More help on seeing distance and counting strides, please - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 08-06-2011, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Virginia
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More help on seeing distance and counting strides, please

I posted under English riding about my not so good first 2 shows over jumps, if you want my story.

Anyway, can I please have more help on how to learn to see the spot and count strides? I have the suggestions to do 2 canter poles and also canter circles over a pole. And LOVE the idea of feeling for hind end rather than front.

Here is my situation: We are not allowed to jump anything bigger than a pole when the trainer is not there, and that is pretty much only when I'm in a lesson right now.

Our ring has an 8 course set of fences and several poles I can move around. I don't have a giant tape measure to set up exact canter poles. One day I set up poles exactly even with the jumps (they are set for a loooong 4, regular 5 or collected 6 strides), but a friend said I wouldn't get exact canter strides with that becuase the horse was not jumping in, only cantering. He WILL jump a canter pole sometimes, but not consistently.

Please can you give me exact ideas of exercises to do? I'm not going to do any more jumping in shows until I have a better handle on the whole stride and spot thing. I mean I think I have an instinct for it, but it's not conscious.

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post #2 of 4 Old 08-06-2011, 01:42 PM
Join Date: Mar 2009
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I'm just curious. Do you tend to overthink your riding? I ask because many horses can navigate smaller jumps just fine without much input from their riders. It's when the rider starts to anticipate the jumps, gets all figitey up there and impeeds the horse's jumping effort that things start to fall apart. I recently had a horrid jumping round. We got deep to everything. My saint of a horse jumped it all, but I buried him to every fence. Sure enough, when I saw the pics, my upper body was way too forward. He wasn't able to get off back himself off the fences because I was already jumping for him.

My point is, before fixating on counting strides or anything intricate, make sure your position is consistent and correct. Riding forward over the horses shoulders almost never comes out well, and riding defensively makes for lots of runouts and dirty stops. If you're still trying to manage strides 3 strides out, it's too late anyway and you'll only be interfering with your horse who probably already has it nailed.

Here's my exercise to prove to you that your horse can do it by himself. First find a yardstick or use a tape measure to mark out 3'. Then figure out what 3' is to you so you can walk it consistently every time. Once you can walk that, then set up your poles. Just place them in distances in multiples of 12'. (use multiples of 11 if your horse's canter stride is on the short side) Then pick up a canter, get into your half seat and practice cantering the poles without doing anything except providing a release when you cross the poles. Just your arms move. Nothing else in your upper body. Don't look down. Just gaze ahead over the next pole. First practice it the 'doing nothing' way. Your horse will probably have little to no problems doing it in the 4 strides.

Once he's got it the 'doing nothing' way, try and do it for him. Do whatever you've been taught to do to adjust his stride to get the 4 strides yourself. After you've completely frustrated yourself on trying to see the distance and your horse tripping over the second pole, go back to doing nothing and watch it all come together again.

Sure, eventually you will need to see strides, but I'm guessing right now you're prone to overthinking. Seeing distances is something that starts to come on its own once the more basic things become more automatic. By basic things, I'm talking heels down, knees not pinching, back straight and supple, shoulders open, head up, eyes ahead and proper release. When all that basic stuff is good, move onto distances!

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
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post #3 of 4 Old 08-06-2011, 04:11 PM Thread Starter
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Oh,THANK YOU for that. Yes, I overthink. More importantly my two disasters as the horse show involved me being very nervy, so I'm sure I was leaning forward and jumping ahead. I did think that with a 2' course that the school horse had jumped countless times, I didn't need to worry about strides. But others on here recommended I get better at the counting/distance thing.

Well, it won't hurt to practice over canter poles, since I can't jump without the trainer. I'll just keep doing that for now ...
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post #4 of 4 Old 08-06-2011, 04:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: North England
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What really helped me to not over think things was to shut my eyes a few strides before the fence. (Sounds dangerous I know but I was in an arena with instructor, safe-as-a-pillow-pony and lots of guiding poles etc.). REALLY fun and helped me to learn to take the fence as it comes, as not throw the horse at the jump which will unbalance them and make the jump feel horrid

DON'T shut your eyes unless you are entirly confident the horse will jump!!

Horses are good at keeping thier legs safe and they will always take the easier stride. Just sit, wait, be patient and let the movement of the horse tell you when to rise out the saddle

~I live for the moment when a creature with a spirit wild and heart untouched puts its head in your arms and falls asleep~
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