Is your horse particularly keen and eager about their work — so much so that they often anticipate what they’re about to be asked to do and shoot off before you’ve applied the aids?

Strong, sharp horses are often clever and will soon suss what you’re going to ask them to do, says international showjumper Matt Lanni. Here are two exercises you can try to help them to relax and focus:

Exercise 1: Element of surprise

If the above sounds like your horse, use the element of surprise when you’re schooling.

How to ride it

  1. Set two jumps up, 22 yards apart, with a ground pole before each.
  2. Trot over the first element, then ask for halt before the second ground pole.
  3. Keep everything calm and relaxed and think ‘jump, sit up, stop’.
  4. Make a turn, in either direction, and ask for trot again.
  5. Horse getting strong? Riding a 10-12m circle two or three times at either end of the school, and allowing them to lengthen, will enable them to relax into the fence and naturally make the distance.
  6. Progress to jumping both fences together; practise trotting to the first fence, then transition back to trot for the second until this becomes smooth and your horse is not taking charge to the second.

Remember: Teaching a strong horse to relax and wait for you is key, and will up your control outside of the arena when you’re at a show or hacking out – but it takes time.

Exercise 2: Rehearse at home

“You have to do lots and lots of work at home, training your horse to wait and listen, and arming yourself with a well-rehearsed routine you can replicate, in parts, at a show,” says Matt. “The key is allowing your horse forwards, safely, without letting them run away.”

How to ride it

  1. Learn what you can do in the week or so before a competition to help your horse be level-headed and listening on the day – maybe lots of hacking or 24/7 turnout.
  2. If you’re aiming for a dressage test, practise the movements at home in the wrong order to prevent your horse taking control and second guessing what you’re going to ask.
  3. Allow yourself lots of time at a competition to warm up, and repeat the exercises we’ve run through here to allow your horse plenty of controlled forwards movement.
  4. If your horse is a hot head, keep them moving forwards in the warm up and avoid asking for anything that will increase tension in their body and make them feel confined, such as rein-back.
  5. Remember, you can replicate all the exercises we’ve mentioned here in the collecting ring in some form or other.

Read two more exercises from Matt that will help channel your strong horse’s enthusiasm here.

Lead image by Shutterstock

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