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Being Pulled to Jumps - Please Help!


I am an adult amateur intermediate level rider, and I have a super cool draft/QH cross that I use for dressage and low level (2’ to 2’6") jumping/eventing. We ride in a loose ring snaffle.

The only problem is he has started to pull me to jumps when we’re cantering. He holds a nice lovely canter to about 2 strides out, then rushes the last two strides and doesn’t listen to my half halts. It makes me nervous and I tend to loose my position. Fortunately he is not a stopper.

We went back to the basics as soon as we started having this issue. He is lovely and supple on the flat, listening to half halts and leg pressure. We do grid work all the time, and he’s a complete gentleman. He is fine if there are lots of ground positioning poles. We could trot jumps all day and have no issue. We only seem to have problems when we’re cantering towards a single jump without placement poles. He is also bad through lines (2 strides to 5 strides). He’ll trot into the first one ok, but then drag me at the canter to the second one.

Please help! Any exercises or training advice would be a huge help. I do have a trainer, and she suggests more grid and transition work, which we’ll certainly keep at, but I just wanted to see if anyone else out there had any advice.

I really don’t want to move to a harsher bit if at all possible.

Lots and lots of pole work, cantering down stopping him, backing him up, graduating to putting the poles off the ground, figure of 8’s over raised poles. Engaging his brain so that he doesn’t think about rushing.
Are you tensing up now that you are waiting for him to rush? Remember whats in the brain goes down the rein so you need to be relaxed also.
If he still insists on rushing don’t fight him, give him his head and make his own life difficult for him, it might not be pretty but he might realize its not worth being a moron if he gets himself into trouble when he rushes.
I know people are going to say bit him up, but I wouldn’t. Its about getting him to think differently and learn that there is no point in rushing because it will make his life harder.
You should also do an exercise with ground poles, set at 4 strides apart and then get him to shorten and lengthen between them, so go down in 3 strides, then 5 strides, then 4 strides, then 6 strides, then 4 strides then 3 strides etc. It’s a great exercise and does get them to listen you can move on to cavaletti and continue the same exercise.
I hope that you can understand all that, I’m not very good with writing what I’m trying to say!!

I’d work on adjusting his canter on the flat. Once you can successfully shorten and lengthen the canter without jumps or poles involved, add them back in. The exercise above, getting different strides on one line with poles, is great. Does he also rush poles? How about crossrails? I think you need to go back down in height until you can get the rushing fixed. There could be a lot of reasons for the rushing. If he’s excited, he needs a longer warm up and maybe even longeing so that he doesn’t have so much pent up energy when he’s excited. If he’s nervous or scared, you might just need to bomb through some low key jumps until he gets his confidence back.

I know you said you don’t want to bit him up, but a loose ring snaffle is such a mild bit that even a small step up to an egg-butt or a D-ring snaffle might help you a little. And you just need a little help. You also need to keep yourself safe. It’s possible that he doesn’t like the bit at all. Have you tried other things with him? Maybe double jointed, fatter or thinner, different materials?

Hey I also have a Draft/QH cross! I would try to figure out if there is anything you are doing during those last few strides that are making him nervous and rushy. I know that when I am not sure of a distance and pull back with both hands on my girl, she tends to lean on me and rush. Has anyone else ridden your horse, do they have the same issues?

What others have said and sometimes a stronger bit allows you to be softer with your hands! A bit is as harsh as the hands using them, if your fighting in a loose ring snaffle you might not fight in a rubber Pelham (like me and my dude) and be able too be more subtle!

My horse used to be a big rusher! Rushing is usually the result of anticipation on both his and your part. On my flat days, I usually make an effort to canter my horse straight to a jump like I’m going to jump it, but turn him away last minute and make it like a large circle. This has really helped him to not anticipate the jump as he has learned that he is not always going to jump a jump if it is ahead of him. This has really taught him how to trust me as a rider and listen to my cues. I would encourage you to try this on your flat days with a variety of jumps and varying how close you get to the jump.

This is one behavior I like to nip in the bud the second it starts. If my horse rushes a fence, the very next one we halt after, turn around and jump it the other way and halt again. Once he gets the message, we resume “normal” jumping. if he decides to ignore my half halts again, back to the halt exercise.

Are you fully seated on approach? Are you sure you are sitting tall with your shoulders open? Any chance you’re a bit forward and essentially telling him to go?

Rule out pain on his part, and clamping on your part.

Describe your half halts. How do you do them?

I suspect that they come more from your hand than your seat, in which case you may be restricting his use of his head and neck going into the jump, which makes him panic and rush to get over it.

All good advice here already. Also, consider trying a pulley gag bit, with two reins. This is NOT “bitting up”, or a “harsh” bit. It can be exactly the same bit as you are currently using, a simple snaffle, and as long as the horse does not grab the bit and bear down on it, taking the pressure on the bars of his mouth to do so, it remains a simple snaffle. However, if he does go to do that (as he has found that this towing is totally successful in his taking over your jumping lines), the action of the gag bit changes, not allowing him to put that pressure onto his bars. Instead, the pressure shifts upwards, into the corners of his mouth. He can’t tow you from there. You do nothing different, and it doesn’t cause him “pain” to use this bit in this manner, it just uses different action than a regular snaffle, if necessary. You ride just the same, holding the reins like normal double reins, soft and quiet. The horse uses the bit, not you. When the horse finds that his regular trick is no longer functional for him, it will be extinguished in time… he just won’t do it any more because it doesn’t work for him. At that point, you can take the gag bit off him, and go back to your regular snaffle again. Some horses, it will take a few weeks to extinguish this behaviour, some longer, and some need to keep the gag in place, let your horse tell you what he needs in this respect.

But do NOT think that this is “bitting up”, because it isn’t. Not “tougher”, just “different”. This is “using a tool to teach your horse what you want him to learn”. “Bitting up” or using a “harsh” bit involves using a bit that is designed to provide discomfort or pain. Things like twisted wire, fishbacks etc. Not a simple, soft mouthpiece snaffle gag. “Gag” is a harsh sounding word, elicits a harsh emotion from a human mind, but used appropriately, this is not a “harsh” bit. It’s use simply defeats a habit that a horse has developed, often due to previous training, riding, and conformation (low built horses tend to tow more effectively- perhaps yours qualifies in this respect?). When that option is removed, you can work on not riding/training in a way that encourages this sort of habit forming again.

“Nip it in the bud”, thank you TBchick. Undoing an undesirable behaviour is harder than letting it get ingrained in the first place.
They are only learning that it is the thing to do if they are not corrected.
Harsh bits, as Nancy said, do not teach anything, unless the horse has been taught what he is doing wrong…they just feel pain which is always a negative, and probably causing more rushing.
I bring the horse to a strong halt, (not a harsh jerk) wait for three seconds, and then continue quietly. She seems to understand that she screwed up. This in all aspects of her work when she takes over. I count dumpety-dumpety-dumpety in my mind and am subconsciously using my body in that rhythm - think hunter round.
But it comes down to basic flatwork and installing elasticity in the education.
I’m all about less is more, and my horse goes in a plastic bit for everything.
Takes hundreds, even thousands of times…
Reward with a stroke, or voice thank-you in your sweetest voice.

Thank you!

Thank you everyone for being so helpful. I definitely get tense on occasion which I know does not help things. Sometimes he pulls first, and that makes me tense, and sometimes I tense first, and that makes him pull, so there’s room for improvement on both sides!

I tried the “bore us to death with cantering low crossrails” exercise last night and added in lots of circles before and after to keep him thinking and moving, and it worked great! He didn’t pull once and I was able to stay nice and loose.

We’ll definitely keep it up and practice the other suggestions.

Thank you all again!

I like jumping on a 20 meter circle for horses who rush. Pick a canter rythym, ride to the jump, canter away on your same circle. The circle helps keep the horse connected in the outside rein and the bend helps control the pace without encouraging you to pull.

Leg on, shoulders back, seat down in the saddle, and wait.