EN is excited to partner with Horseware to provide training tips from their sponsored riders. Today we have Doug Payne walking us through two difference exercises that can help solve the problem of rushing at fences.
What happens: On an approach to a jump, your horse quickly accelerates when he’s just a few strides from the fence. He often lands and gallops away from the fence, and the rider feels as if she has 100 pounds in her hand, with no effect.
Most riders deal with it by increasing the severity of the bit they are using in an attempt to hold the horse from “racing.” However, from the horse’s point of view, the rider is restricting his ability to clear the jump. Consequently, the horse feels unsure whether or not he can jump the fence without hitting it with his hind end. As a result, he speeds up at the last moment to make sure he leaves himself enough room. The more the rider tries to slow him, the more the horse rushes to compensate.
Solution: I know it is counterintuitive, but you must allow the horse to go to the fence at a slightly increased pace in order to make progress. Your job is to instill confidence that you will not restrict his ability to jump the fence well. Rather than just going for a stronger bit, you’re going to slow your horse down by altering the jump and the line.
1. The best exercise for a horse like this is to jump a simple vertical on a 20-meter circle. The moment he rushes at the fence, you begin to turn him, landing on the circle after the fence. Many riders trying this exercise aren’t quite comfortable with such a short approach so they are soon riding an oval, not a circle. However, you must be very careful to keep your figure accurate because inaccuracies just exacerbate the problem: The circle allows you to keep a consistent bend and pace while jumping, but on an oval, your horse will land and immediately “pop” his shoulder.
2. Use an opening inside rein to invite the horse to turn and a supportive inside leg to promote the inside bend. The key here is to actually turn in the air. It won’t take too many circles for the horse to realize that there is no advantage to going faster because it only makes life more difficult on the back side of the fence. You can also play with the height of the fence; the more careful horses slow down when presented with a larger effort—that is, within reason.
3. Once you’re able to keep a steady pace around the circle, intentionally move onto an oval with a straight approach and exit from the jump. In time, you’re looking to stretch the oval as long as his pace does not change. Soon enough you’ll be riding with a direct relationship between your inside leg and outside rein as if on a circle, but you’ll be on a straight line with your pace unchanging.
If your horse regresses and begins to rush again, back on the circle you go! It’s also very helpful to have an educated person on the ground. Often, what feels fast to you is actually not, and your objective observer (a moderator of sorts) will make sure you are holding up your end of the deal (you are not beginning to fall into your old habits of pulling).
Some horses rush because they are inadvertently being told to by the rider. The problem is that the rider is unaware of it. This is often the case with nervous or anxious riders who get tighter with their legs or tense in their bodies the closer they get to the jump.
Solution: While not an option for all, it might be best to take a lesson on an experienced, very quiet horse. This will allow you to concentrate solely on you rather than worrying about your horse.
You’re going to have to work very hard to try and relax. If your horse is quiet enough, jumping a grid comprising a number of fences might come in handy.
1. Jump through the grid a few times to make sure your horse is familiar with it. From there, tie a knot in your reins so that you’re able to drop the reins entirely, extending your arms outward like “wings” as you go through the grid.
2. You can also head through the grid without stirrups. When you can leave your horse to the jumping and just concentrate on your own balance, the payoff will be great!
This excerpt from The Riding Horse Repair Manual by Doug Payne is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books.