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Stop Rushing at Jumps
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [April 1, 2001]

Training Question:

I own a 12 yr old Arabian mare who has a problem with rushing when I jump a course. She is a good jumper besides her rushing. I don't think she is rushing because she is scared but I think she might just get excited when we jump, or I dunno? She has been jumping now for about 3 years and still has the problem. Is there any way I can stop this? I've tried circling and stopping and backing her up when she gets strong but she still rushes. Can you please help me? What can I do to stop this? Thank you so much for your time!
~ Jena

Trainer's Response:

I really can't tell the reason that your horse is rushing fences without first seeing her in person, jumping a course. However, I can give you some pointers. First, and most important, make sure that her tack fits properly and comfortably. Many horses who have ill-fitted tack anticipate a "pinch" or anticipate some pain, and will therefore try to rush the fence, slow down before a fence, dodge to the sides...etc. in order to reduce the pain. So, the first thing is to check all of your equipment and be sure that it fits very well.

Then, if she still rushes the fences, you'll need to go back to basics and work on some flat work, and work her over ground poles and then very small jumps. This might not be what most people like to hear, but the truth is: there are no short cuts that work well in the long run. When you take a short cut to get the performance you want, I guarantee that it will cause at least 5 other problems to crop up.

Start with basic flat work, and stop jumping fences until you feel that you excel at these exercises. Teach her to give to the bit properly, and to slow down and speed up well. Spend an entire week (or several weeks) working on speeding up and slowing down. The longer you work on this flat work, the better she will become, so don't cut any corners...be consistent and thorough. Speeding up and slowing down doesn't necessarily mean going from trot to canter and back to trot. Start at a walk and ask your horse to speed up, 1 mph faster. Then, ask her to slow down 2 mph slower. Then 2 1/2 mph faster, then 1 mph slower, then 1 mph faster, then 1/2 mph slower. etc..etc... until you feel extremely confident with your ability to control exactly how fast she walks.

Then, do the same exact exercises at the trot. When you feel completely confident that you can control her speed 100% of the time at the trot, then you can practice it at the canter. Continue using this exercise until you are 100% sure that you can control your horse's speed. Once you have reached this point, you are ready to 're-introduce' ground poles. Lay a ground pole on the ground and practice these exercises at a walk, trot and canter until you are sure that you can ask her to go over the ground pole at any speed you wish. Most importantly, be sure that you can slow her down several mph before the ground pole. When you are confident that you can do this extremely well, then move on to a small cross-rail....and work up from there.

If, at any time, your horse rushes the fence, it is VERY important to back up a step in your training and practice with a lower fence or a slower gait until she will listen to your "slow down" cue 100% consistently again. If you don't, you will only be teaching her that it is okay to rush the fences, and it is okay to ignore your requests to slow down. With patience and consistency, you will be able to tackle this training problem, and have a wonderfully trained horse who jumps beautifully.

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This article was published on: April 1, 2001. Last updated on: April 1, 2001.