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My horse has confidence issues, Help!

I have had this horse for almost six months and at the shows I’ve been to he has balked and refused jumps numerous times. I have used spurs and crops but nothing is seeming to work. I have been able to get him over a jump if he refused but when he balks 20 feet away I cannot get him to go in the direction of the upcoming jump. This has only been happening at shows but never at home. We recently learned he had a bag jumping accident while with a different barn. I want to make him feel confident again. If y’all could give me some suggestions on what to do I would appreciate it!

I doubt there are truly no problems at home. I would go back to basics with flat work and smaller jumps at home.

I would also stop showing him for the season. A balking horse that’s got after with crop and spurs just starts balking sooner and sooner until it won’t even enter the ring. And he will start doing it at home too.

Once you start taking him back in shows next year, start with schooling shows. Maybe try him in a walk trot poles or a cross poles class. Or just stay in the warm up ring. Keep it very simple and well below his ability.

I had good results with my horses balking problem by just repeatedly riding in and out of the arena until she stopped being sticky. Unfortunately it’s hard to do that at a show.


I agree, quit showing this year. It’s not fun for you or him. People in the US are really lucky with the schoolin show opportunities. Start him at shows like you would at home with jumping, start at trotting poles, if he succeeds move to cross rails and maybe stay there for a few shows.

Indeed. Go back to the beginning - flat work focusing on calmness and willingly going forward. Low pressure. Work around fences, not over them until he’s completely relaxed and listening (and this will not happen in one day, or even a week!). Slowly introduce single poles to walk over, and then trot over - no related distances until he’s calmly and happily doing the single poles.

When you re-introduce fences, start with single crossrails, and build slowly on that. As he progresses (and it might take months to get him back to crossrails), start making things more interesting (decorate the standards, add flowerboxes, etc). Only when he’s happily jumping anything you put him at are you ready to go back to a horse show, where you’ll be best off in the warmups until he’s comfortable.

The big thing is to take the pressure off and make this fun for him (and you!) again. Gain his trust by going slowly and never lying to him. There’s no quick fix once they start stopping.

Good luck!

How are YOU at shows? Are you getting nervous and inadvertently communicating that to your horse? In my experience, riders rarely ride the same at shows and at home.

Does he only balk at jumps which are moving away from the in-gate? Perhaps he is not comfortable being in the ring without his buddies? Try to re-create the show experience at home during a lesson by having other riders wait outside the arena while you jump a few fences.

And I agree with the others…take a break from showing, or show only in flat classes until you can get at the root cause.

Good luck!

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Set him up for success. 100% of the time, always always always. Stopping won’t be an issue if you never face him with something he feels like he can’t do. You’ve got to make him confident, borderline cocky. The fact that he’s stopping is YOUR fault.

Does he do this with your trainer?

Suggestions for you:

First off - rule out physical issues, and saddle fit

-No more shows for the year, because there is no way you have time to do the leg work to get him over this before the end of the season.
-Haul out of your home barn a lot for lessons and trail rides. Is it boring and time consuming? Sure sometimes, but that’s what it will take to work on this. Twice a month at least.
-Figure out what height he starts to balk. Lower that 6", or more if needed. Do this jump height a million times in a million locations until you’re confident he won’t balk at it ever. Now raise it 3" but be prepared to lower it if he balks.
-“scary jump schools” - go to the dollar store and have a field day with party decor etc. Now decorate something TINY - 12-18" - at home, make a course of scary jumps. At first you might have to show him the jumps but that’s ok. Over time, work on not showing him the jump first.

Your job as his owner is to create a calm and conditioned response. See fence --> jump fence. Somewhere, there is a disconnect. Find it, fix it. Start over if you have to. It’s fun to jump high, but if he’s acting out at shows you have to be the bigger person and ride the horse you have, not the one you want.


What if you take him places to school? Does he have the same balking issues? I know I have similar issues at shows as when I am just schooling somewhere. It is still an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar jumps. At home both you and him are very comfortable, step slightly outside your comfort zone schooling not jumping off the deep-end at shows. Start back at the beginning and bring him along again confidently.

This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but we had a horse who had a bad jumping accident at a show, and did this exact same thing after. She would jump anything at home, or even other rings, but as soon as we took her to a real show (even schooling) she would start stopping. We did a whole summer doing scary jumps, small jumps, combinations (where she had her accident), but nothing would help once she was at a show, we figured it was because she was afraid of falling again. She was hard to ride as it was, so this added stress just wasn’t worth it and she retired from jumping (flat only horse). If your horse seems like this, I would try going into as many warm up classes as possible and letting him see everything and jump it and try not to put him in any situation that makes him nervous (she hated taking the long spots, thats how the accident happened, so maybe something similar?). Do as much as you can to help him and let him see he can trust you to guide him and not get into another accident. Try not to take it out on him, accidents are hard to overcome! Good luck

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