January. 1, 2020 – Ask Monty Newsletter

Question: Why does my horse refuse a jump?

Why does my horse refuse a jump?

Monty’s Answer:

Probably, you have overmatched him at some point. Get the fences lower, let him have fun and rebuild his confidence. Elevate the fences gradually, attempting to discover his maximum capability. Horses don’t simply refuse a jump for no reason. If I ask you if he has ever refused a cavalletti, I believe your response would be ‘No’. If that’s the case, then a simple answer is that the fence was too high.

Obviously, that simple answer may not be the whole story. It could be that the fence was scary, and he had never seen it before. It’s possible that the ground was too slippery or the going too deep. There are many reasons why a horse may refuse a jump. With that in mind, however, one should realize that horses are generous animals and willing workers. If the environment is set up properly, they love to jump. It is a natural activity with them.

My statement that the horse was probably overmatched is a well-founded general explanation for a horse stopping at a fence. To qualify ourselves as good horsepeople, we should take a hard look at all of the factors involved, come to a conclusion and act in the best interest of the horse to solve his problem. Lowering the fence will be one of the answers in a high percentage of cases involving refusal.

When we are acting responsibly with our horse, we will work to set up a scenario in which he feels good about successfully jumping a fence, and then reward him appropriately. One of the most effective rewards I have used is to have the fence high enough for the horse to feel achievement in jumping it, while still low enough for him to accept. If the rider dismounts as soon as the horse has negotiated the fence, leads him around and allows him to feel pleased with himself in having accomplished his feat, that horse will be a more willing partner.

If you are clever about this, you can arrange your training program so that the schooling session for any given day is conducted over fences that are educational but not overly taxing. Once you have accomplished this, then you can ask the horse to tackle a fence that is a bit of a challenge, ensuring that he approaches it going in his favorite direction; you can then accomplish the jump, dismount and finish the day’s session on a positive note.

You can play with this scenario until you reach what is generally fairly obvious as the horse’s physical limit. Through this method, you can optimize the performance of your horse. However, a good horseperson will observe the horse’s responses carefully and be very careful about increasing the demand.


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