if you don’t have one and set up a fun course. I dare you to be bold! And then take what you learn in the arena out into real life. Even if you fall off, get back on, or get up, or if it is really bad, go to the hospital and relish in your ability to ask for help when it is needed!