How you deal with refusals can knock your horse’s confidence. Here are some golden rules to help you deal with them when they happen, and hopefully reduce the amount of refusals you get from your horse.

1. Use a building block strategy to enhance challenges bit by bit.

2. Don’t have the fight. Some horses are unconfident or something hurts. Deal with these issues first.

3. Try guide poles to encourage your horse into fences he’s unsure of.

4. Use a shorter, more energetic canter to keep him ‘in the box’ between your leg and hand. Two thirds of the horse should be in front of you at all times.

5. Reward every positive effort, however small.

Baulking at banks and ditches

If your horse often refuses ditches and sunken roads on cross-country courses, try to practice while you’re out hacking.

Use all different types of terrain, such as moving from grass to track to grass, or up and down banks. This will get your horse used to the lie of the land and the colour of the ground changing without breaking his stride.

If you have access to an arena, use materials such as sheets of plastic or tarpaulin between poles to replicate the changing colour of the ground. Have them in the arena all the time to acclimatise your horse to them.

Place them at or just after the corners of the school too, so he learns to deal with being surprised by them.

Practice opening and closing the canter, so you develop a good enough response from your horse to cope with these fences.

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