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Horse not stopping and running off after jumping

I ride this mare named Nocturn's Supreme Beauty (Sophie) at my lessons but I am having trouble stopping her. She's fine on the flat but when we start jumping she gets a little too exited and likes to go fast. I'm a junior rider, I've only been riding about 4 years, and I've only ridden Sophie twice. I'm still finding it hard to stop her after jumping. If you could help me I would really appreciate it. So what do you think?


Hi Emily,

Horses getting excited when they jump and runing off from the jump fast, is very common (especially horses in schools and being ridden by different novice riders). Some of it is the horse's habitual behavior when jumping and a great deal is the rider's inexperience, tension and holding of the breath. I shall state what I think are the basic steps to correct this. As this is not your horse but rather a school horse ridden by many others and you have been riding only a limited amount of time, it may be quite challenging.

First thing is to work on the horse's 'stop.' Make certain the horse has a soft and responsive stop at all times. There are training techniques to tune up a horse's stop that are too lengthly to describe in a relatively brief email. I have written about it extensively and info is easily found in the archives of my help center. Once the horse has this really good 'stop' I would begin to walk over a cavaletti and then a series of cavaletti's slowly and occasionally ask for a stop when the horse goes over it. I would reward the horse with a really brief rest (a few moments) and a bit of praise for the good stop. Next I would begin to trot over them and do the same thing. I would make certain it is a slow, soft and controlled trot and then stop. During this phase of the training I would train myself to breath consciously and stay relaxed. A big part of the problem is a rider holding their breath or breathing fast (getting excited and tensing their body) when jumping. This creates fear within the horse and supports the flight response of the horse. Whereas, if the rider was able to breath normally, consciously and stay relaxed in their body during the activity, this would help the horse stay relaxed and calm as well. A horse will only be as good as the rider, is a good rule of thumb. Remember to look past the jump and not right at it when jumping.

I like to train horses to respond to a one handed stop. Horses cannot take the bit and run if they have been trained for a one handed stop. Someone watching won't even see that the rider has asked for this kind of stop as it only involves a slight jiggle of one rein. Of course, the horse has to be trained for it. This is not hard, but time needs to be taken for it which your riding instructor probably won't go for. She/he may not even know what it is.

Something else you could do is to ask your instructor if you can work with the horse taking a very small circle after a jump to slow it down. Here is the thing....Once the horse gets used to being able to do a small circle after a jump (practiced in a leisurely way), the rider can use it as a consequence for the horse speeding up as soon as it jumps. The horse jumps, begins to speed up, rider immediately circles the horse in the smallest circle possible as a consequence. The horse learns that it works harder and does the circle if it speeds up. If it stays calm there is no extra work. Again, this take a bit of time and your instructor may not go for it. Most riding instructors do not want to get into training a school horse. They only want it to be relatively safe for a novice rider. Also, although they won't admit it, most riding instructors do not know that much about equine behavior and quickly go to "show him who is boss and take control of that horse." They actually don't know much about behavorial issues in horses and blame the rider or the horse as being bad, wrong, inept or wimps. They teach riding and do not teach 'horse.' They will not admit there is anything they do not know about horses either. This is most unfortunate for their students and the horses.

My biggest suggestion for you is to work on getting your own horse. How about that for a good idea? Also, view training material (books, DVD's,etc.) to familiarize yourself with the basic behaviors of horses, what causes them and how to modify them. There is a world of horses beyond the human activity of riding them. Imagine that? I have a few in my shopping corral. But there are many around. The horse you are riding is habituated to its behavior. That is a training issue. Old habits are hard to break for humans and horses alike. The best thing you can do for this horse is to make certain you are not holding your breath or breathing fast and tensing your body when jumping. You might be putting your leg on the horse inappropriately when jumping as well. Also, becomming the best rider you can will take time but is a worthwhile endeavour. Don't just focus on riding though. Let the horse's sense of safety and trust become your biggest agenda, beyond riding. This way you will always have good outcomes with the horses you own (and you will own at least one).

I don't know if this has helped much. But I hope so. Please keep me posted.

Blessings to you, Franklin

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