Nicola Wilson: How to recover from a XC setback

By Nicola Wilson on |



International event rider Nicola Wilson, one of the world’s best cross-country riders, has joined our growing stable of bloggers. As a member of Britain’s Senior Eventing team Nicola has won medals at World, European and Olympic level. Here are her tips for getting back on track after a setback or fall on the crock-country phase.

Riding is a confidence sport and none more so than when you’re out on a cross-country course. All riders experience fluctuating confidence while riding across country, particularly if they have suffered a bad fall or a set back.

Preparation is the main ingredient for success in this phase. You need to be fit enough, your horse must have the correct training. You  must also walk the cross-country course intelligently and give your horse a really good warm up. Whatever level you’re competing at, you have to take responsibility for doing all these things.

However, after a set back or fall there are a number of steps that can be taken to get you and your horse back on track and riding positively and safely on this phase again.

1. Try to analyse what caused the setback/fall then work on ironing out the issue in a constructive manner, rectifying any problems or possible lack of preparation

2. Go cross-country schooling with a trainer who you trust to iron out any problems and build up confidence again. Consider being part of a group in case your horse needs a lead over a particular obstacle in order to re-store his/hers confidence

3. Start slowly just keeping everything really small at first, which will provide a great boost to you and yours horse’s confidence. This is so important when you’ve had a setback or fall.

4. Remove any expectation or pressure on yourself to do things that you aren’t completely confident about until you are feeling ready

5. Compete at a lower-level until you have re-gained confidence and are riding positively. Remember that your horse may also be feeling a bit nervous, so give him/her some positive, confident runs before stepping back up again

6. Relax and have fun. It won’t be enjoyable for you if you’re feeling stressed and horses are good at sensing it. If you focus on having fun your riding will usually improve enormously

7. Try  not to over analyse where things went wrong. We can talk ourselves into or out of doing something. Remain positive: a good mental attitude will help you and your horse overcome a setback and motivate you to improve and achieve your goals.

Image: Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz by Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography, CC-BY-SA 3.0


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