Does your horse spend more time running round fences than he does jumping over them? Then it’s time to show him who’s boss.
I honestly believe if you can get your horse to a fence you can get him over it. If he stops then it’s either because you stopped riding him or you’ve over faced him (or yourself). The odd stop can be put down to experience. Don’t dwell on it. Running out on the other hand is only down to one thing. Rider error.
If your horse runs out it could be because he’s worried or he thinks you’re a pushover. Why isn’t important. It’s something you can work on at home.
A low straight bar is best. X poles are great if your horse is willing. If he’s likely to run out the last thing you need is to end up facing the high end of one! The height of this fence is important. It needs to be low enough that you can make him jump or step over it from a standstill. He needs to know you’ll make him jump whatever he does.
You could be forgiven for thinking it’s best to build a fence on the inside track opposite E/B. Don’t! This gives your horse too much time to plan his line of escape. Put it at X facing E/B. He’ll have less time to think and you can work on both reins.
The best way to solve a problem is to break it down. Think about why your horse runs out. Why can he suddenly veer off the line you had him on? Because you let him.
Check your position and your aids. All riders remember to sit up and look up when they land but do you ever think about your leg position? If you’re stiff in your hips you’ll find you legs swing back as you lean forward. If you don’t correct them when you land they’ll be too far back when you come to the fence again. This means your seat is less secure, your legs are less effective and your horse has a way out.
Your legs control your horse’s body but without a consistent contact you’re wasting your time. A steady contact contains energy, keeps him off his shoulders and gives him confidence. Your hands control his shoulders. Think of him as an arrow. Wherever you point his front end the rest of him will follow. Keep your hands together and you’ll keep him straight to the fence.
Sit back all the way to a fence. Tipping forward three strides from it unbalances you and puts your horse onto his shoulders. The combination of both these things allows him to get away from you.
If your horse runs out you’re allowing him to dictate the speed on the approach to the fence. Keep him steady – trot while you sort the problem out if you have to. Once a horse learns you have regained control he’ll remember. As long as you don’t whack up a big fence and over face yourselves again he’ll give in.
Putting the fence at X gives your horse less time to accelerate. Horses often do this as a way to get away from you so they can run out. Keeping your speed steady and keeping your hands and contact consistent should ensure you can get him to the middle of the fence. Do that and you’re more than halfway there.
His sense of humour may get the better of him when he realises you can control him. He might throw in a stop. DON’T turn him away. Make him step over the fence or jump it but never allow him to realise he can turn away and do it again.
You may think if you ride this exercise your horse will start running out again when the fence gets bigger but why would he? Think about it. You’ve taught him you can control him. You’ve shown him you can get him to the middle of a fence and you’re not going to take no for an answer. If you’re straight and riding forward there’s only one place he’s going to go. Over. Make sure you go with him!
At a show do what you want to do. It’s too easy to be swayed by others. They don’t have to jump the fences though, do they? If you’ve entered a class and done well enjoy the moment. Take your rosette and go home. Thinking you’re on a roll and putting yourself into the next class may well back fire. Better to end the day on a high rather than with a high score!
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.
The Equestrian Store www.theequestrianstoreni.com