Trouble Shooting – Expert Advice to Avoid Refusals

Français : Refus sur le tour d'obstacle sur un...

A Missed Distance is Bad But a Refusal Will Drop You Out of the Ribbons(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you enter the show ring your first concern is to get to eight jumps correctly and succinctly. Missing a distance is bad but a refusal will drop you out of the ribbons for sure. If you have a refusal don’t despair, it just means you need to go back and get some more practice in.

Top Tips To Avoid Refusals

The first thing riders must do is ride positively toward the fence. Having the idea a horse ‘may refuse jump 4 like all the other horses’ will only instill this notion (and it is a notion) in your mind and in your horse’s mind.
As soon as you feel your horse backing off from a fence, sit up and start a positive ride to the fence. There is no need for dramatic arm flapping and aggressive growling. Use your seat and legs to get your horse to the base of the fence.

If you need to use your stick, use it 3 strides from the fence. It makes no sense to use your crop when your horse is taking off. Why punish your horse for going to, and jumping the jump?

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At this point you should be happy your horse has jumped the jump. If you are in a show situation, you have probably dropped down in the placings because of the horse sucking back. If it is rushed, hurried or from a poor spot, remember to school similar fences at home.

When you are at home schooling, keep a steady rhythm and approach the same fence again. The horse should have a sense of confidence and the fence should be smoother and more rhythmic. Sometimes the horse may jump HUGE! remember to grab mane and reward the horse for his efforts.

Plan ahead to avoid a run-out. If you know your horse may run out the first thing is to put your stick into the hand your horse most likely will run-out on. For example if I know my horse will run out to the left, I will put my crop in my left hand.

Run-outs are usually caused by lack of confidence in the horse. Before heading to a show, prepare your horse by practicing obstacles which you may find at the show. Bright birch jumps white gates and scarey hay bales come to mind!

Keep your horse between your hand and leg. Have the feeling you are pushing your horse up a narrow hallway. Snug and equal pressure on each rein. If you feel the horse wobble left or right have your leg,seat, hand, stick handy to correct any deviation.

When you school your horse at home repeat a simple jump, cross-rail or pole until your horse continues straight and rhythmic over the jump.

If you have a nappy horse while on course, take your time and be confident in your riding. Nappy horses usually lack self esteem and with quiet confidence you will get your horse moving forward again. Maintain your rhythm with your seat and legs. If your horse decides to spin, turn him back to the direction he came. When he is more confident in his way of going then proceed to the jump.

Be aware if you are experiencing refusals, run-outs and nappiness, you may be over facing your horse and you may have to re-assess your program. Back off and start from the beginning with a solid foundation of poles and gymnastics to get the horse the confidence it needs in the show ring.

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Laura and De L’Aire at Thistle Ridge Stables

Do you have a horse which used to refuse or run -out? Write a comment and let us know how you corrected it! We;d love to hear from you.




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Don’t Lose Your Cool – Ten tips to keep your cool at horse shows

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Being Nervous is OK


Most athletes have butterflies prior to the big game. When you, as a horse back rider and competitor have a case of nerves, your horse can feel it. Remember:


what goes in the brain, goes down the rein


Keep these simple tips in mind when heading out for your show to help you keep your cool while in the show ring.


  1. Recognize your nerves. Before being able to get a hold of your nerves you must first recognize them. Feeling queasy, nervous, agitated and irritable are all signs of nervousness. If you feel this way take a deep breath and relax throughout your body. Your body, when under pressure, tightens up and breathing and relaxing helps to get oxygen to your muscles and relieves tension in your body.
  2. Be confident you can do it. You will feel more secure if you know you are within your depth. If you are schooling 2’6″ at home, don’t enter a 3foot class at a show. Develop a schooling program to prepare yourself for the big day and be assured you can do this.
  3. Sleep. Get enough sleep leading up to the show. Rest assured you will not get to
    much sleep the night before the show so make sure you are well rested on the nights leading up to the show.
  4. Get organized. Have a list and check things off as you put them into the trailer. Keep things organized and prepare your equipment in advance.
  5. Don’t be rushed. Arrive to the show grounds in plenty of time. Get a routine so you know what you should be doing while at the grounds.
  6. Stay away from negative people. Being around negative people just brings everyone down. Negative comments erode your confidence. If you need to be by yourself to review your round or class, go and be by yourself and concentrate on the good points of the round to help maintain your confidence.

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    Most Competitors Have Pre-Race Jitters

  7. Know you belong. Don’t be intimidated by others around you. Concentrate on your horse and know you have the knowledge and ability to handle situations which arise at horse shows. Most situations which arise at horse shows have been dealt with while schooling at home.
  8. Get help if you need it. If you need help don’t be afraid to ask for it. It may be from a knowledgeable friend, your regular instructor or coach, if you get into a sticky situation with some last minute challenges, enlist the help so you can get your confidence back on track before heading into the ring.
  9. Know it’s all right to feel nervous. Nerves can work to your benefit. They make you feel more alert, and more engaged with your horse so use them to your advantage.
  10. Breath and have fun! You will be surprised how much fun you can have if you make the decision to enjoy yourself rather than win ribbons.




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Anatomy of A Hunter Round Part 5 – The Exit


Finishing Your Hunter Round in an Efficient Manner is Icing on the Cake. (Photo credit: carterse)

Think of the hunter round of being composed of  five parts:

  1. the start
  2. the approach
  3. the course
  4. the finish
  5. the exit.

The first four were dealt with in previous posts so we are moving onto the exit.

Finishing your hunter round in an efficient manner is the icing on the cake. After completing your finishing circle, bring your horse forward to the walk and leave the ring. There is no need for dramatic hugs, pats and ‘good boys/girls. Acknowledging your horse is paramount, but dropping the reins and squealing with delight is just a recipe for disaster (and it looks bad).

We as judges are excited to see excellent rounds. And I know of a few riders who have dropped down a few placings because of exuberant well wishers exclaiming within my earshot, “too bad you added a stride in the last line”. Too bad indeed!

It is good enough to pat your horse and acknowledge their efforts. It shows good horsemanship, compassion and integrity for the sport.  Exclamations of GOOD GIRL/boy after the horse has refused, knocked down and bucked are not warranted. If the rider thinks that is good, well, maybe they should rethink their training strategy.

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Anatomy of the Hunter Round Part 4 – The Finish

Eye of a Horse (Andalusian)

You Are Being Judged Until You Have Exited the Ring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think of the hunter round of being composed of  five parts:

  1. the start
  2. the approach
  3. the course
  4. the finish
  5. the exit

The first three were dealt with in previous posts so we are moving onto the finish.

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A Good Finishing Circle and Downward Transition Could Boost Your Placing

Although the course itself is completed remember you are being judged right up until you have exited the ring. The final circle is the last thing the judge will see of your horse.

It will leave a lasting impression. When completing your final circle before exiting… ride the circle. Allowing your horse to fall into a poorly executed transition, or pulling the horse back will leave a lasting impression with the judge.

Most judges will, by this time in the course have a score figured out, or have you situated in the placing line-up. A professionally executed transition could boost your placing. Likewise a yanking back, complete with horse opening its mouth could drop you a placing. Be aware the judge may be marking the card, but they may also be watching to see if they ‘like’ you better than the previous competitor.

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