How To Stop Your Horse Refusing Jumps
Stop jump refusals in their tracks, with our simple, problem-solving guide!
Jump refusals and how riders deal with them can be a make-or-break situation for both the horse and the rider’s confidence. Whilst some riders begin to worry, others can become frustrated and angry at the occurrence.
However you feel when your horse stops at a fence, the importance of understanding the problem and finding a tailored route to help both you and your horse back on the road to confidence should be top of your priority list!
Don’t panic! We’ve covered everything you need to know about why your horse might be reusing fences and what you should do about it…
What’s The Problem?
The first step to eliminating jump refusals is identifying what the problem actually is. Is this behaviour new and uncharacteristic of your horse, and if so have you considered the element of discomfort?
Horses can be extremely sensitive. Firstly, make sure your horse’s teeth, back, farriery, and tack fit are all in check before you begin thinking deeper. Or think back to recent procedures your horse has had or changes you have made in your horse’s equipment – maybe your farrier is trialing a new shoe, or you’ve just bought a new bridle?
Once you’ve had the once over by equestrian professionals, search for a pattern in your horse’s jump-refusing behaviour. Has your horse had a bad experience with a certain fence type, or have you over faced your horse with a fence height or style? Also, consider your riding technique. It may be helpful to get somebody to film you whilst you are jumping. You could be accidentally pulling their mouth after a big fence, or your position may be throwing their balance.
Creating a positive experience for your horse is the only way you will help stop jump refusals – ensuring every successful jump effort is rewarded is a great step on way to this!
Establishing solid groundwork as the foundation of your jump exercises can also help you on your way to a clear round. Make sure your horse is responsive to your aids and can maintain good balance and rhythm on straight lines and through turns.
Reduce The Height
Reducing the height of jumps is the first step on the road to building the confidence of your horse during jumping sessions. Start with pole work exercises, then build up to small fences and use some gridwork exercises. Fences should begin at the height where your horse can trot over, or even step over them from walk.
Slowing down your approach to fences can make the world of difference to your horse’s confidence, as well as their jump technique. Commonly, riders will drive horses into fences with speed to get them over, however, this can be detrimental to balance and cause further confidence issues.
With speed, a lot of horses will disengage their hindquarters and fall onto their forehand, as this is much more energy efficient and an easier way for the horse to travel. However, pulling with the front legs, instead of pushing with their hind, can make it difficult for horses to jump as they need the power from behind to create lift. This difficulty to power the lift needed for a jump can result in a refusal.
Instead, approach at a pace you can control; for most rider’s this is trot. Keep the tempo and pace slow with half-halts, providing encouragement with the leg on the last few strides of the approach. If your horse does stops, this is where a low fence will come in extremely handy. With a low fence you won’t have to turn away, in-avertedly rewarding your horse, you can simply ask your horse step over it and follow with a reward once complete!
Practice, Practice, Practice
If scary fences and fillers are causing you problems, the only way through it is to practice, practice, practice!
During your riding sessions, make sure you ride around obstacles that are causing you issues, so your horse can get used to them and know they are not a threat.
To build confidence with fillers under a jump, start small and build up to bigger and scarier objects. Small jumps could be accessories with water buckets, stuffed toys, coats and rugs, until your horse has built the confidence to clear larger fence fillers.
Take A Break
Maybe it’s time to take a break?!
If all you do is jump, you run this risk of your horse becoming bored and ‘sour’ in their day-to-day routine.
Make sure your providing mental simulation in your horse’s down time or give them a few weeks out in the field to reap some turnout benefits and return to work with a fresh perspective.
Many professional riders will hardly jump their horses at home, as it helps to keep them fresh.
Alternatively, incorporate hacking, groundwork or a completely different experience, such as a water-treadmill exercise or even a spa-day.