Sometimes it’s hard for a rider, especially a young rider, to understand the feel required on the approach to a fence: the difference between the horse taking you into a fence and rushing to the fence.
Last week I came up with an analogy, which will come into force this week – you have been warned, clients!
When you’re riding a horse you want to feel that they’re taking you into a fence, in front of the leg. If they aren’t, then there tends to be two outcomes.
Which can be likened to a tube of toothpaste.
Imagine a tube of toothpaste, fairly full, with the lid off. Now, clap your hand down on the toothpaste and watch the paste spurt out. This is the equivalent to giving a horse a big kick a few strides away from the fence. Some horses don’t mind this, and would prefer the definite feel of commitment and “let’s go” from the rider. Others get pushed out of rhythm and put off their stride and can cause a refusal.
Let’s go back to the toothpaste scenario. This time, you’re going to push gently with your fingers, akin to squeezing with the leg. The paste smoothly glides out of the nozzle. This is the equivalent of the horse feeling reassured by the rider’s commitment to the jump and moving in front of the leg; perhaps a slight lengthen of stride but ultimately engagement of the hindquarters to give the canter a bit more power whilst maintaining the rhythm and the horse’s stride. Then the horse feels confident to jump the fence.
When approaching a fence you want the horse to feel that they’re taking you into the fence, and if you feel them back off it’s important to reassure them without putting them off their stride. So don’t spurt the toothpaste otherwise they may start to doubt themselves and refuse.