What KatRocks said.
Circles before a jump are amazing. My gelding was a lovely steady jumper when I first got him, but I basically let him do whatever he wanted, and he started rushing his fences because he knew I would let him get away with it. I lost a huge amount of confidence with him over this and other issues, and when I eventually got myself some lessons, my coach had me do this... among other things.
Monty's problem is that he likes to lock on to his fences and set himself up, and I wasn't a good enough rider to set him up right, so he would constantly be fighting against my incorrect cues.
The circles stopped him rushing his fences from the trot but didn't do much in the canter because my confidence issues with him had me petrified of cantering on the flat... actually up until about 2 months ago, that issue never really went away! So, I was scared, my horse knew it... and when I'm scared, I drop my horse and go into "stay on" mode. Meaning, let the horse do what he's going to do, and try not to die in the meantime!
I talked to my coach about a stronger bit. My coach disagreed with the idea, saying that I should be able to control my horse in a snaffle in any situation. For the most part, I agree with him - and indeed, I agreed with his reason entirely (just not 100% of the conclusion). I knew the problem was not my horse, because I knew that he was an eventer and prior to my owning him had been a snaffle-all-3-phases horse. The sort you buy for your kid because you know it's a safe horse and a small person would be able to control it.
So (I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS) what I ended up doing was digging out an old kimblewick - this bit is around the 25yo mark - which was the perfect size for my lad and had the perfect mouthpiece. I rode in it a few times on the flat to get a feel for the bit, and then tried him over poles in it. First time through, I forgot to half-halt, and he rushed. Second time through, some nice firm half-halts, and he was perfect.
3 days later I jumped 95cm on him. Out. I was just about pooping myself, but I did it. Prior to that, I'd been training around the 60cm mark, at home, and trotting into my fences.
For a while I rode only in the kimblewick, then decided to enter a one day event. For which he had to go in a snaffle for the dressage phase, so I had to put him back in one. I realized that I'd made him harder-mouthed, and changed what I was doing so that he was in the snaffle 4 days a week and the kimblewick just one - the day I jumped.
Gradually, I got more and more confident, and he went back to his usual self on the flat. Not precisely soft (he likes a very firm contact) but certainly not hard.
Not long after the one day event, I started popping him over small fences at the end of a flat session - therefore, in a snaffle. I took him to a showjumping day a while later, I think around 2 months? He went in the kimblewick because I was nervous about how he would act at a show (considering he was an idiot at the event), but he was lovely. A little strong, but under control. We had a 3rd place (my fault, we had one refusal at a fence I was worried about) and a win.
Just after that show, I decided that enough was enough, and I just wanted him in a snaffle. So I switched out the bit on his jumping bridle and started riding only in a snaffle at home and on trail rides. Still my perfect angel.
Another couple of months went by and I took him to another show. This time, I took my kimblewick, but I left it off the bridle, deciding to see how he went in the snaffle first. First showjumping round, he was a holy terror, very strong and we had 2 refusals before the 4th fence. I retired and went out to warm up/chill out some more. That show allows competitors to try again H/C (non-competitive) as a training effort, so once all the competitive riders were through, Monty and I had another crack at it. He was beautiful, but decided he did not like the fill at 6A and refused outright to jump it, so we skipped the combination at 6 and moved on.
Next round was a little bigger. Again, perfect angel horse until 6A, where we were eliminated. I scratched from our 3rd round because it was bigger still and if he wouldn't jump it at the lower heights it wasn't worth trying to get him over it in a bigger course.
Long story short the event officials let us train over the fill once competition was done for the day and I did eventually get him over 6A and B.
The purpose for this novel is to tell you that it DOES get better!
Last edited by blue eyed pony; 10-05-2012 at 02:15 PM.