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What to Do When Your Horse Stops at Jumps at Shows

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Submitted by member: Kelly

I have a 6-year old Thoroughbred Quarter horse. At my home barn he jumps all the fences with little to no refusals, but when I take him to a show with jumps that he is unfamiliar with, he refuses all of them. He is usually okay if we get to school those fences before we show them, but that is not always an option. Is there an exercise I can do at my home barn with him that will help him gain confidence around these unfamiliar jumps?

Answer by Bernie

Usually I’d need more information on why he refuses to give a concrete answer. However, generally speaking, if a horse is legitimately green and somewhat afraid of an obstacle, I prefer to take a more sympathetic approach than I would if he just refused from habit.

In the first case, I would let him walk up to the jump he is curious about and touch/smell it with his nose, followed by a pat.  Do this several times from both directions. Sometimes once introduced to a obstacle with flowers or a small wall,  for example, they are okay with most of them.  You may need a ground person to help you get him to reach down and touch/smell the flower boxes. You will have to get creative at home with different obstacles for this introduction or take him to a friends stable with different jumps. This system may not work so well with chronic spooky horses.

If he stops from habit that is a different approach.  He must have some form of “consistent” corrections for any stopping, both at home and at at the show.  Even if it’s your fault because of a poor distance, you need to correct the horse.  Many people create stoppers when they get to a bad distance, because they blame themselves and give no correction. No correction means to the horse he did the right thing and teaches a horse that is okay to stop.  As long as it’s well within his ability level to jump the obstacle, you must always correct the stop with discipline.

The degree of discipline depends on the severity of the stop. A simple stop may be dealt with, perhaps with just a kick and cluck or an unpleasant sound from the rider like a “growl.” The horse stopping really naughty or twice requires a hard smack with your stick behind the girth. When they jump it, be sure to reward them with a pat. Remember a horse associates discipline and reward within about 5 seconds, so be prompt with both.

Above all, don’t be intimidated in the show ring about the discipline if he stops.  You must correct him in the ring at least once, otherwise he will know he can get away with the stop in the ring. Do it once, but be meaningful!

Good luck!

Video Recommendation:

how to use your stick on your pony

Proper Use of the Stick and a Safety Precaution Every Rider Should Know
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In this handy free video tidbit, Susan Deal (USHJA Certified Trainer, Judge & Steward) demonstrates the proper use of the stick as a back up to the leg aid or to correct a disobedience to the leg aid. New riders, particularly young children on ponies, often lack the leg strength to effectively encourage forward momentum, so correct stick use is a must for beginners. Susan also gives us a very important safety tip concerning the stick that could prevent a rider from being pulled off their horse.
Running Time:  1 minutes and 13 seconds

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Bernie Traurig

As a Horseman, Bernie is renowned for not only his riding talents but for his teaching and coaching gifts. As a competitor, Bernie has represented the United States Equestrian Team both at home and abroad on many occasions and reached the top of the sport in all 3 of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing.After amassing 55 years worth of training and riding techniques and experiences with thousands of horses, Bernie is driven to give back to the sport that has given him so much fulfillment and success.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. so agree with all of the above but would like to add that if I have a green horse that gets spookie at new jumps at the show or we are moving from/to indoor/outdoor and they tend to pay more attention to surroundings then the course I take them to a much lower height for the first class: 1. they can easily jump it even if distracted. 2. builds confidence in a green horse without being overwhelmed especially if they may have more then one jump they need to look at and you only have so much time once in a ring. Then I take them to the class we actually came to show for in the same ring. 🙂

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