Having a horse that is still growing & coming into himself can be quite difficult, there are a lot of ups & downs. Mainly downs in a sense where they don’t have enough muscle to hold themselves in certain ways because they are quite simply not strong enough.
Recently I have brought Dante back into jumping, but as we have neglected it quite a bit the last while a few bad habits have been picked up, lifting his head up after he jumps being one of the most annoying of them all. After showing my trainer a few videos of this, a lot of the time he seems to be taking the bit of freedom, flicking his head in excitement and rushing off slightly after the fence. Having my physio rule out any possible back or tack issues it left me wondering what could I do to fix this habit he has picked up. Below I have outlined one of the best exercises I have found that helps!
The Set Up:
To get him to keep his head down, I placed a ground pole after the fence approx 3.5 yards afterwards. This distance may vary for smaller horses, Dante has a massive stride and has quite a bit of scope over fences! Set up your fence as normal, for Dante I began with an X Pole, moving it up into a straight as we progressed. Towards the end to assist with his straightness I put V poles into the fence too, (he tends to drift to the right a good bit, unfortunately my camera battery died so I don’t have any pics of the V Poles!)
(See Diagram below)
To stop him from throwing his head all over the place after he jumps! It can be quite hard to get his concentration back from this if we are jumping more than one fence! Putting the Placing pole behind the fence will help stop him from rushing off straight away on landing, seeing the pole, they will have to think, making the horse drop down to look at the pole after the fence. Not only will it stop the horse from rushing after the fence, but it will help improve the shape he makes over it.
Start with your fence not overly high, a cross pole big enough that your horse can give enough of a jump over it, and continue to up the fence from their, putting the fence to an upright towards the end. Remember your horse should jump a cross-pole with the same precision as an upright. As you put the jump up higher, remember to push the ground pole out that bit more, as the fence goes up the more they will stretch over it!
After the first few jumps, you should really start to notice the drop in your horses head and neck over the ground pole.
What to Watch Out For:
If your horse is rushing into your fence, or getting in deep, to fix this place a ground pole in front of your fence (approx 3 foot) Have someone on the ground with you to adjust the ground pole after the fence, depending on how your horse jumps, they may need more space after the fence, and having the ground pole in too tight can be quite off putting for them.
With Dante it took a few attempts for the penny to drop, so be patient! One last thing, don’t worry about knocking of fences, it’s a relaxed rhythm into the fence and the result of them keeping that head down afterwards being the main things to look out for.
If your horse is persistent in not “dropping” after the fence, I would advise on getting your physio out again, and to get their saddle checked, something may be pinching them in turn causing them to react after they jump.
Thanks for reading!