I can see the distance usually from really far away [not as good at shows =/] at first a don't put a number to it, I will start counting at 6 strides out. It also depends on where the jump is, I have trouble seeing jumps at an angle to the wall, like down the diagonal, so its a little harder for me to see the distance.
I'm like gypsy. I can usually judge a distance fairly far out, however when I'm six strides away is when I actually start counting. You have to be able to really know the step of the horse you're riding. With my pony I can probably start counting around 12 strides away and be dead on, but with a horse I haven't jumped much it's harder for me. I also tend to try and "hunt" for the distance. So if I see one I like I have a bad habit of trying to chase the horse to it or ride backwards to it (work in progress). It's a delicate art, because once you get 6 or so strides away you really shouldn't be adjusting your horse's step too much, because you're likelier to screw up your distance. When in doubt, balance and put on leg!
The idea is to see where you are at a long way out so you can make the adjustment there and just ride smoothly to your fence. Then the horse learns to do it all on its own and you can just ride your canter.
Exactly. Once you get to 5-6 strides away it's too late to adjust! I still have a hard time with that sometimes. I need to learn to be more proactive about the canter I have and then just maintain it! It's all about the maintaining.
Excellant post and point Strange! Very well said - I see too many people, myself included, micromanage their horse within 6 strides. This must be an Eventing thing? Lol - I too am the same. I can see a distance far out, which is where I try to "fix" anything before we get 5 strides in.
I ended up incurring a horrible habit over time with this, which I am now having to work hard at correcting. Nelson used to take big spots, like a stride out, to a fence - so I ended up holding him to the base....which now due to that, I've created a horse who sucks back instead of a horse who flows over the fence.
So, my work in progress is - to just leave him alone when we are about 5 strides out, instead of holding him 5 strides in. So that's my issue. I have to learn to adjust anything before we enter that 5 stride zone.
That is why, when you come into a combo, you have to have everything right before you get to that 1st fence. When you get into the combo, your goal is to leave your horse alone to do his job, while you remain quiet and balanced ontop.
Lol I think it just comes from thinking we HAVE to make a certain distance between two fences so we feel like if we don't then the jumps are going to be horrible and uncomfortable! That's a huge misconception, I think, and it's why so many people micromanage.
A great exercise to just work on adjustability and "seeing" a distance is to set up, oh, a six stride line. Ride it in a good six, then ride it in five, then ride it in seven, or eight, or even nine! Then you'll really learn to feel the type of stride you need on that horse for x-kind of jump. There was a similar exercise done at a riding symposium thing where David O'Connor and Karen O'Connor were both riding and they had a little contest to see who could fit the most strides in a line that usually rode in x-number of strides (I forget how many it originally was supposed to be, I'll have to ask my coach. She lent David O'Connor the horse he was riding for that exhibition) and David ended up winning by fitting in something ridiculous like 22 strides, but the key is he knew EXACTLY the kind of canter and balance he needed well before he ever got to the first fence of the line, and once he landed all he had to do was maintain it.
I can feel if a distance is good or bad about 5-7 strides away, but not length. For me it only has to do with quality of canter. Sometimes I'll say "crap, this is a cruddy canter. Should I push or hold?" Then I usually push because I find that if I think too much about holding the horse thinks I don't want to jump at all.
I'm not very good at lines though. I jump the first jump like a single jump, then try my best to decide whether to hold or push. My worst mistakes are usually when I forget you have to ride lines differently and just ride with consistent pace to the second fence. I can't do that ever because my trainer does NOT know how to stride things out for the life of her and so things will be really really awkwardly strided most of the time. One time she kept getting on my case for getting a line in a pretty sold 2 (extended, but it was comfortable and the horse didn't have to reach over the fences themselves) and she kept saying "Its really a three...Hold for three." Horse chipped WAY in because there simply was not room for her to get three! (She's not a very adjustable horse, so holding that much is very difficult.)