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Answers to Your Tough Equine Questions Straight From the Horses Mouth!

Dear Nellie,

I am hoping you can help me with my rider. He is a very tactful rider, but does not seem to understand what I need to do to keep us safe over fences.

I have been around for awhile, and think I am a good influence on him while he is learning. He is building his confidence each time we go out, and we have been having a pleasant time, up until now.

We are starting to work over fences, and I must say I love to jump! But lately, it has become quite an ordeal for me. I know my job, and can adjust my stride to get us to each obstacle perfectly. Unfortunately, just as I have done the math, calculated the number of strides needed to get us there safely, and started to lengthen to the proper distance, he starts hauling on my mouth and making it impossible for me to continue without chipping or having to add strides to save us both.

I donít want to have to quit, but I donít want to try to leave the ground while compromised and maybe fall. I have chatted across the fence with a buddy of mine who has experienced this same problem. He says he fixes the matter by really running at the fences. To get over the fence, before his rider can pull too hard and make it too dangerous to jump. I am not sure thatís how I want to try fixing this problem. I know my buddy has gone through a lot of riders, and lately their answer is to put a more severe bit in his mouth. I donít think thatís a good answer for me. What should I do!

Scared To Jump

Whoa Nellie!

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Dear Scared,

Wow, I feel for you! So many riders, old and new, mistake our lengthening stride to the fences as what they call ďrushingĒ. They do not seem to understand that mechanically we need to move forward to the proper distance to be able to jump well, jump clean, and in stride. People often forget that jumping is something that we do innately, and in many instances, that means that we often know more about jumping safely then they do!

Our basic communication problems with our riders, is that they forget that our relationship with them, should be a partnership! They often do not hear us, and do not in many cases even know how to listen to what we try to tell them. I have known many horses that have either stopped jumping all together, or done as your buddy, and started rushing just to try to get the jump over with before something bad happens. I know horses that start rooting, and trying to pull the reins away to save their mouths, but that does not seem to elicit anything positive either.

Rather then to start quitting, and risk unwarranted punishment, or risk your safety and the safety of your rider by rushing, I would suggest that you break to a trot to negotiate the fence. If you are an old hand at this, I know that you can manage a bigger fence at a trot then your rider is ever going to point you at. This way you can jump safely, not feel the need to hurry the process, and not feel you have to quit, to be safe. Hopefully, this will get your rider focused on riding forward to the fence, and give your mouth a break. By the time he figures out he canít ride you backwards to the fence comfortably, he will have taken is hands out of the equation and be glad when you finally start that lengthening stride again. That will get you both there in good form, and safely to the other side.

Humans feel the need to fix everything with their hands. They often forget that their hands often wield a hurtful weapon in our mouths. The thought of having to let go to stop, or let go period, is very hard for many of our human partners. We have to realize, that often people have no idea what our needs are to do our job well, or safely for both our sakes.

Let me know how you make out. Ill be pushing for you.


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