Jump Dysmorphia

Is this a thing? I think it’s a thing. Hold on, let me explain.

During my lesson this week, I was convinced the jumps were HUGE. Ok, not huge, but “a good size”. That they required effort from my little horse, an accurate ride, and that they needed a healthy dose of respect.

Then, I saw these photos:

Do you know what I see? some pretty small jumps… Not that I shouldn’t aim to ride them properly but… less than ideal distances, lines, and pace wouldn’t cause us to crash or have any significant impact on May’s confidence. It would just make them ugly.

Somehow, my brain had convinced me that I had something to fear from these jumps, from this course. As I made my way to start each round, I felt my chest tighten and my legs go weak. Even know, I can feel that drowning feeling that I get before any show jumping round.

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Baby Jump – Major heart attack. 

Right now, I am coping by doing the following:

  1. Leg on. Always. Having pace bails me out of a lot of issues, so I ride forward… almost to a fault at this point, since a couple of distances on Tuesday would’ve been fine if I had just sat pretty. Luckily, my internal metronome hasn’t gotten slow on me.
  2. Riding with a neck strap. This lesson, I made the decision to ride with my neck strap. I promised myself that, if I started to feel the UNDYING need to pull, I would just hold onto it. I will say that I am a bit proud of not grabbing it.
  3. Getting media. I think this helps. It puts everything in perspective. And, honestly, it helps me remember. When I get this nervous, I go blank. My memory goes BLACK. I remember showing as a junior and not remembering ANYTHING about a course as soon as I finished it. I was never the brave kid hahaha. That being said, I should break the habit of going back and watching the whole thing in slow-mo, so that I can judge every millisecond of myself.
  4. Getting Regular Lessons. I will say that this was like my third jump lesson since the beginning of the year so… I am not doing great on this front, but I am doing better. Tuesday nights are officially my lesson night now, and I don’t see any reason for us to miss our next couple of weeks of lessons before our show. Both of them will be jump lessons. The Dressage stuff I can polish up a bit myself. (which is hilarious to me as my entire foundation is H/J)

But I really want to move past the management of these feelings and hopefully banish them away for good. Any recommendations of good sports psychology books or things that have helped you?

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33 thoughts on “Jump Dysmorphia

  1. For me it’s always just doing it again and again. Everything looked huge with June at the beginning. But then I realized she has zero issue with jumping, and if I just support he, we’ll be just fine. Pretty soon you’ll be eyeing the bigger jumps!

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  2. ugh this is my life too. and i *hate* the feeling of looking at photos and seeing a jump that’s completely different from what i thought i was seeing while riding. all your ideas are solid tho. and the feeling *is* fixable. it just takes time and repetition (and a bit of kindness toward ourselves lol).

    for a while with Isabel, i actually had to enforce a minimum height for our jumps (at that time, i think it was 2′ or 2’3), and simply did not allow myself to jump anything smaller. it was a nice way to force my eye to adjust up and get with the program!

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    1. That’s a good reminder. I used to ride around jumps that were always set to Training and above, so my BN jumps looked little. Maybe I’ll start messing with the cups during my weekend hacks.

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  3. Everything always looks so much smaller in pictures lol. I’m always looking at pics from shows like “well that sure looked way bigger to my eyeballs in person, it looks tiny here”. If you haven’t read Brain Training for Riders, I highly recommend!

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  4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is my book recommendation, just finished it a few weeks back. Though jump dysmorphia is totally a thing. My past trainer told me I would get myself killed if I moved up to novice, and thus kept me at BN and created a mental block in my head about how GIANT of a difference it apparently was and how huge novice fences were. I left the trainer and spent time on my own, putting the Gridwork in and strengthening myself until BN was downright boring, and still thought novice would kill me 🤦‍♀️ thankfully I have completed several novices now, but the jump dysmorphia is A REAL THING!

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    1. Hahaha That book keeps popping up in my life. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

      There are definitely some issues from past trainers and situations that have added to my anxiety, but like I said, I was never the brave kid!

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  5. ha i think all fences look huge when I am going toward them. On the ground watching someone else jump? I Think oh those are little HA! though a few of our last shows (last year) I did think our intro courses didnt look too bad. So maybe i can get rid of this fear. But yeah it is a thing for sure!!

    What I do like about how NT/ET set up those jumps for you at your lesson last week was not the height but the width. It makes you still have to ride correct to them rather than when it is just a pole set at that height. Same thing I noticed when they were hopping Remus over a few the first day on the video. The wider set makes them have to be as honest as tall fences in my mind.

    I still think you look great and can’t wait till your first event 🙂

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    1. Yeah. Oxers are really what freaks me out, so jumping them lower but wider is really good for me. It also forces you to ride oxers the way that oxers are meant to be ridder (across the jump) vs. riding it like a vertical. SO MANY THINGS TO THINK ABOUT. No wonder my brain shuts down 😉

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  6. Seeing videos of me riding helps with errrrything. My biggest issue used to be that I’d crawl my horse around and a canter with any sort of power I was convinced was way too fast. My trainer started taking quick videos during lessons so I could see in real time that I really was super slow, and that’s made all the difference. He would always tell me, “If you think you’re going too fast, go faster,” lol. You and May will be rocking around BN+ in no time!

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  7. A light leg definitely helps and I love getting media too – I’m terrible at breathing so I have to make a real concious effort when I jump. When I jump I get an adrenaline rush and working on breathing exercises (deeply through the nose and out the mouth) helps me focus that adrenaline rather than letting it run away with me!

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    1. Oh the breathing thing is definitely an issue for me. Probably why I was dizzy at the end of this course.

      You reminded me that I used to pick “breathe” spots during my course. Like Jump the pink oxer, ride to the rail, breathe, turn to the black and white. etc I’ll have to start doing that again!

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      1. Ooh that’s so useful and something we do too! Literally coming up with a course plan we’ll say out loud “land off 2 looking towards three, take a deep breath by the gate, straighten up to 3,” etc etc etc. It helps solidify it on the mental checklist.

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  8. I literally exclaimed, “I just had a thought on course AND ACTED ON IT” in my last lesson because after 20+ years of riding, this is a new sensation. Just getting used to feeling the motion helped a ton, and I will say that watching AT take Frankie around some bigger tracks helped too – if he could pilot around at those heights without struggling, I feel much better about asking him to pack me around at a lower height.

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    1. Hahaha yes! Like sometimes I feel like I am on auto-pilot mid course. Maybe I should make my trainer take May around a Novice course, video tape it, and rewatch it whenever I get antsy

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  9. I may be no help since I haven’t jumped consistently since going to English, but I’m realizing now that when I was younger and rode hunter/jumpers until 13, I’d literally have a panic attack while in the ring jumping. I was apparently so freaked that I don’t remember any of it. The course is literally a black void in my brain. It got a bit better as I got older, but for a long time, there was this black spot from take off to landing and I’d never be able to remember actually jumping the jump. I jumped a few times after that and only black spots that time, so it got a bit better as I was older. Cue panic attack again when I went to show reining and was panicking so badly that I literally chugged a beer before I rode. I was on a really seasoned mare, and then she was just….going, responding like at home, and suddenly running those circles fast (to me at least lol) was so much fun. It was huge for me to learn “fun” doing that lol. But what also helped is that all reining runs are videoed, so immediately after the run you go to the booth next to the entrance/exit, and you can look back at what your run looked like and where you made a mistake or whatnot. So basically what KC suggested! That really started to help me since the ride was so fresh in my mind, and also just changing my whole mindset about how I rode. I had to let myself believe “you’re a good rider, you can handle the horse. Ask questions, and if you make a mistake, that’s okay. Just try for a little better next time” and I think that mindset stopped the black void over the jumps lol. Trainer G has also done a wonderful job with helping my mindset as well – she’s always having me focus on the in between of the jump, and I’m focusing on my strides, my turn, applying leg in this corner, pace pace pace and square your turn, that the jump height became irrelevant to me. Because as I practiced the in between, I came to realize that 9 out of 10 times the jump took care of itself. Because then on landing it’s push into the corner, leg, pace pace pace, look where you’re going. Soon I was so focused on that I had no time to worry whether it looked high or not :). I have no idea if that helped, but I hope it did a little!

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  10. Totally a thing. FWIW, I think you two look fantastic out there. Gem had such a wonky way of jumping, if I could even get her to the base of a jump, that even the smallest jump made me want to vomit. H’Appy jumps so smooth and easy that now I am looking at my 18″ jumps wanting more. Repetition is what helps me the most, like other have said. Getting that muscle memory and feel down.

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  11. I think it must be a real thing. I have only had 2 jump lessons in my entire life, so can’t realllly comment. I went from trot poles to an 18″ X and almost lost my marbles. lol Haven’t tried jumping since. hahahaha

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  12. I feel you here! For me, it’s just getting out there and doing it. After not jumping for over a year, 2′ looked somewhat monumental to me. But after a couple months of lessons, 3′ was looking small. And then I had to take another hiatus… alas. Anyway, I think the more you keep at it, and riding positively (like you’re doing! Leg on, eyes up, swallow the fear) it will get easier and easier.

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  13. Jump dysmorphia is toooootally a thing. Happens to me all the time. I used to get really nervous when the jumps went up (still do, sometimes, but less so now!). Somewhere along the way, the dysmorphia sort of reversed though so now I think everything is like 2’6″ and sometimes I ask my trainer (AFTER we’re done jumping, don’t wanna know beforehand) and they’re like, 3’3″ or higher. Not often, but it’s happened! Haha!

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