Sarah first contacted me 18 months ago and then came back to me for a further session . This is her account of the work we did together and how the later session gave her a different way of dealing with her fears.
I first contacted Jo in January 2006 after a recommendation from a friend when I was suffering from terrible nerves when jumping. At the time I’d had my horse for just over 2 years and in the first year we had great fun, jumping all sorts, fun rides, cross country, even a bit of hunting. After a few bad falls which really knocked my confidence, he started to run out at fences or stop altogether. I felt that my nerves were transferring to him and when faced with a course of fences I just couldn’t ride at all. I would freeze up on the approach to the fence, then he would stop, so it became a vicious circle because I was then expecting him to stop, which obviously he did. I tried endless lessons to improve my confidence, changed instructors which helped for a while, and even had some jumping lessons on other horses. The nerves were still there and after getting to the point where I would leave a lesson in tears if the instructor even fetched the poles out, I felt I had to do something about it or give up riding altogether. The final straw was going to a show and he just refused to jump at all, even though the course was only 2ft, and I just couldn’t do anything about it.
I initially contacted Jo by email to explain my situation and that I felt I had a more or less ruined a horse that, with a confident rider, loved to jump. My first session lasted around 2 hours and I was able to isolate exactly what was scaring me about jumping. We narrowed it down to the approach being the problem – I was freezing up about 4 strides away and either over riding (so we ran out of puff by the time we got to the fence), or not riding at all so he then didn’t have the confidence to jump. I was surprised to find that a lot of other issues were at least partly behind my nerves; I’d had a very nasty fall the year before when my horse bucked my off, and tapping for that helped the jumping nerves. It really helped me to be able to work out exactly what was scaring me. Jo asked me to rank between 1 and 10 how scared I was of certain things, and I was amazed to find the numbers getting lower with each tapping sequence. We also worked on the height of fences as I had built up a real issue in my head of anything over about 2ft6. I felt really positive by the end of the session and went on to jump my first 2ft9 SJing round about a week later. It even had fillers!!
From then on we went from strength to strength and my confidence really improved. Jo emailed me a tapping sequence to use and I made sure I tapped every time I was in a situation that made me nervous. Later in 2006 I changed my job, moved house and moved yards – big changes. I continued with the jumping but for some reason the nerves seemed to start creeping back in. I’d never really had a problem with cross country fences (or not smaller ones anyway) but found I was developing strange fears of solid jumps that I’d never really had before. So, I emailed Jo again and we did a top up session. This time it was less of getting over a paralysing fear and more of tying up loose ends – these weren’t issues that stopped me from jumping at all, but did mean I didn’t feel happy over bigger fences (for me anything over 2ft6 still). We tapped for the spookiness of my horse (he can be very sharp), tapped for “gappy” jumps (anything without a groundline, single upright poles etc), and a few other minor issues. Again, my confidence improved and I made sure I was jumping regularly to practise.
My most third and most recent session with Jo was at the end of April 2007. A friend at my stables asked me if I wanted to do a 2ft9 pairs hunter trial with her and I agreed, although I felt it might be a disaster as the week before we’d been on a fun ride and I’d started to feel nervous again (and consequently my horse was stopping and so on). I contacted Jo to explain the situation and talk about a session to concentrate purely on this hunter trial. What came through mostly in this session were issues relating to being worried about letting my pair down more than anything else, and also some issues with him maybe stopping at the bigger fences. This time Jo explained that she had changed her methods since the last time we’d spoken and she was using NLP more now. We discussed what was bothering me and Jo’s new methods gave me a different way of looking at my fears. It seemed to be more a case of thinking about it all in a different way to stop the problem happening in the first place – getting me to think about riding the course in a different way to normal, setting the horse up for the fences differently and also about taking more control of the situation.
Again I felt very positive after the session and for the first time ever, my fears about the heights of the jumps seemed to have really gone. The day before my hunter trial my yard was running a SJing competition so I took him in a couple of classes to try out my new found confidence. In the 2ft6 class he was very naughty, stopping and running out. Instead of giving up like I would have in the past, I put him in 2ft9 class which was great, and then on a whim we did our first ever 3ft class!! By then we were on a roll and he felt like a different horse – he looked at me afterwards as if to say “finally we’re jumping a decent height”!! I went into the HT feeling confident and it was a brilliant day. After the first fence all the fears melted away – although he tried to nap initially, I felt the TFT/NLP had helped me think about how to deal with him better. Went on to finish the course just outside of the optimum time and with a big grin on my face! As the fences got bigger and more solid through the course, his jumping just got better.
I can’t thank Jo enough for how much she’s helped me. It’s been a bit of a long journey but I had a lot of issues that we dealt with. I’m finally really enjoying my horse again for the first time in a long time, and he’s happy being a jumping pony again!
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