Top showjumper and trainer Sam Hutton suggests incorporating some easy exercises into your schooling sessions.
“As well as slowing down a horse that rushes, these exercises are useful for anyone to do, as they help develop a good rhythm, which is what you want for showjumping,” he says.
Exercise 1: Knees up
Working your horse over raised trotting poles will encourage him to use his shoulders and require him to decide where he needs to put his feet.
“It helps to slow him down, because he has to think about picking up his feet, rather than just rushing through,” says Sam.
Exercise 2: More or less
“Lay the poles on the ground, any distance apart,” says Sam. “Ride through in canter and count the number of strides your horse take. Then, try asking for more or fewer strides between the poles.
“This exercise will teach your horse to listen to you and wait. If you do it regularly, you'll find it easy to adjust his stride on a showjumping course, asking him to move forward or come back to you instantly.”
Exercise 3: Don't look down
Set up a short grid. Place a pole on the ground one stride (about 4.5ft or 1.5m) to a cross-pole, followed three strides (about 13ft or 4m) to another ground pole. Trot into the grid, making sure you look up and ahead.
“Although this grid is simple, I find it useful because the horse can't run off – after jumping the cross-pole he will see the ground pole and that will slow him down,” says Sam. “He has to put in three strides between the two elements.
Exercise 4: All change
Next, set up a grid of three canter poles (each about 4ft or 1m apart) leading to a cross-pole, followed by another pole on the ground 3.5ft or 1m away.
“The initial poles get the horse into a nice rhythm, while the pole after the fence encourages him to lower his head and neck, and slow the rhythm on landing,” explains Sam.
“Also, allow the canter poles to get your horse to the right take-off point and use this as an opportunity to think about your position.”
Exercise 5: Stopping point
“Another exercise for horses that rush is to use the wall of the indoor school to slow down,” says Sam.
“Set up a fence a good distance from the corner of the school. Jump it, then keep going straight towards the wall – use your position and voice to steady the horse, but don't haul on the reins.
“The aim is for the horse to pull himself up. Also, pre-empt which way he wants to turn, and go the opposite way.
“This helps if a horse tends to anticipate a turn. You will need to learn to feel for this – work out which shoulder they drop.”
This article is an extract from one that originally appeared in Horse magazine's July 2012 issue.
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