It’s not terribly uncommon for a hunter or jumper horse to refuse a fence, either at home or at a show, especially if he or she hasn’t been set up for properly. If it’s a one time deal, the rider may have not adjusted the horse’s stride properly to meet the base of the fence, or he could have been spooked by that particularly “scary” artificial flower box. The possibilities are endless. On the other hand, if refusals and run-outs are becoming an all too common habit, it’s time to take a look at your riding and your horse’s training after ruling out all physical problems.
One of the most common ways riders instill consistent refusals in their horse, especially if he’s young and green, is by over facing him to a jump. By forcing the horse to jump a fence beyond his level of experience or scope, you’re practically crushing his or her confidence in both you as a rider and his own abilities. When schooling a young horse,, he should be slowly introduced to jumps similar to those he will encounter while showing. If, while in the show ring, your horse refuses and spooks at a fence, you should do your best to re-create that fence at home. This will give him the opportunity to adjust to different types of jumps, such as wooden gates, artificial flowers, and brightly painted poles. There’s little point in harshly reprimanding a scared horse, and this will usually just result in his fear being exacerbated.
If your horse has a tendency to put on the brakes right at the base of a fence, this is usually a result of rider error. If a generally honest horse abruptly makes a sliding stop in front of the jump, the distance may have been off or he may have been saving himself and his rider from crashing through it. Though, in a horse that has packed around a multitude of awkward riders may just find it easier to just stop at a fence, rather than take the chance of jumping with an insecure passenger. These riders tend to simply drop the reins and assume a crouched position, leaving the horse aid-less and without guidance, thus signaling the horse that it’s acceptable to stop. A confident, experienced rider can help re-school a horse that’s developed this unfortunate habit.
Have you ever observed your horse’s tracks in the arena sand while he was headed for a jump? Do they seem to drift left, then right, then left again, until he’s left in an awkward takeoff position? If the answer is yes, you when your horses probably have difficulty jumping down a line. When the horse bulges or drifts towards a jump, or even after a jump, he’s basically tuning out his rider’s aids. It’s wise to practice flat work in all three gaits, paying special attention to keep your horse straight with your legs. If he does not respond and move away from pressure from the rider’s leg, it’s near impossible for him to approach a jump straight and in balance. If your horse drifts from a fence because he is lazy, and not because he doesn’t understand your aids, a simple fix is to make a narrow chute towards the jump out of jump poles. Set them perpendicular to the jump, about six to eight feet apart. Using this exercise can help to reinforce your horse’s straightness to a fence, and hopefully discourage him from wiggling and drifting!
“Horse Training – Jumping Refusals.” Youngrider.