QUESTION: I’m taking jumping lessons on my horse. We were doing really well until recently. Now when we canter toward the bigger jumps, my horse suddenly gets very fast and pulls hard on the bit. It’s scaring me, but I don’t want to tell my trainer. What can I do to fix this problem of my horse rushing the jumps?
ANSWER: Never be afraid to tell your trainer that you’re uncomfortable or scared. When you’re honest, your trainer can design riding exercises to help you overcome your fears. First, however, your horse’s behavior must be changed.
A horse that charges to the jump and pulls on the reins against your hands is said to be “rushing the jumps.” That is an undesirable habit because you lack control. Without warning, the rusher could put on the brakes and refuse the jump, run out to the side, or leave from a dangerously long take-off spot.
Most horses rush due to anxiety. Sometimes the jump is too high for their level of training. Other times, it’s because they really haven’t learned how to canter over a jump. It’s like they aren’t really sure where to place their legs, so they just scramble over the jump in a panic.
Back to Basics
To retrain a rusher, go back to trotting low, easy jumps in your lessons. Make jumping as relaxing as possible, even ho-hum and boring. Never allow your horse to increase his pace or surge forward.
The moment you feel your horse rev up, pull him to a stop. It’s better for him to halt and pause for a few moments than to rush carelessly over the jump. Occasional unexpected halts will also keep your horse focused on you rather than zeroing in on the jump.
While your horse is being reschooled, have your trainer evaluate your riding. Without realizing it, you may be teaching your horse to rush. As you approach a jump, you could be grabbing with your heels or driving your horse forward with too deep of a seat.
It’s important to keep a soft, steady position all the way to the jump. Take your time so that you and your horse can enjoy the process of learning to jump safely!
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