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Hoofprints in the Sand 05-30-2012 12:54 PM

Getting the right number of strides
Hi everyone! Me again, asking MORE Hunter questions! :wink: I'm having SO much fun learning the ins and outs of a new disclipline let me tell you!

Anyway, for the schooling shows being held at my barn, my trainer has just been having my small horse (she's 14.3hh) Sandie and I add strides to the set distances. So for example, in this round, the outside line was set as a 4 stride and the diagonal line as a 6, but she had us do 5 and 7 instead since Sandie has shorter strides.

That's all well and good for us at a schooling show, but I've heard that as we move up and eventually maybe get into rated someday, we won't have that option if we want to place, we'll have to MAKE the striding work for us. How true is that and at what level does that begin to occur?

Hoofprints in the Sand 05-31-2012 12:22 PM

Sooo no takers? ;-)

maura 05-31-2012 12:50 PM

Yes, it is absolutely true.

Making the striding is the second most important criterion in judging hunters, right after consistent, good spots.

Sandie will be at a disadvantage at more competitive schooling shows and rated shows if she adds strides, period. The bigger and more competitive the class, the more likely it is that 8 people will have equally nice trips AND make the striding. There's a little more tolerance for adding in Green divisions, or Junior and Amateur divisions where safety and suitabity have more emphasis.

At more casual schooling shows, it does depend somewhat on the individual judge's preference. Some judges will pin a horse that adds strides if it otherwise has a good trip and jumps in good form especially if the horse is safe and suitable. Others give making the striding more credence.

This whole dynamic is why a 1/4" of height can make tens of thousands of dollars worth of difference in a horse's value.

Personally, I would prefer to see a trip where the horse adds, but jumps up and around the fence in good hunter form, than a trip where the horse gallops to make the distance and jumps long and flat.

Bottom line? There's nothing you can about her ability to make or not make the striding at this point. She is what she is, and she is pretty darn cute and appealing.

What you can do is make sure the rest of your trip is as polished as possible. Work on either landing on the correct lead or executing clean changes. Work on her jumping form and round arc, consistent pace and consistent spots. After you've nailed those elements, experiment and see if you can increase pace and make the distances work.

I suspect your coach is having you add strides for now while you solidify other things, and will have you work on making the striding a little later on when she feels you're ready.

Hoofprints in the Sand 05-31-2012 01:05 PM

Thanks Maura! :-) And yes, my trainer is having us add for now until we can perfect some other things (the ones you mentioned!) and then who knows, maybe someday we'll work on extending her gaits and getting the striding! But good stuff to know for now. Right now her stride is still short and a bit choppy anyway, so reaching for the stride in our case as it stands now would just mean a little horse quickly galloping down the line and FLYING over the fence, Jumper-style! ;-)

upnover 05-31-2012 09:57 PM

Everything Maura said was spot on! This is one pet peeve of mine. I've never understood why it would be better to make your horse gallop down the lines and be flat just to get the step... but I suppose people will argue that an "ideal" hunter has a big ground covering step. I got excited for a bit b/c there was discussing with USEF about starting a "small hunter" division to give the 14.3-15.2 horses some sort of value in the rated show world. Turns out they still need to have a 12+ foot stride so I don't really see the point in that. And actually the large ponies (13.2-14.2) are also set on a 12 foot stride at rated shows as well.

To answer your question... a lot of that might depend on your area and which rated shows your talking about. Kind of like the lead change thing we talked about earlier. At the bigger shows like Devon and WEF you need to get the step, doesn't matter what division. At the smaller rated shows? if the comp isn't great you might get lucky with a judge that will be ok with an add if everything else is good. Although.. I show in the baby greens quite a bit and usually the horses that add aren't getting ribbons. Thing is, the big warmbloods with a giant step are what are in right now so often it isn't an issue iwth most horses. At our schooling shows a horse like Sandy that COULD be a pony might be ok with adding at 2"3 or 2"6. I have a student on a 14.3 "hony" and she did well last year (2"3) but is starting to get get penalized at 2"6. Around here, by the time someone is showing 2"9 I'd say you need to be getting the step. That's around here though! We've had people from out of town come to our shows and they say they are more like rated shows then schooling shows.

Hoofprints in the Sand 06-01-2012 11:08 AM

Yeah that seems to be the trend with Hunters, that it ALL DEPENDS! Depends on the show, depends on the judge, depends on who you're riding against, etc. etc. Actually, not THAT much different than dressage though, kind of the same things apply...a warmblood who naturally carries his head in the dressage frame and who has big steps full of action will always win over flat-kneed little Sandie who likes her head long and low ;-)

CJ82Sky 06-01-2012 12:24 PM

i'd like to differ from what some people above have said. classic hunters when judged properly is judged on the smoothness of the trip and the jumps in conjunction with the perceived ease of the ride. a smaller horse will have an allowance for adding a stride IF AND ONLY IF it is more condusive to a smoother trip. if you push the same striding on a 14.3h horse as everyone in the class on 16+h horses are getting, your ride will look rushed and hurried and you will not place. if you add a stride but the lines ride smoothly without issue and you get all of your distances you are more likely to place. best option is if you can get your horse to move out and lengthen their stride WITHOUT speeding up the ride and get the same stride as the larger horses then you're MOST likely to place.

this is where a solid dressage foundation comes in handy for hunters. by properly muscling the horse off the hind, asking for a lengthened stride without rushing the pace, a smaller horse can effectively compete with a larger horse. remember - the basis of hunters was a means to show off classy, easy, comfortable to ride field hunters in the off season (summer) when field hunters wanted to show off who had the best horse. ;)

maura 06-01-2012 02:22 PM


I am not talking about how hunters should be judged, but how they ARE judged currently.

I happen to agree with you that adding a stride when all other things are equal - jumping form, style, manners, way of going, lead changes - should not be penalized.

However, there's not much question that in both rated shows, and very competitive unrated shows, that's the way it is. And that part of the reason is that it's a clear cut, readily visible way to distinguish one trip from another. If you're in a class with 40 entries, judges are looking for ways to separate the top 20% of the trips. Counting striding and distances makes that a little easier.

This is what the USEF rulebook has to say -

"Hunters over fences are judged on performance and soundness. Judges are looking for great jumping style, quality of both looks and movement, as well as willingness, manners, and suitability of horse and rider. The round over fences itself should be judged on evenness of pace, as well as consistency of distances."


"HU135 Faults .
1. The following faults are scored according to the judges opinion and depending on severity or division, may be considered minor or major faults.
a. Rubbing the jump
b. Swapping leads in a line or in front of a jump
c. Late lead changes
d. Freshness
e. Spooking
f. Kicking up or out
g. Jumping out of form
h. Jumping off the center line of jump
i. Bucking and/or playing
j. Adding a stride in a line with a related distance
k. Eliminating a stride in a line with a related distance
l. Striking off on a wrong lead on the courtesy circle. (May be corrected with either a simple or flying change of lead)"

Emphasis mine, in both cases. The judge is left with a lot of discretion about how severely to mark the fault, but IT IS a fault, and in a class of 40....

CJ82Sky 06-01-2012 03:30 PM

hi maura! i hear you on the rule book - a lot also depends on the judge because adding a stride can be judged based on individual horse's strides. the course map (in my experience - this could have changed) shows distances in feet. it's up to the rider to convert that to strides for their horse. so in theory, what i said stands in that if the horse isn't adding strides against it's normal stride length, it's not penalized (i.e. the horse doesn't chip in at any related fences). HOWEVER i agree with you that the reality is that judges often instead look at adding a stride as adding a stride v. whatever everyone else in the majority of the class is riding in.

i think we're on the same page :) i've seen classes judged both ways based on how they interpret item j.

maura 06-01-2012 04:34 PM


Where do you show?

Course design for USEF hunters, and anything run according to their rulebook (my local association states that they use the USEF rulebook for everything except the height of the fences) is based on a 12' stride. Period.

So it doesn't matter what is a normal stride length for your horse, if the line is 90', it's supposed to be a 7 stride line. 7 X 12 = 84 + 6' for landing and takeoff. Large ponies are also based on a 12' stride, mediums 11', smalls 10'

Once the fences get above 3', the lines should move out (2X the height increase. (At 3'6", a 7 stride line 92', not 90') to accomodate an increased room for take off and landing.

If your reasoning were correct, the OP's wonderful little "hony" would not be at a disadvantage, she could go at her own pace, add, and not be penalized. But that's not the case.

That's why there is NO market for a 14.2 - 15.1ish hunter, they don't exist, because it's not a level playing field for them.

If you're talking breed show hunters, that may well be different, but the OP's questions, and the bulk of my experience is with the regular hunters.

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