6 tips to help prevent your horse rushing his fences

  • Showjumper Sarah Lewis (pictured), who competes up to two-star level and also previously competed to three-star level eventing, shares her advice on how to help prevent your horse or pony from rushing at its fences and provides jumping exercises for horses that rush

    It can be quite unnerving if your horse is inclined to rush his fences. It makes it difficult for you to see a good stride to the fence, and often results in the horse getting quicker and quicker as your round progresses. Here are some jumping exercises for horses that rush to help curb and solve the problem.

    Strangely, the more you take your leg off the horse and try to pull him to make him go slower, the more likely he is to rush. Horses often start to rush because they are worried that the rider isn’t giving them enough impulsion and try to communicate to the rider that they would like a rather more positive approach to the fence in order to clear the back bar. Often these are very intelligent horses, so you have to come up with ways to make them think more on the approach to the fence.

    Jumping exercises for horses that rush

    1. The first step is to encourage the horse to accept your leg, and to have a bit of a stronger rhythm in the canter. With a hot horse I find making counter canter loops in the school very helpful. Start with a 5m loop on the long side and as you succeed, you can increase the depth of the loops. In order to keep the horse in counter canter you have to be quite strong with your inside leg, but you won’t be asking the horse to accelerate. Straight away you are making the horse think more about what you are asking of him, without putting an exciting jump in front of him.

    2. Next I make a cross pole and either side of the cross pole a placing pole at 3.5m. The two poles, especially the pole after the fence, will encourage the horse to lower his head and neck to see what he is being asked to do. Establish a good canter before coming to the pole, cross pole, pole exercise. Instead of pulling to control the pace, make sure you ride very square corners. Not only the corner before the fence, but the previous corner too. The square corners help you control the pace without pulling. Look at the fence before you turn the corner, teaching yourself to see your distance sooner, and making it easier to keep the rhythm.

    3. If the horse goes to rush, just sit up and firmly pull him up in a straight line before the fence, do not ever circle away. Repeat this a couple of times if necessary, until instead of seeing the fence and rushing, he starts to listen and wait for your signal.

    4. After the little fence, once again sit up and pull the horse up. Don’t ever just let the horse jump the fence and bomb round the corner. He has to learn to listen, jump the fence and listen again. Then after each fence you can get your leg back on and prepare for the next fence.

    5. Know when to stop. Once the horse is listening and you have made an improvement, pat him, leave it and maybe take him for a little hack. Keep him, and yourself, as calm and unworried as possible, but use this exercise regularly to get the horse listening.

    6. At a show, your horse doesn’t need too many practice jumps. Give yourself enough time and space that you can control your warm up. Then in the ring remember to pick up a good, strong rhythm in canter before you start, don’t have too long an approach to the first fence, and then make sure you make proper turns so that they do a lot of the work of keeping your canter in a good rhythm.

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