Why I don’t consider refusals a set back

When I first got Scottie he didn’t refuse anything. Now we regularly have refusals. I don’t remember the last time we jumped and we didn’t have at least one refusal. However, I don’t consider this a set back in our training, if anything I see this as a big improvement.

Scottie isn’t refusing out of naughtiness. He is refusing because he wasn’t sure about the jump or wanted a good look at it first or just simply got it wrong and didn’t have the confidence to just go for it. This shows that he is thinking about what he is doing. When I first got him, he wasn’t thinking about what he was doing, he was just doing what racing had taught him to do, jump at high speeds. He wasn’t thinking about the jump at all, just where we were heading in the distance.

Any instructor will tell you that your job is to get your horse to the fence and to ride away. The getting over the jump is the horses job and you want them to have their mind focused on their job! Also, as much as we want our horses to listen to us, we also need them to think for both of us to get us out of sticky situation when we get it wrong. I don’t know about you, but when the jumps get bigger, I don’t want to be riding towards them on a horse who doesn’t think about what’s in front of him!

Scottie is a smart horse. If he refuses a jump he has a good look at it and then is happy and willing to jump it. If he ignores me and rushes and gets a bad stride, next time round he listens to me. As frustrating as it can be, every mistake he makes he learns from and it builds his confidence each time. I don’t mind going back to smaller jumps and having issues when he is learning from them. Much better to have these issues now, than be out competing at 1m+ when he suddenly realises he doesn’t know what he is doing!

However, this also makes me a better rider. When he is not feeling confident he needs me holding his hand every step of the way telling him it is okay and tunnelling him quietly with my hands and legs to tell him we are going over it. When he is feeling confident, he needs me to quietly control his speed with my seat so I don’t distract him from the job.

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