Seeing a Distance?
Latley I have been hearing a lot about seeing distances when jumping. Since I taught my self to jump I never knew about this. But is a distance like the amount of strides to and between jumps? And is seeing them just estimating how many strides your horse is possibly going to take? Thanks for any advice. I really want to get really good at jumping this summer and I want to teach myself everything and not just some parts!
Don't feel bad, I was somewhat of a self-taught jumper until I started lessons some twelve years ago or something... I STILL wasn't taught distance until about a year ago. So needless to say I had a very honest mare that tended to pick the distance for me.
You want to find your distance, as you described it. The strides it takes to get there. You "estimate" and adjust your horses stride (in the canter) whether it be to half-halt to shorten the stride or push to lengthen it. I'm still pretty bad with Fiona on finding my distance because she hasn't learned yet to really lengthen her stride. She will shorten it, so more often than not I will try and slow her stride prior to the jump, which tends to work... But just avoiding the inevitable :P
All it really is is practice, practice, practice. Take a ground pole or two (on each side of the ring/pasture/whatever) and try and count your strides up to it. Adjust in half-halt or squeeze to lengthen as needed. It IS frustrating, so try not to fluster yourself. If you get frustrated, take a break.
Or you may be a natural, unlike me :P
Thank you! It actually makes a lot of sense, just seems complicated! Would I also be able to do this just picking a spot in the arena and guessing that way? Since I can't use poles or anything! Too much snow and I don't have an indoor.
I'm sure you could certainly "pick" a spot in the ring and act as if it were a jump and still accomplish the same thing for your mental satisfaction and later being able to apply it to a real scenario.
In order to be able to do this the first thing is to jump the same distance (years ago it was alway 12') and at the beginning trotting (properly placed) cavelettis to a jump and then some form of in and outs. (Lungeing a horse over this set up also teaches them). Ideally there is always a ground line as well. THEN the distances can be made shorter or longer (each have very clear implications on the bascule/the picking up and closing of the knees and forelegs). The biggest thing is always to have the horse in front of the leg so it is adjustable as it becomes more educated over fences, and for the rider to be balanced (ideally taught automatic release from the begnning so they are not in front of the horse because they are leaning up/on the neck).
It's worth mentioning, this seeing the distance thing always seems to result in the rider overthinking distances and trying to micromanage getting the horse to a perfect spot. Just remember, you only have to see the distance. You don't have to like it. Once you're a few strides away, you have what you have. No sense in asking the horse to change it's stride and throw it off balance when it's close to the fence.
Train the horse methodically, with caveletti/etc and THEY will see the distance as long as the rider keeps the contact and rides to the base of the fence!
When people talk about the "distance" they're referring to the place from which the horse took off.
Finding the right spot is a little different whether it's a related or un-related distance. A "related" distance is the distance to a jump within a combination or gymnastic. When you set up a cavaletti or combination and you've measured out the the space between the fences so you know how many strides it will take to get to the next jump (this is typically measured so the the horse will canter on a 12' stride, until you are schooling more advanced things it's wise to keep the horse on a standard stride). It's easier to find a related distance, because you know exactly how many strides it will take to meet the next fence correctly. You don't have to ride off your eye in a combination - you just have to know how to count and keep your horse straight and at a consistent pace.
An "unrelated" distance refers to the distance to a single jump, or the first jump in a combination. You have to see the correct take off spot by yourself - unlike a related distance where you can say "okay, I jumped into the line, now we canter three strides and then we'll be at the next jump." The real trick to seeing an unrelated distance is similar to finding the out of a combination. You need to keep your horse straight and at a consistent pace.
Riding to a point in the arena can be good to train your eye and make your horse more adjustable before you can set up jumps. Starting out, setting up simple gymnastics and combinations would be beneficial as well you help you train your eye.
I get that sometimes I need to be actively working for a distance--for example, a five stride line that I want us to do in four (or a four-stride in five). But I also know that it is so much easier when you just relax... though admittedly I have trouble practicing what I preach!
before you think about distances or your eye at all, you must work on the canter. the canter must be adjustable. you must be able to open the canter and collect the canter instantly. if you cant do this, no amount of trying to get a distance will do anything. if you can see a distance but not ride to it you are just going to frustrate you and your horse !
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