Sustaining Our Confidence – Jumping

Both Orla & I have run into problems jumping both Dante & Coco in the past. We’re definitely making progress but we never stop learning when it comes to these two horses. And we can definitely say without a doubt that our confidence has been tested on a number of occasions when it came to putting these horses over a jump!

So have a read below and let us know what you think of our Jumping Edition. Let us know if you have any tips or tricks we could test out, considering the two horses are so freakishly opposite, it makes for a very interesting read with a lot of variety! 


Dante have become quite a freak show to jump the last few months. Jumping a course of fences on him started to become such a pain because of all the problems he began picking up. Learning from past experiences, I stopped before the problems became permanent problems & instead worked on getting rid of them! Just last week Myself and Dante got back into jumping courses & the change in him was huge. The difference 3 weeks of focused work does to him is phenomenal, his jumping techniques have improved, along with his overall attitude, read below & find out my techniques! 

Rushing Fences & Running with The Contact

Dear god, Dante used to demolish fences he still does just not as bad as he did before! He is still so unbalanced that any slight drop into a fence from me & he practically falls to pieces. Dante has started Rushing into pretty much everything, a problem caused more than likely because he is weak and doesn’t have the muscle to hold himself together & the fact that I cant support him enough into fences!  So with a few weeks of trotting poles, and transition work we began jumping again. This rushing problem crept up on us again, my hands would be ripped off me when it came to jumping single fences with him. I had dealt with a lot of behavioural issues with him recently, and I feel like his jumping was kind of ignored. 

It was such a horrible experience. Imagine yourself on your horse, approaching a fence, then 3-4 strides away literally them cocking their jaw up so high that you have zero control. Sitting there was all I could do. It was not pleasant. 

How I solved the issue:

Exercise 1 Jumping on a tight circle. Giving Dante little opportunity to rush or charge towards the fence. Keeping the circle tight ensured that he began to listen to me. He also had to start getting himself out of trouble when it came to his approach. Getting to close to the fence would only make him learn, likewise if he ever ran into the fence completely.  As he improved with this exercise, we made the circle bigger, and increased it in and out to whatever suited his performance

Exercise 2 Some people may not agree with this technique but it worked for Dante, well the penny eventually dropped in Dante’s head after 4/5 attempts. We set up a fence with a canter pole either side. As I approached the fence I would then ask Dante to come to a hault before the first placing pole preparing for the hault transition no sooner than 4/5 strides away. The aim was for him to realise rushing wasn’t the answer, slow and steady was what we wanted. This exercise was difficult to begin with, one or two tantrums also thrown in the mix but he eventually realised what I was asking him to do and began to slow down on approach to the fence. 

Exercise 3 Well this isn’t an exercise but more like a trick I figured out to slow him down, that I though be best to share with you all so you could give it a try. Talk to your horse, let them know your there. Dante is such a needy horse, I think he forgets I am riding him at times, recently I discovered that if I scratch him half way up him neck and literally tell him woahh’ him slows down tremendously! I honestly thought it was a fluke the first time until at every corner before I approached a fence I would do it and he would come back to me! So give it a go with your horse! see if it makes a difference, Dante gets flustered easily its almost like he forgets where he is and what he’s doing, I guess the reassurance that I’m there is all he needs at times! 


Careless Jumping, not lifting his Legs

Dante Is a big horse with a lot of scope, but to be honest that is not an excuse for him to jump big fences all the time. He gets very careless and sloppy from time to time, knocking poles and often dragging them along with him. He definitely does not respect a small jump, stepping over some occasionally, but if I was to jump big fences with the way he carries on it could land us in a lot of trouble. 

I have put open boots on Dante, literally 3 thin leather straps is all that protects his front legs, in hope that him knocking poles will hurt him & make him want to lift him legs, but no, nothing phased him at all. He is one hardy horse I tell you! But we did come to one conclusion, one exercise that seemed to do the trick!

 Exercise 1 Jumping out in the field. Taking Dante out of the arena, a place he was never fond off to begin with. Cross country fences were the answer to all our troubles. He literally needed to lift his legs up over the fence or he would literally stumble and fall over himself. If he started to jump them carelessly he soon found out the consequences. As horrible as it sounds it works. Hitting an XC fences is not like hitting a pole in the arena, cross country fences don’t just fall to the ground or roll away, they don’t move. The improvement I am seeing in his jumping is huge, I often finish a session in the field after doing arena work if his jumping is careless in the arena.

Exercise 2 Grid work, and loads of it. Making sure to incorporate a lot of bounces. This is a great exercise not only for them to lift them legs, but it rounds there jump up and helps them jump from their hind which is what you want them to be doing. 


Less hands, More Seat & Leg

I my as well just get rid of my reins all together!! The more I interfere with Dante’s mouth, the more he tries to fight back with me. This may be the result in his running with the contact problem and with him cocking the jaw. Most problems come from the rider and unfortunately this one did come from me, But I am fixing it!

Riding with a soft contact is freakin scary, holding onto my reins tightly was what I done when he had a tantrum, reared or took off, so it was a safety net of mine. Getting rid of it wasn’t just going to happen after one or two lessons. For the last 3-4 weeks I have been constantly at myself whilst riding soften the contact, and the difference I am seeing is insane. 

Pushing Dante into my hands from my leg has become a lot easier, bearing in mind he is still building up the muscle to be able to carry himself correctly but at the minute I am not too worried about that as he has a lot more growing and muscle gaining to do. 

If you have confidence issues with this, or if you are scared shitless like I was, it literally felt like I was giving him the freedom to run free, I found doing grid work a nice transition into less hands’. Not only does doing grid work help your horses jumping technique, but it also gets them to think for themselves. They have to find their feet whilst doing a grid with that leg guidance from you of course, if you interfere with your hands during a grid,  you will soon learn its easier to give the horse his head!



I recently wrote a post about mine and Coco’s journey into the world of jumping. I briefly discussed the various issues that I faced but I never really went into much detail of how I actually dealt with the problems and how I managed to keep my own confidence to be able to push through it.

Bunny-Hopping to avoid jumping

So we’ve all heard about Coco’s bunny-hopping problems but what can you actually do when your horse is already thinking about avoiding jumping before they’ve even started their approach? These are a few things I tried with Coco.


Exercise 1 Cut the Approach Short

Sometimes giving your horse less time to think before the jump is the simplest answer. Shave two or three strides off your approach by coming in at a tighter turn, opening your inside hand to give them space while keeping a strong outside leg to push them around and into the fence. This one worked for a while with Coco until she started figuring out what I was doing and began anticipating the turn.

Exercise 2 Stop them dead and push them on

Sometimes I couldn’t even get Coco to turn into the approach before she started bunny-hopping out. So when it became impossible I would stop her dead in her tracks, face her towards the fence and pushing her up into canter and straight into the jump. There were times when she literally went from halt to canter from 5 strides out and jumped perfectly. It was crazy how well this worked.

Exercise 3 Chase them into it

This wouldn’t be everyones favourite tactic but sometimes you have to be tough. There were times when I had gotten so fed up with Coco’s attitude that all I wanted was to get her over that fence. As she started to run out, I would push her right into the base of the fence and give her a smack on the outside shoulder when she ignored my outside leg. There were times when I did this and when I brought her back around to jump the fence again, she wouldn’t even think twice. And then there were other times when no matter what, every time was just a struggle so it really depends on what stage you and your horse is at.

When it comes to this type of behaviour, some horses can be just trying it on whereas other horses are doing it for valid reasons. In Coco’s case, she needed a new saddle so it’s always good to rule out anything like this before jumping straight to the ‘behaviour problem’ solutions.

Picking the Wrong Stride

Finding the right stride has been a persistent problem I’ve had throughout my years of horse riding. It’s not so much an issue when you’re on a horse who has been schooled well enough to find its own strides but when you’re teaching a young horse it’s really something you need to be able to do. My problem isn’t that I can’t see a stride, it’s that I struggle to adjust a stride correctly when I know I’m not going to meet the fence right. I never know whether I’m better off holding and asking for the short stride or pushing to ask for the long stride. So I end up panicking, putting my leg on and leaving my horse to figure it out for themselves which isn’t exactly ideal!



When it came to Coco the first step was figuring out what was the best way to jump her. Was she a better jumper when she was left alone to figure herself out? Did she need to be pushed on and revved up? Or did she need to be held right up to the fence? If you’re struggling when it comes to jumping your horse, it’s definitely worth trying all methods and comparing how well they jumped each time. In Coco’s case, she needs to be held the whole way to the fence.

Once I figured that out then I had a better idea of what type of rhythm I needed to set before starting my approach. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the age old tactic of simply counting your strides, 1-2-3-4, is definitely the best way to set up your rhythm. And you can put it into practice with a simple canter pole exercise. Set out some canter poles 4 strides apart and count every stride before, during and after the poles.


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Once you’ve nailed your four strides, try asking for 5 strides by shortening your horse up. Once you’ve done that successfully, try asking for 3 strides by stretching your horse out. By doing this you can really get a feel for the different paces and lengths of strides your horse has, making it much easier for you to feel your rhythm and adjust your stride as required when approaching a fence.


Dealing with my own Confidence

Between myself and Darielle, I am definitely not the ballsiest of the two of us. I fear the worst and end up in shock when it doesn’t happen. So when it came to jumping I knew I had to find a way of ignoring that fear and just push through it. I found that the best way to do this was to fake the confidence (until it became real) and trust in my own abilities. I know this is so much easier said than done but there’s a lot to be said for that whole mind over matter’ thing. When it comes to horses, things can always go wrong and that’s something we know from the get-go. We have to remember that we know our own abilities so it’s just a matter of trusting in those abilities. Once you can do that, your confidence will come naturally. 


Coco Jumping_16th Sept_2


Hopefully you enjoyed reading our confidence post on jumping and even more importantly we hope you found it helpful! We all struggle with confidence issues every now and again so we hope it helps to know that you’re definitely not alone.

Please be sure to leave a comment! We’ve really enjoyed the feedback we’ve received on our last few posts and it’s always great hearing everyone else’s stories 🙂


Orla & Darielle


3 thoughts on “Sustaining Our Confidence – Jumping

  1. I too have done many an exercise with just jumping one jump on a circle. My TB gets rushy and we’ve basically scaled back all jumping and started over. It all takes time.

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