In the Saddle with Anita Marsh: Positive thinking aids riding

Anita and her horse 'April' enjoying showjumping together at a local show.
Anita and her horse 'April' enjoying showjumping together at a local show.

So, this year my focus has been on my daughter and her new pony. She's had such fun competing and already has established a number of rosettes so it was extra special to take the time out recently to show jump my own mare 'April'.

I hadn't loaded April since October last year, when I took her out to do showcross. April loaded into beautifully and I think she was very excited to be off out.

I've owned April since she was five years old (she's now eleven) and we've done a bit of everything over our years together. We've done cross country a few times, a bit of basic dressage, cross country schooling, showing and clear round jumping but I've never showjumped her.

April is one of those horses who won't just go straight over a jump. She requires you to ride her every step of the way and to show confidence into the fences.

If for one moment you merely think a hesitating thought on approach she can refuse it. She seems to know exactly what I am thinking before I even think it myself.

I always get very nervous when I am out at a show. I get quite stressy which immediately transmits to April and I have to be careful not to let her 'feel' it as it affects her too.

This time I decided to change the words I use in my head and to friends. So, instead of saying 'I'm nevous' I simply replaced it with 'I'm excited', whilst clearly imagining jumping each fence confidently.

We ensured I arrived in plenty of time to learn the course, get my hat checked and enter my classes plus give April time to warm up. I was still nervous but perhaps it did work as it didn't take much to persuade me to do another couple of classes after.pOSIRTI

We ended up having a great day coming home with three rosettes. I hadn't imagined rosettes in my 'positive thinking' moments, so I was totally thrilled.

April had extra carrots in her tea that night and I had celebrated with chocolate.