Seeing a good stride or distance to a fence means the rider has put their horse at the optimum spot to jump the fence well. Do you ever watch the top riders and wonder how on earth they manage to always see good strides to a jump? How do they do it? Well here we demystify the golden rules to nailing your jumping.
It’s all about the canter
It seems obvious, but it’s one of the hardest things to achieve. You might think cantering around the arena that you’ve got this sewn up, but unless your canter is active, uphill, balanced and your horse is in front of your leg (where they are taking you every step of the way and you’re not kicking them every stride), the chances of you being able to see a good stride are significantly reduced. The only way to achieve this canter day in day out is by doing flat work to build up strength in your horse to be able to sit and push from behind. Bear with it — you will get there!
As you are cantering around a course, maintaining a rhythm is crucial in the journey to helping you see good strides. A consistent pace will allow the horse to make his own adjustments in front of the fence. Practice by counting the rhythm aloud as you canter around over poles on the ground and small fences. Once you have a feel of the rhythm you will be able to pick it up quicker each time.
You cannot hope to see a stride if the horse is not straight in front of the fence. When you are told to look early at a fence, it’s not to see a stride, it’s to make sure you are travelling on the correct line.
Your hands should always be light and soft so that you aren’t interfering you’re your horse’s rhythm and balance, but you must remember in particular to be ultra soft on take-off so that your horse can use themselves sufficiently to jump the fence clear. Equally if it doesn’t go plan let your hands move with the horse so that they can use their head and neck to sort themselves out.
Don’t try too hard
Often the harder you try to see a stride, the harder it gets! So if it doesn’t go to plan don’t dwell on it and try again.
Practice, practice, practice — it’s the only way you’ll improve. Try with poles on the ground (two or three will suffice). Canter to one pole on a 20m circle repetitively on each rein, trying to see a stride each time you travel around the circle. You can also try putting two poles five or six strides apart in a straight line. Repeat on both reins again, trying to keep an even rhythm and a good quality canter each time. This will help train your eye to see a stride.
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