Rushing when jumping...
When a horse rushes at, or after, a jump it can be very disconcerting to the rider. It's important to realize that the horse probably isn't very happy about it either; rushing is usually a product of anxiousness or anticipation, or a lack of balance.
What you want to do is to help the horse learn to balance himself, and also to focus his attention on you as you are jumping. These exercises can help you with both balance and focus.
Rushing At Jumps:
If you are dealing with a horse who rushes at jumps out of anticipation, then you want to remove that anticipation. He assumes that he will jump any jump he is pointed towards. So what you do is: you point him at a jump and then DO NOT jump it. The previous exercise comes in handy here.
You see, one of the first things you can do is go over the first jump, make the horse STOP between the two jumps, and then...flip a coin to decide whether you go over the next jump. Sometimes do, sometimes don't. Sometimes go left, sometimes go right. Don't give the horse a predictable pattern to follow; you're trying to teach him NOT to anticipate.
You have several other exercises which you can use to encourage him to focus on you, rather than trying to anticipate and rush the jumps.
You can ride a wiggly line between jumps; if he doesn't know where he's going, he can't rush. This is a depiction of riding a serpentine of two loops between two jumps; you can get very creative about the route you take from one jump to the next, though the jumps are in a straight line.
You can ride a bending line. If he can't even see the jump when you land, then won't assume he is going to jump it, and he won't rush it. By jumping him over jumps he can't anticipate, he will learn to listen to you, rather than to anticipate.
Rushing After Jumps:
If a horse rushes after a jump, it is likely that his problem is landing too much on the forehand. This means that his weight is mostly being carried on his front legs; it's a little like a person leaning forward and trying to walk. You can try this; stand up, lean a little forward, and try to walk normally. You will find that you have to keep scooting forward to keep your balance. Also, while you are walking faster, you are actually taking smaller, rapid steps.
So when a horse lands after a jump and ends up rushing, it is usually because he is not balanced. You can help him by balancing him up to the jump and over the jump, and also by teaching him to "catch" himself as he lands. We're going to discuss the "catching" here.
In order to get off the forehand, the horse has to take more weight on his hind end. There is a quite simple method of teaching him to do this right after a jump. What you do is you take the jump, and then halt. In order to halt, he has to rock back.
If a horse is expecting to halt after a jump--or is at least prepared to halt, if asked--it will be much easier to collect him and balance him. You will find it easier to get his attention and ask him to do...well, whatever you're planning next. It particularly helps when you want to make a tight turn right after jumping, for example to double back and take a jump close to the one you just took.
Remember as you work on this exercise that it is not easy for the horse. He has to use a lot of muscles he's not used to using; if he were used to using them, he'd already be nicely balanced as he lands. So don't expect results right away--don't even expect him to understand the idea right away. In your first session, you may go five strides before you can get a halt. In your next session, perhaps three strides and then a halt. You should eventually be able to halt within a stride of your landing.
Alternative Reasons for Rushing:
This article assumes that the horse is rushing due to a lack of balance or focus. There are other reasons why a horse may act this way. A horse may be rushing before or after jumps due to discomfort or anxiety. If:
* his saddle does not fit,
* his bit is painful,
* he has on a too-short martingale,
* his rider makes up for a lack of balance by either grabbing at the reins or coming down too hard on his back,
then jumping becomes painful for the horse. He then rushes not because he likes it, but in order to get the jumping over with more quickly.
A horse may be anxious about jumping because he was over-faced. This happens when a horse is asked to do too much, too soon. The horse learns to be nervous about jumps, and also rushes so that he may get it over with quickly. A good way to deal with rushing due to anxiousness is to start all over again, to let the horse re-gain his confidence before asking him to move on. I have a related page on the basics of starting a horse jumping. Once the horse can relax while jumping, you can begin to ask for more, higher, combinations, etc again--slowly, so he does not again become overfaced!
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