Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Horse Refusing Jumping


I have been riding a 13 y/o Appendix Quarter Horse gelding for the past 4 years. The first 2 years we were riding at a hunter/jumper barn where he was mildly abused over fences by the trainer and some riding school children. However, he was usually a very dependable mount when jumping, rarely refusing the fences, even in home shows. Since then we have moved to a new barn which is more concerned with the well being of the horse. We have made him softer, happier, and much more comfortable on the flat.

What I do not understand is why he now is more nervous around jumps and has lack of confidence in new fences that we come across: often refusing or rushing when I push him to it. I feel that the abuse could be one of the reasons. I am afraid of taking him to a jumping show, for fear that he will refuse every new fence he sees (sometimes a couple jumps over a fence in a warm-up still won't calm him). Since he is so comfortable on the flat, I would expect him to be more so over fences. I am wondering if there is anything I can do to boost his confidence such as a special jumping horse bomb-proofing method. Does such a thing exist? What do you recommend?



As a matter of fact there is something you can do to help bomb-proof your jumping horse. It is called ground play (work) and a lot of it. All I hear you mention is riding the horse. There seems to be no ground schooling on a regular basis. Your relationship is formed first and foremost on the ground by having appropriate, successful action and interaction. It is way beyond lungeing for exercise and warm up. This conscious activity on the ground is what builds trust and confidence in a horse. His new surroundings may be better in many ways. But it is still new. Your horse is acting normal for the situation as the jumping over new jumps is the most scary part of what he now does. You will boost his confidence by having a better, more trusting relationship with him overall. That means not just focusing on the human activity of riding the horse, but on the horse itself. Your question is the most common I receive from folks who show their horses and those from English hunter/jumper barns. It is all about the human riding the horse, with little about the horse itself. That is why when a behavioral issue comes up the 'rider' is really at a loss as to how to approach and resolve the problem. So, you have a great opportunity here to learn something about the real nature of horses. Get off of his back and into his mind, psychology and true nature, even for a little while. There is nothing on his back in the wild but a lion. They graciously allow us to ride them. It is a gift from the horse to us. I think it is our responsibility to have a more holistic approach to horses by learning about their minds, psychological needs and emotional lives (which is very big for the horse).

Bomb-proofing comes from patiently and consciously introducing the horse to many potentially scary things with the human on the ground first. Ground driving over jumps, lungeing over jumps both on a longline and at liberty, will help enormously. Hving someone make a lot of noise or waving scary objects while you school the horse on the ground likewise will help tremendously. Any successes you have on the ground this way, will directly translate to more confidence within the horse when it is ridden. The fact that you have reached out for some assistance and not just gone to more diciplin and trying to make things happen is great and I applaud you for this. Your riding instructor will not be much help as this is not a riding issue. Most riding instructors I know of will not admit there is something ehy do not know about horses. Truth is, they may be grat riders and riding instructors, but generally know little of the horse itself and usually go to trying to push the horse through what seems like bad behavior (resistence). Actually, the horse is afraid of something, but that is not believed or accepted. Once the true fearful nature of this prey animal is understood, compassion, kindness and skillful trianing techniques come into play which is a great thing.

Anyway, I appreciate your question a lot and I send Blessings for a successful outcome. There is no quick fix. You will need to take some time and school this horse on the ground as I have suggested for the most effective and efficient way to get him over his fear. I have worked with Grand Prix horses and other high level horses and this is what must be done for success. Good Luck. Please keep me posted if you decide to try my suggestions.

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: