Q: My horse tries to rush every time we canter or jump. How can I stop him from rushing without slowing him down too much or affecting his performance?
If your horse rushes while cantering on the flat, perhaps because he is an ex-racehorse that was taught to speed up when you tighten the reins, try going back to the longe line until he can balance himself and slow down. Spend about 10 minutes before each ride longeing him in side reins–these should be adjusted long enough that he can keep his face slightly in front of the vertical at the trot and canter. As he builds up strength at the canter without fighting against you, you’ll find he can do more and more circles in a balanced, slow canter. When you ride him, only canter on a 20 meter circle until he’s listening to you, then try to keep that same pace as you go down the long side. Be sure not to grip on his mouth, but support the canter with your legs until he gives and relaxes the same way he did on the longe line.
There are a few exercises you can try while schooling jumps at home, too. The best thing to do with horses that rush over jumps is to trot them. Start with ground poles, and then move to cross-rails and tiny verticals, not allowing your horse to go faster than a trot. If your horse wants to pick up a canter as soon as he sees the jump, try trotting on a circle so he won’t see the jump and lock onto it. Keep the jumps very small so he can still step right over them, even from an awkward line. If he blasts into a canter upon landing, circle him or halt him every time until he learns to stay calm and immediately drop back to a trot upon landing.
Eventually he will realize that speed is not necessary for propelling himself over the jumps, and will slow down and push off his hind end instead. It may take months and months, but your patience in this step will be the foundation of your horse’s jump training for the rest of his life.
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