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Horse Behavior and Training

Refusing jumps

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My daughters 6 year old pony who we have owned for 4 months tenses up as soon as we put up jumps in the paddock - his paces get very choppy and he holds his head very high. He gets really uncomfortable to ride and rushes for the jumps. He often stops sharply before the jumps. We did go back to basics and did not do any jumping at all and then started to do just poles but it does not seem to have helped. I am sure he has had some bad experience jumping. Do you have any advice on what I could do to calm him down and stop him refusing the jumps. We are not trying to jump anything higher than 2 feet at the moment.
Would appreciate your advice on this.

vicci - UK (North Wales)
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed

Hi, there are a few things that may be worth considering

1. Check that his saddle fits (not too tight/loose/hindering his shoulder movement) and that he's not in any pain at all (sore back/withers/joints/feet etc.) anywhere which makes jumping difficult for him.
2. Check your daughters riding style, does she (without thinking) grip on tighter as she is approaching the jumps/get nervous or anything that the horse can pick up on?

If 1 and 2 are ok, then...

1. As you said, go back to basics, but right back. If he is getting tense as soon as the poles go up then it needs to go back to him being ok with the poles being around in the paddock (just lying around on the floor). At the moment he is making all the associations as you describe. Then maybe put up one jump and just leave it there - dont refer to it at all just do some groundwork leading over poles etc.
2. Then progress to longlining, over poles, small jumps etc. until he feels relaxed and comfortable.
3. Then progress to riding over poles then low jumps and only increasing the height of the jumps by a tiny amount each time both on longlines and riding.

This may seem laborious but sometimes we try to progress at the pace we want him to go rather than what he is able to do. As Monty says, repetition and SMALL incremental learning are the key aspects.

Good luck.

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

Well I would have to agree with you that your pony has had some bad experience with jumping. Ponies are very keen animals (they have great memories and survival instincts) and you need to acquire back his trust. Who knows how long this may take. I would first always ride your pony amongst the jumps without jumping them. Be relaxed and do not ask for anything jumping wise. Let him sniff the jumps, then walk around them. When he seems relaxed around the jumps, begin jumping small jumps - only a few. End on a positve jump - if it is only the 2nd jump, that's OK. To gain his trust, you need to reward and for the first few sessions, you really need to stop after a good jump. Be sure the rider has proper technique. Very important. She must not hit him in the mouth over the jump. She must not look down before the jump but at a point past the jump, and she must support the pony with her legs....squeeze. Good Luck