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AskHQ: Filler fear

Q: My horse is generally very forward-going and happy to jump. However, the second you introduce any type of filler she is a nervous wreck. How can I help her with this?

A: With these kinds of issues, the best advice is to go back to basics.

The first thing to do is revisit simple poles on the ground and then turn them into small jumps at the end of a line. Initially, we would advise starting in the trot, so you trot over the poles and the small fence. Once you have your horse listening to you, you can gradually introduce fillers below the jump at the end of the line. To do this, put the filler on the outside of the jump and gradually pull it into the middle and then all the way across the jump. Once your horse is happy with this, you can swap the trotting poles for canter poles and keep the jump small. You can then begin again to move the filler in from the outside of the jump to the middle and gradually move it all the way across. It is also worth practicing this exercise in different environments, so that you can use these exercise in different places and with different fillers and poles. This ensures your horse really is okay with it.

Of course, it goes without saying that you will need to ride confidently yourself, and if you are nervous, it might be best to ask your coach to ride your mare down these lines the first few times. If you anticipate a problem, it is bound to occur, so set yourself up for success and ride down the line as if you were approaching any other fence that your mare would normally clear without an issue.