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Tips to Slow Down a Thoroughbred Who Rushes at Jumps

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Submitted by member: Trish

I have a TB that does not have a natural balance and needs a constant reminder to carry himself and not lean.  When we jump, if I encourage him not to lean and rush through bending and downward transitions, he does perform better.  I have included gymnastics as part of his training with the thought he will learn not to depend on me.  However, I am having a problem during the gymnastics and believe I am riding them inappropriately due to his reaction.  Upon riding the gymnastics, I will help the TB to the first fence, but the following fences I leave him alone.  The outcome is he seems to think the lack of support is an invitation to run through the gymnastics.  His first set will be decent and the second and third set is deplorable as he realizes I’m not supporting him.  My instinct is that I should abort jumping gymnastics until he learns to carry himself more consistently over single fences, and then slowly reduce the number of strides to each fence. However, I also wonder if the gymnastics should be continued but I support him and reduce the amount of assistance as determined by his performance.  Can you inform me what the correct approach is to this problem?

A little background on the horse is that he was an ex-race horse who was placed in the jumper ring for his second career.  He came to me with a very ingrained habit of rushing and leaning.  He lacked engagement from the hind-end and lacked downward transitions.  At this time he has been checked for back and teeth problems and has come back clean.  He’s bold and brave but has his own idea as to how he should approach a fence.  He is currently riding in a Waterford loose ring snaffle.  Thank you for your direction.

Answer by Geoff Teall

I think that in this case your first instinct is probably your best. Although gymnastics are a very useful tool when training horses, they are not for everyone. I think that they can even be detrimental to some horses, and perhaps yours is one of those.

I would probably take a step back and get a basic understanding of what is going on, and then start with rails and low single jumps. From there, you could graduate to lines and even ultimately get back to gymnastics.

In a perfect world, when presented with a problem, horses can work things out on their own when they are left alone. This is not always the case, however. I think some horses require help from the rider to understand what it is we are looking for with their jumping style, etc. If a horse does not slow down on his own to make a better jump when left alone, or if a horse does not learn to make a clean jump when left alone at the distance, then sometimes the rider can help the learning process with the use of their hands off the ground. If you feel that your horse is going to get quick off the ground, the trick is to anticipate this happening, and with contact with the horse’s mouth (automatic release), close your fingers off the ground. This has to happen just as the horse starts to get quick, and to the appropriate degree to get the desired result without causing new problems. The idea is that your hand (contact), in conjunction with the jump, will help your horse better understand what it is that you want. This same principle can be applied to a horse with poor balance off the ground or a horse that might not be careful enough on their own. Your hand is backing up and reinforcing what the jump alone is not able to teach them.

This is very sophisticated and must be approached carefully, and hopefully with knowledgeable supervision. It should also be introduced over rails, very low jumps, and simple lines until both you and the horse are comfortable using this. From there you are able to progress to where your horse remains comfortable and continues to learn.

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Geoff Teall

Geoff Teall is one of the leading Hunter and Hunt Seat Equitation trainers in the country. Horses and riders who have trained with Geoff have gone on to win championships, medals and ribbons at major events including Devon, the AHSA Medal Finals, the ASPCA Maclay Finals, the Capital Challenge, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International, the USET Talent Search, and the National Horse Show. In addition to training, Geoff is an "R" judge for both Hunters and Hunt Seat Equitation. Visit his website: www.montoga.com

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