Common problems in “fencing,” and how to fix them.
If the horse:
• Wiggles on the approach.
If your horse breaks gait, falls out of lead, or won’t stay perpendicular to the fence as he nears it, just continue up to the fence as best you can, then stop and rest.
Over time, as your horse comes to understand what’s being asked of him, this problem will resolve itself.
• Raises his head.
If his neck comes up in anticipation of reaching the fence, just continue to drive with your legs in neutral position and bump gently on the reins, as you normally would, to bring his head back down.
If he starts speeding up on his own instead of responding to your cues for speed, just take the slack out of the reins and ask him to soften through the jaw, then draw him down to a trot, then a walk, then a stop, then a back-up, all in about six or so strides.
Sit there for a while and let him relax. Whatever you do, don’t jerk on the reins—this only frightens him and compounds the problem. Jerking will just make him raise his head and brace through the neck more.
Another way to deal with it is to change your plan and simply slow down and turn at the fence and keep going. Often, it’s the stop that worries a horse, so by taking the stop away for a bit, he can relax. (In the meantime, you can work on Runarounds, which I’ve already written about.)
After he’s relaxed, have another try at the fence and remember that fencing isn’t beneficial for all horses. If you have one that doesn’t seem to improve, there are a lot of other ways to work on your rundowns and stops.