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Debunking distances

Are you familiar with distances, or is it all double dutch? Here are some simple basics for walking a course, or for building at home-

• An average horse canter stride is around four of your human strides.

•Course builders will allow for two of your strides before and after each fence, which is where the horse will (usually) take off and land.

•So for example, a normal five stride distance will walk on 24 of your strides-20 of those allow for the five horse strides, and the remaining 4 strides make up two strides for landing into the five stride distance, and two strides for take off out of the distance.

•A dog leg or bending line will walk one yard less, to account for the turn so five strides on a bending line will usually walk 23 strides.

•Always walk any distances ‘middle to middle’ ie/ from the centre of one fence to the centre of the next. It sounds obvious I know, but it is important, especially for bending lines-running wide or cutting the turn will alter the distance and make it much more difficult for the horse.

•For building at home, there are lots of options and you can play around a little when schooling. Using canter poles and/or cavalleti is a great way to improve your canter quality, turns, rhythm, accuracy and rideability, without putting extra wear and tear on the horse.

•For canter poles and cavalleti, you only need to allow one human stride for landing and one for take off. For very small fences you can allow 1.5 human strides for landing and take off. From 90-1m upwards, you should allow two human strides. The course builder at the show will almost always build for two human strides for landing and take off, regardless of fence height.

•My most used pre-show exercise is two poles on 18 yards. Ideally you should be able to put four regular strides in, with no kicking or hauling. If you can manage that reasonably comfortably, then you know that you have enough canter for the show ring.

•Trot poles for a normal horse should be 4.5 feet apart.

•Three trot poles to a cross pole is a good exercise to encourage a horse to take its time, to look at what it is being asked to do and to improve its awareness of where the feet are. The three trot poles should be 4.5 feet apart, and the distance from the trot pole nearest to the cross pole, to the cross pole, should be approximately 2.5 human strides. This exercise forms the first element of a basic trot grid, which I will cover in a future blog post.

Hope this helps! Happy jumping xxx

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