Ask HQ: I’ve had problems with my horse refusing and my instructor says it’s because I’m not committed to the jump. Is this true?

Horses pick up on our body language, so if you are not committed to the jump in your mind, it’s likely that your body is doing the opposite of what it needs to, thereby giving your horse uncertainty about the jump. In order to provide your horse with clear instructions about getting over the jump, your aids should be accurate and positive toward the jump. You should have a contact with your horse’s mouth but not be pulling, your seat should be engaged and your leg should be on. If you’ve had a bad past experience or if you’re not a naturally confident rider, it’s likely that something in the back of your mind is telling you that this jump is not a good idea. This is further translated into resistance in the body. Even if you tell yourself mentally, “I want to jump”, there may be subtle signs in your riding that are throwing your horse off and giving him mixed messages.

Assess yourself on the approach to the jump – are you throwing your hands forwards at the last minute? Or are you perhaps holding your horse too much for the last couple of strides? Is your leg on? Are you collapsing your upper body in the approach? These are all subtle signs that your horse will pick up. Some horses might just get on with the job anyway, but a sharper or more sensitive horse will sense your uncertainty and say “No way!” It’s best in these situations to be honest with yourself and your instructor, and accept that you need to take things back a few steps to regain the confidence you need to move forwards. The worst thing you can do when it comes to riding is to rush and scare yourself into doing something you’re really not ready for. You have to be committed in your mind in order to be committed in your body, and this will only come right over time.