When a horse rushes at its fences, it’s usually due to a miscommunication between horse and rider.
It usually stems from when a horse in the early stages of its training tries to speed up to its fences. The rider then tries to slow the horse down with their hand, but the horse then tries even harder to speed up to counteract the rider. This becomes a vicious cycle and your horse ends up rushing despite your best efforts to slow him down.
The best way to solve this problem is to break the cycle by getting your horse more sensitive to your aids.
Exercise one: Transitions
When jumping, your horse needs to be able to carry out a half-halt to adjust his stride and speed according to your requirements. A horse that rushes tends to not listen to the half-halt. Therefore, practise plenty of trot-halt transitions before you even think about jumping. Don’t be abrupt in your aids but make sure you get a response from your horse, until you can quietly ask for the halt transition and you get an instant response without any resistance.
Once you have the trot-halt mastered, move onto half-halts within canter. Here you want your horse to listen to your aids to move forwards and backwards within the pace, again without showing any resistance. As well as your horse coming back to you when you say “woah”, you equally want your horse to move off your leg when you say “go” out of the half-halt. Again, don’t even consider jumping until you are able to make these transitions easily.
It can also be beneficial to do this flat work exercise in among jumps to get your horse thinking about what you are asking him, rather than assuming that if there are jumps, he is jumping. This should help rideability in the ring and while training in the future.
Exercise two: placing poles
Set up a small fence with a placing pole on both the take-off and landing side (these need to be set at around 3 yards/ human strides from the fence). This simple exercise makes the horse think about where they are putting their feet either side of the fence instead of just rushing at it. Approach in trot to begin with and even though it will go against all of your natural instincts, be soft with the rein over the exercise. Let the poles do the work for you as much as you can. This will help to get the horse thinking for himself and taking responsibility for his speed. Straight after you’ve jumped the fence, come back to halt in a straight line, without being too abrupt in your transition. Then pat your horse and repeat the exercise.
Once you are happy in trot and your horse is relaxed, move up into to canter. Practise the same principles as in trot. Slowly but surely you can take the placing poles away as your horse stops rushing, until you are left with a normal fence.
Exercise three: Figure of eight jump
Set out a small fence on its own. Trot to it on a left circle, land and turn onto a right circle, returning to trot. Then approach the jump on this right circle, land and turn onto a left circle and again come back to trot. Repeat this figure of eight exercise in trot until your horse is listening to you, then move into canter, making sure you remain in balance, with a soft contact.
Ready to show off your skills at a competition, or perhaps you want some expert advice? Check out www.equoevents.co.uk to find shows local to you and all over the UK