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Riding a course

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  • Riding a course

    I wasn't going to post then decided maybe its worth a bit of conversation and the thoughts may help me.. or even someone else.

    So here goes. I have been riding off and on for a very long time. And it can be frustrating thinking I really need to be better than I am at riding a course.

    I know to be fair to myself I have not had consistent riding because of life choices and also horsey injuries.

    Now riding more; new horse is green but I feel like a total goober. I cannot see a distance to save my life. Thank goodness my new boy is honest as the day is long but I feel SOOOO bad stuffing him at the base or going for the long one as he makes a "OOOF" sound. Trainer jokes and says at least he doesn't do that when you get on him

    I watch other good riders and the trainer as he is teaching and telling them when they need to move up (open the stride) or shorten the stride or ride forward etc.

    I cannot figure that out at all. I can't really feel it either.

    I have had lessons over the years and when I jumped mostly it was not the type of instruction I am getting now. My trainer is amazing and works with his students to be a "thinking" rider. So I "think" that is my issue - yes - pun intended. I don't have much of a clue how to think out the course.

    I watch people walk a course and the only reason I would ever walk a course is to get some exercise.

    I do plan on having a conversation with my trainer so he knows what I am thinking and I know he will have a way to help me get the feel.

    Hopefully you guys will send some good jumping mojo my way and help me get this before I retire
    Live in the sunshine.
    Swim in the sea.
    Drink the wild air.

  • #2
    I try to count, even though I've been riding for quite awhile and that's sometimes thought of as a more novice approach to jumping. It helps me make sure I'm on pace, and I do have a relatively good 'natural eye' for distances. So if I'm counting and the distance seems like four and a half strides away, I can make the decision to move up for the four or sit back for the five. A lot of people say to look past the jump, I usually stare right at the point I want to jump over, lock my distance, then raise my eye line. I do not necessarily recommend this, it's just the way I do things.

    A good reason to walk a course, particularly if you have troubles finding a distance, is then you can become a bit more acquainted with striding. If you could walk some lines, you might be able to start developing an eye and a feel for what three strides, four, five, etc, are like. That way, too, you could always set up a small exercise for yourself to ride on your own if you feel comfortable.

    Some other posters might have more helpful tips. I'm by no means a professional, but there are some far more experienced riders and coaches on here who might have more of an angle on how to teach achieving an eye for distances.

    Comment


    • #3
      Make sure you have a quality canter with impulsion. Count "one, two, one, two" out loud while you're cantering to keep your pace consistent. If you have the right pace for the height and don't let it change, your distance will usually be right there when you get to the jump. If it isn't, your canter will be good enough that moving up or waiting a bit won't be difficult.

      Cantering a pole on the ground is a great way to work on your eye without having to make your horse jump over and over again. You could also try setting a line of groundpoles (5-7 strides would be best), so you can both know for sure how many strides you have left until the second pole and so you can get a feel for what it looks like when you're x number of strides out.

      Comment


      • #4
        I find it helpful to practice with poles and count the canter beats as well.

        In addition, I have found that watching other people jump around is helpful too, especially in their lessons (and at shows). I can see how the lines work out. I can begin to see if someone is going to eat it, be tight but workable, long, or perfect. That has helped me to pick up on tips and tricks for establishing a good canter, maintaining it through the turns, and judging distances in general.

        Good luck! This is what we all hope for.... To ride the best course we can
        ALP
        "The Prince" aka Front Row
        Cavalier Manor

        Comment


        • #5
          First a caveat: 3' is my max. Never learned distances. I make sure I have a good canter & let horse figure it out. She's smarter than I am in that department. This probably doesn't work at higher fences but works at this level.

          I do walk the course to pick my lines but ignore striding.

          Comment


          • #6
            I"m in a very similar place as you. Courses are tough on me, the more I think the worse it tends to get. Had a lesson yesterday with my instructor with a more knowledgeable horse (mine is a baby just off the track).

            He said there are 3 things you need to get a good course:
            1) Straightness - meaning your horse needs to be straight at all times, no bendy neck, no haunches sticking in, they need to be straight.
            2) Forward - your horse needs to be in FRONT of your leg
            3) Tempo - you set the tempo, you are the conductor, find the tempo and keep it there.

            #3 is the one I struggle on and that's why I think I have more trouble with my distances. If I could be sure exactly what my tempo was distances would really just figure themselves out! So there you have it. That's the lesson I got yesterday and I'm planning on working a LOT on tempo in the coming weeks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Reading this, I have to wonder how adjustable your horse is on the flat? Can you lengthen and shorten his stride on the flat? Over poles?

              I'm a lowly ammy in a similar situation. We try to do a lot of "courses" where we just canter ground poles on non-jumping days. My trainer will tell me "normal" is a 4. We do 4, 5, 3, etc. It really helps.

              Counting helps - counting and counting down. Especially counting down out loud. That's very good for training - and testing - your eye. It forces you to commit. If you're counting down and you see you're not going to make it, you can adjust then.

              And we work on a nice, rhythmic canter with impulsion. I try to get a good canter before going to the jumps.

              My first horse wasn't very adjustable and I didn't need to know distances. I just needed to go with him. So it's a work in progress for me.
              Born under a rock and owned by beasts!

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thank you guys so much for your responses. I did read the first few before I rode and I did the counting "one - two" thing over a pole and it really helped.

                I was riding my older fuzzy semi retired guy with a shorter stride than my new horse but seeing where I was distance wise was pretty neat.

                I even tried riding with no gloves to see if I could feel the reins differently.

                My new horse is pretty adjustable but not as experienced in the I know where I am department like my other horses do. They save my behind often.

                Another issue is my new horse has such a huge stride and it's so soft you don't know how quickly you are getting there. My horse as a kid and one of my semi retirees you have to get down the lines or you will get the long flyer. I am not used to NOT having to chase my horse down the line LOL.

                I guess that's why it is said to be a good rider is to ride as many different horses as you can.

                I also have kind of a mental block issue. I feel I am in between levels so to speak. I am not in the schooling type show level, B or C but not quite to the As. I feel I am transitioning up but I probably just think too much and need to just go ride.

                I really enjoyed my time with my older guy today. He was sooooo happy and relaxed as we groomed and got ready to ride. I told him he is my lesson horse and I need him forever! Just love my boys...
                Live in the sunshine.
                Swim in the sea.
                Drink the wild air.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'll echo some of the other themes. A trainer once told me "Lisa, I cannot tell you how much your distances will improve when you are straight to the jump." Seemed simple enough, but she meant STRAIGHT, not just "I'm in the general direction if straight". As usual, turns out she was right. :-). I'm heading to Ocala this week and my mantra is "Arrow Straight".

                  Pace is also super important. With big-strides horses, it's sometimes hard to feel them build. Counting should help. I count the entire way around course. If anything goes wrong, it's usually because I stopped thinking one-two, one-two.

                  I also agree with watching others. Just watch someone else jump and try to count two strides out, then three, then four, etc. (I'm only up to four! People who are good at this can see nine or ten away.).

                  I'm also a huge advocate of learning by reading. Tonya Johnston has a great book called inside Your Ride and you might get some good ideas there,

                  I remember seeing pics of your new boy. Have fun with him - he's gorgeous!
                  ~ Citizens for a Kinder, Gentler COTH...our mantra: Be nice. ~

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Most of the time, if a distance is ridden well, it looks like it works. So as I go up to a fence that I don't know about I literally go I see it, I see it, I see it, I see it, I don't and once I don't see it I go into a two point. That being said I can usually see my distances, and change them about three strides out.
                    My Horse Show Photography/ Blog

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I usually miss distances when I have a weak canter. And a weak canter is easy to have when you are on a long strided, slow horse. I'm guessing that the transition between your horses is hard and is why you are struggling on your new horse (BTW - Pictures, please!)

                      I can't see a distances until about 2 strides away. Like, literally cannot see it. As in I have no depth perception according to my eye doctor. I can tell you, however, 98% of the time on my horse (A TB) if the distance will be good or bad because I know what kind of canter I need coming in. But, put my onthe other horse I ride, who has a huge stride and things can get screwy because I think I have enough canter and I don't at all. The stride is long enough, but there is no power, no impulsion. ('Course then there are the times when I override and leave out a stride...and it still feels slower than my TB going through the same line).

                      Work on getting a "good" canter...even if it is slow, and the distances will work themselves out.
                      Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
                      Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by snaffle635 View Post
                        I'll echo some of the other themes. A trainer once told me "Lisa, I cannot tell you how much your distances will improve when you are straight to the jump." Seemed simple enough, but she meant STRAIGHT, not just "I'm in the general direction if straight". As usual, turns out she was right. :-). I'm heading to Ocala this week and my mantra is "Arrow Straight".

                        Pace is also super important. With big-strides horses, it's sometimes hard to feel them build. Counting should help. I count the entire way around course. If anything goes wrong, it's usually because I stopped thinking one-two, one-two.

                        I also agree with watching others. Just watch someone else jump and try to count two strides out, then three, then four, etc. (I'm only up to four! People who are good at this can see nine or ten away.).

                        I'm also a huge advocate of learning by reading. Tonya Johnston has a great book called inside Your Ride and you might get some good ideas there,

                        I remember seeing pics of your new boy. Have fun with him - he's gorgeous!

                        THANK YOU... Yes!! I worked on straight today. I like that "arrow straight" I will use that.

                        I am going to check that book out. I do enjoy reading and whatever helps!!

                        And thanks on my boy. He is doing really well... his mother, not so much
                        Live in the sunshine.
                        Swim in the sea.
                        Drink the wild air.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by RugBug View Post
                          I usually miss distances when I have a weak canter. And a weak canter is easy to have when you are on a long strided, slow horse. I'm guessing that the transition between your horses is hard and is why you are struggling on your new horse (BTW - Pictures, please!)

                          I can't see a distances until about 2 strides away. Like, literally cannot see it. As in I have no depth perception according to my eye doctor. I can tell you, however, 98% of the time on my horse (A TB) if the distance will be good or bad because I know what kind of canter I need coming in. But, put my onthe other horse I ride, who has a huge stride and things can get screwy because I think I have enough canter and I don't at all. The stride is long enough, but there is no power, no impulsion. ('Course then there are the times when I override and leave out a stride...and it still feels slower than my TB going through the same line).

                          Work on getting a "good" canter...even if it is slow, and the distances will work themselves out.

                          OH I didn't even think of this. You are SO right!!!!!! He is very slow... but forward. It's weird.

                          I rode TB's most my life and the distances just showed up. I was more worried about being taken off with than my distances.

                          My new horse I was riding a line what was supposed to be a 6 we did it in FIVE and the distance was good.

                          Need to work on the flat for that "good" canter.

                          OH pictures I hope to get some good ones at Thermal YAY....
                          Live in the sunshine.
                          Swim in the sea.
                          Drink the wild air.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The last horse I showed had one of those giant rolling canters. He sounds a lot like your guy. We would do lovely 4s in 5s and my coach would get mad at me haha. That being said, our giant canter was most certainly not our best canter, not just because we would leave out strides, but because we lost power from behind. With a lot of the big warmbloods, you will need to work on balance and compression and really having them in front of your leg, working forward but not running on a 13'+ stride. I struggled with distances until I found "the canter" that worked and once we had that, we didn't have many issues at all. At 3', you don't really need to be able to hunt down a distance and find it. Just make sure you're straight and have the right rhythm/pace and they should show up!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I second what everybody else has said about finding a great, straight, consistent canter. But, I also have a game you might try to help you see your distances. As you approach a pole on the ground or a fence, call out "one" when you think you are one stride out. Once you've nailed finding one stride out, move on to two. Call out "two, one" when you think you are two strides and then one stride out. Keep adding more strides and counting down as your eye gets better! The trainer I rode with in high school had us play this game in lessons and it fun and pretty helpful! Good luck!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I was reading articles on Practical Horseman and came across this one: See the Jump, See the Distance. Click through the sequence of photos for Erynn's suggestions. It might not be of much help for you, but I thought of this post when I saw it and thought I'd post it.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by tinydragon View Post
                                  I was reading articles on Practical Horseman and came across this one: See the Jump, See the Distance. Click through the sequence of photos for Erynn's suggestions. It might not be of much help for you, but I thought of this post when I saw it and thought I'd post it.

                                  Thank you for thinking of me I will try that today. I have always feared looking at the pole because I had a bad habit years ago at jumping ahead and looking down. But over poles I can retrain myself. ??


                                  And I have to say Fiona (the horse model) looks just like my horse.
                                  Live in the sunshine.
                                  Swim in the sea.
                                  Drink the wild air.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I also remember when I was first learning to count strides between poles/jumps that sometimes it could be tricky to get the timing of stride one right. Yes this sounds stupid and maybe I was a little challenged but my trainer always had us call out jump (or pole but it doesn't really matter) over the fence and then count 1, 2, 3, etc. so I guess that as I go around a course it would be something like 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 (getting to a jump, 3 strides out) 3, 2, 1, jump, 1, 2, 3, 4, (4 stride line) jump, 1, 2, 1, 2..... if the numbers are becoming rushed then the pace is changing!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by doublesstable View Post
                                      Thank you for thinking of me I will try that today. I have always feared looking at the pole because I had a bad habit years ago at jumping ahead and looking down. But over poles I can retrain myself. ??


                                      And I have to say Fiona (the horse model) looks just like my horse.
                                      Of course!

                                      From what I gather, it's a fine line between looking down vs focusing on a point (ie the glove) and then moving your eye line up past the pole or fence and having your horse jump up into you. If you have the time you go through the articles on Practical Horseman's website (Riding & Training -> English -> H/J), there are a lot there in regards to "good" canter, distances, pole work, and jumping.

                                      Here's one more by Scott Stewart that could also be helpful! --> Never Miss Another Jumping Distance
                                      I was thinking about this article today while trotting some cross rails. Straight, steady trot... And each time we got a good distance and a nice, controlled canter away. I've been riding and jumping for years, but sometimes hearing or reading something really simplifies it for you regardless of experience! Hopefully you can find a few articles on there that can be of assistance.

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