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Measuring your horse’s canter stride

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  • Measuring your horse’s canter stride

    I’ve recently been trying to get my horse to understand jumping. When trotting a jump, that’s simply all it is - he trots over it. He doesn’t tuck his knees or really even try. I don’t blame him as he’s a dressage horse and still new to jumping.

    He’s better when cantering to a jump, but unfortunately I am a green jumper myself (yes, not an ideal situation, but fortunately I’m going to sort something out with my trainer and one of her horse’s that is a reliable jumper and really knows how to jump), and struggle with seeing a distance. I honestly don’t know why I do it but when cantering to a jump I just can’t focus or form any complete thoughts related to striding. I can count strides, but that’s practically useless without knowing the distance.

    I’ve searched around on Google for the length of a stride so I can try to better understand this. Results say the average horse’s stride is twelve feet, which seems outrageously big, so I must be thinking about this wrong, or maybe they mean a gallop stride.

    Either way, how do I measure my horse’s stride, and do you have any tips for seeing distances?

    (*yes, I’ll be talking to my trainer about all of this at my next lesson, but I’d like to have as many opinions and tips as possible! thank you in advance)

  • #2
    As a beginner to jumping, put distances aside for a bit. They will come with time, practice and mostly feel - in that, to find a good distance, you must feel the canter stride and project it to the base of the next fence, in order to know if you need to shorten the stride or lengthen the stride to hit the fence just perfect.

    When starting out, you want to work on balance, proper release techniques, keeping heels down, leg stationary, keeping eyes forward over the fence, chin up - in other words, master your position first. Gymnastics can really help with this (long lines with 5 or more fences consisting of bounces, 1 strides and 2 stride fences). And working without stirrups too.

    Now to work on feeling the strides of your horse. Do this first with no jumps. Drop the fences of say a 6 stride line so its just a single pole on the ground for each "fence". Canter your corner to the first pole, and when the horse clears it with his hind legs, start counting your strides. When you get to 6, your horses front legs should be in front of the second pole - if he's too far away, you need to lengthen your canter - if you've passed the pole already, you need to shorten the stride. You want the canter stride to both poles to end up with the pole directly under the middle of the horse in his stride. If you're reaching the poles where the horses front hooves land right in front of the pole or right after the pole (like within a foot), some lengthening or shortening is needed. You want the pole right under his tummy.

    Distance is all about lengthening and shortening the stride. Just keep practicing with poles on the ground. The horse won't jump the poles mind you, they are just placeholders for where the fences are. Release like they were fences. The more you ride the canter and practice lengthening and shortening the stride, and really feeling the ground you are covering, the more "seeing the distance" to any fence will become second nature.

    As to stride length, the average horse has a 12 foot canter stride. Some horses are less, some horses are more (and some a lot more - my 17.2 Draft cross covers significantly more ground than 12' in a medium canter stride). Learn to "walk a course" and measure the strides between fences. An average height woman taking fairly large steps covers 3 feet per step, so 4 steps is 12 feet. So every 4 steps is an average stride between two fences. Put a yard stick down or tape measure on the ground and practice what a 3' step feels like. Walking a course and measuring the distance can really help you get a feel for the proper canter stride length than someone just telling you "its a long 5 stride" or "its a short 7 strides".

    Good luck and welcome to the wonderful world of jumping!
    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by 4LeafCloverFarm View Post
      As a beginner to jumping, put distances aside for a bit. They will come with time, practice and mostly feel - in that, to find a good distance, you must feel the canter stride and project it to the base of the next fence, in order to know if you need to shorten the stride or lengthen the stride to hit the fence just perfect.

      When starting out, you want to work on balance, proper release techniques, keeping heels down, leg stationary, keeping eyes forward over the fence, chin up - in other words, master your position first. Gymnastics can really help with this (long lines with 5 or more fences consisting of bounces, 1 strides and 2 stride fences). And working without stirrups too.

      Now to work on feeling the strides of your horse. Do this first with no jumps. Drop the fences of say a 6 stride line so its just a single pole on the ground for each "fence". Canter your corner to the first pole, and when the horse clears it with his hind legs, start counting your strides. When you get to 6, your horses front legs should be in front of the second pole - if he's too far away, you need to lengthen your canter - if you've passed the pole already, you need to shorten the stride. You want the canter stride to both poles to end up with the pole directly under the middle of the horse in his stride. If you're reaching the poles where the horses front hooves land right in front of the pole or right after the pole (like within a foot), some lengthening or shortening is needed. You want the pole right under his tummy.

      Distance is all about lengthening and shortening the stride. Just keep practicing with poles on the ground. The horse won't jump the poles mind you, they are just placeholders for where the fences are. Release like they were fences. The more you ride the canter and practice lengthening and shortening the stride, and really feeling the ground you are covering, the more "seeing the distance" to any fence will become second nature.

      As to stride length, the average horse has a 12 foot canter stride. Some horses are less, some horses are more (and some a lot more - my 17.2 Draft cross covers significantly more ground than 12' in a medium canter stride). Learn to "walk a course" and measure the strides between fences. An average height woman taking fairly large steps covers 3 feet per step, so 4 steps is 12 feet. So every 4 steps is an average stride between two fences. Put a yard stick down or tape measure on the ground and practice what a 3' step feels like. Walking a course and measuring the distance can really help you get a feel for the proper canter stride length than someone just telling you "its a long 5 stride" or "its a short 7 strides".

      Good luck and welcome to the wonderful world of jumping!
      So love this advice! I'm a green jumper on a green jumping horse I have raised since a weanling. My trainer and I have been working on exactly what you said and as our confidence builds - well - it's pretty amazing. My horse's issue was lack of strength and conditioning (she's 9 but had a couple years off while we moved, got settled and built the indoor arena). Once she got strong - wow. She locks on and weeeeeeee lol We are working on adjusting within the canter, too.

      She's an Arabian so ....smaller.....and we measured her standard canter stride at 7.5ft lol Typically when it says 6 strides we know we have to add one to make it work for us.

      Comment


      • #4
        Well you have to know the distance in order to figure out the strides. That's why people walk jump courses before competition and why hunter courses have set distances.

        You will need a measuring tape to set ground poles until you can walk them off and know your own stride length.

        You can also practice stride length at the trot. Count the number of steps between two known points like the dressage letters on the arena wall.

        But note also that adjusting stride means the horse can do collected working and extended canter. Most greenies just have one canter.

        Comment


        • #5
          12' is the "default" distance for a canter stride when jumping. It is measured from one footprint to the next footprint of the SAME foot.

          Try cantering over poles on the ground 12 feet apart, and that will give you an idea of the pace expected. 12 feet is actually considered a bit short. Many hunter courses are set on a 14' stride.
          Last edited by Janet; Oct. 8, 2019, 01:33 PM.
          Janet

          chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2019.

          Comment


          • #6
            Scribbler is correct, knowing your horses stride and being able to feel it comes first (well, it makes it easier if it come first). My whole post is a bit upside down in arrangement of topics. This is what happens at 2am when you can't sleep - things come out a bit discobobulated.

            Another way to get your strides down is while you are just flatting a horse, if there are jumps in the ring, count your strides between standards as you pass by them. Collect your canter and count again. Do a hand gallop and count again. See how many or how few strides you can fit between the standards. So the standards are just a marker. No jumps or poles needed.

            I'll also add that this method may not work for everyone. Just like anything, people learn and pick things up on things differently. What works is what gives you that "lighhtbulb" moment. People that are more spacialy aware (can walk into a room and give you the rooms dimensions fairly accurately off the top of their head, no measuring tape needed) will pick up distances much faster than those that aren't.

            As a dressage horse, you horse may well have an advantage over a typical green horse in that transitions in the canter (lengthening and collecting) are already part of his repertoire. So he will understand these concepts. Now its just a matter of applying them to jumps in a line verses letters on the arena.
            ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by 4LeafCloverFarm View Post
              Another way to get your strides down is while you are just flatting a horse, if there are jumps in the ring, count your strides between standards as you pass by them. Collect your canter and count again. Do a hand gallop and count again. See how many or how few strides you can fit between the standards. So the standards are just a marker. No jumps or poles needed.
              I love this idea.

              Comment

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