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Jumping Refusals

Horse Training - What to Do About Refusals
If your horse begins refusing fences, you need to figure out why she’s stopping before the problem gets any worse.

Oh no!
A refusal is when your horse doesn’t want to jump a fence and stops in front of it. Refusals can be frustrating—especially if they cause you to fly over her head and eat dirt! They can also make you lose your confidence when jumping. If your horse begins refusing fences, you need to figure out why she’s stopping before the problem gets any worse.

If you don’t take lessons, sign up for some with a good trainer  who can help you and your horse get back on track. There are lots of reasons why a horse refuses a fence. Let’s look at some of them and figure out the best way to get your favorite horse jumping again.

Forward motion
If your horse is dead to your leg aids, you’ll have a problem getting her to move forward with enough impulsion to jump a fence. It’s easy for a horse to stop if she’s slopping along slowly in front of a fence. Go back to working on the flat for a while. Try to sharpen up her reactions to your leg aids. If she doesn’t move forward when you squeeze with your legs next to the girth, give her a kick. If she doesn’t move off from the kick, tap her with a dressage whip behind your lower leg.

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Your horse must listen to your legs.

Too much too soon
You may be asking your horse to jump a fence that she’s not ready or prepared to jump. Always start small when jumping your horse and move up to bigger fences gradually. If your horse is refusing 3-foot fences, go back to jumping 2 foot 6 inch fences for a while to build up her confidence. When she’s jumping those fences nicely, you can try jumping bigger fences. Mix the bigger fences in with the smaller fences. Don’t jump her over a course of big 3-foot fences right away.

Back to basics
If you’re having problems jumping, go back to basics. Set up four or five trotting poles about 5 feet apart (4-4 1/2 feet if you ride a pony). Set up a small fence about 9 feet after the last pole. A cross-pole fence is fine at first; you can make it an upright once your horse has jumped it a few times.The trotting poles encourage your horse to pick up an active trot and she should be moving nicely forward by the time he gets to the fence and should pop over it with no problems.

Give grids a go
Small grids, lines of three or four fences which are a specific number of strides apart, are a great confidence booster—for both you and your horse. Have an experienced adult or a trainer set up a grid  for you. Grids encourage your horse to move forward, <%@ Page Language="VB" ContentType="text/html" ResponseEncoding="iso-8859-1" %>

Set up trotting poles followed by a small fence.
and, if they are spaced correctly, they are usually easy for a horse to jump. Once you’ve jumped a grid two or three times, have your helper on the ground change it around a bit so your horse doesn’t get bored or start anticipating when to jump. Make a cross-pole fence into an upright or turn the last fence into a small spread.

Build a grid
If you don’t take regular lessons and want to build a grid at home in your field or ring, you can get some good grid ideas from the United States Pony Club Manuals and 101 Jumping Exercises by Linda L. Allen (Storey Publishing). Order these books at the USPC Bookstore:

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Grids build confidence.

Position problems
One of the top causes of refusing can be blamed on the rider—poor jumping position. You may be leaning too far forward over your horse’s neck and unbalancing her. You could be throwing your hands up in the air and trying to lift your horse over the fence. You may be over-jumping—rising out of the saddle right before your horse takes off. This sudden weight shift can mess up your horse!

Put a jumping strap or a martingale strap around your horse’s neck and hold onto it as you jump. This will prevent you from throwing your hands—and body—up into the air.

If you feel nervous about jumping, your horse may sense this and refuse to jump. Go back to jumping smaller fences until you build your confidence back up. Take a few lessons with a patient, helpful instructor who can make jumping fun for you. If you feel calm and happy, your horse is more likely to jump a fence. It might be a good idea to take a few lessons on a reliable schoolmaster with no jumping problems. After you pop over a few fences successfully, you’ll probably feel more confident about jumping your own horse again.

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Figure out what's wrong with your horse, then try to fix the problem and have fun jumping again.

Incorporate jumping into your schooling sessions several times a week. Do some flatwork and then pop over a fence. Then return to your flatwork. Don’t make jumping a big event for your horse.

The more you jump, the more confident both you and your horse will become.

Feeling fine?
Your horse may have a physical problem that is causing her refusals. Her back may hurt when she pops over a fence. Does the saddle fit her properly?
She may have arthritis in her legs and this can cause her pain when she jumps.
Have a veterinarian give her a complete checkup to see if anything is wrong. She may need some massage therapy or chiropractic care.

If she’s an older horse with arthritis, her hocks may need to be injected with a lubricating substance to make jumping easier for her. You may also want to add a joint-renewal supplement to her daily feeds. Look for supplements in horsey catalogs and in feed stores.



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