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Seeing your distances?

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  • Seeing your distances?

    This is a completely noob question, I've been riding for quite some time now... I've always found that for the life of me I can never "see" my distances/spots cantering up to jumps... How would one go about learning how to do this? It drives me nuts... I'll jump anything, just scares me and I loose confidence when I mess up the take off...

    Any exercises to help? Ground rails don't really do much for me... I've tried...

    Also, When find that spot, and per say, you see that it's a stride and a half, how do you ask your horse step up and extend the stride or if needed, take that long spot?

    Sorry if none of this makes sense to anyone... I've always had trouble with these two things...


    -T
    You board with what I call a, sh!t disturber - Patty Lynch

  • #2
    Sorry but ground poles are the way to do it coupled with gymnastics. Also actively looking for a distance is a big mistake. You need to concentrate on riding and maintaining a nice, forward rythm. That's it. Looking for a distance is the one sure fire way for me to miss b/c I start picking and lose my rythm. Try counting "1-2 1-2 1-2" as you canter in time with his stride (some prefer 1-2-3 in time with his foot falls) and maintain that rythm. Just keep doing this over ground rails and some small fences and you'll eventually figure out the rythm you need and the necessary adjustments you need to make. I assume you're working with a trainer? They should be able to set up some gymnastics for you that will help your horse learn to adjust his/her stride as well. Also flatwork is a HUGE component so you have an adjustable horse to work with. Once you're on your rythm and see it coming up a little gappy you should be able to just add a bit of leg to get him to the base by lengthening his stride. The scopey ones will take you there just by softening your arm a bit.

    Comment


    • #3
      I agree with WTW95, but there are some things you can do to "work" your eye and develop your depth perception. First of all, work on counting down "3-2-1 three strides out to small "x's"; then verticals etc.

      Find the method that works best for you in seeing a spot. Some trainers say look past the jump, others say look at the base - I can only see mine if I look at the top rail of the fence. Everyone is different so you have to see what works for you.

      Once you get comfortable, a soft move of your hand a few inches up the next s/b enough to get them to open their stride. If not, squeeze until they respond. Work on transistions on the flat; sitting trot to extended etc. All to get them to listen to soft cues and respond accordingly.
      "A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right, and evil doesn't become good, just because it's accepted by a majority." Rick Warren

      Comment


      • #4
        Tim Stockdale has a terriffic quote: "Pace, rythym, line. Gets it right everytime."

        So, find a good consistent canter pace, find your rythym (1,2,1,2,1,2) and ride your line straight to the middle of the fence (in other words no wiggly lines or drifting right/left..ride it straight!) I don't "look" for "the spot" either. I find looking at and past the top of the top rail for a verticle and past the top of the top back rail of an oxer, helps me "feel" a distance.

        As mentioned, lots of cantering rails can be very helpful in finding that good pace and rythym.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Cinnybren View Post
          Tim Stockdale has a terriffic quote: "Pace, rythym, line. Gets it right everytime."

          So, find a good consistent canter pace, find your rythym (1,2,1,2,1,2) and ride your line straight to the middle of the fence (in other words no wiggly lines or drifting right/left..ride it straight!) I don't "look" for "the spot" either. I find looking at and past the top of the top rail for a verticle and past the top of the top back rail of an oxer, helps me "feel" a distance.

          As mentioned, lots of cantering rails can be very helpful in finding that good pace and rythym.
          Ditto this.

          You can also learn to teach your eye to judge distances when you are walking around throughout the day. Use cracks in the sidewalk, changes in flooring (carpet to tile or vice versa), stains on the pavement, etc to try to judge how many strides you are away. Start with something close...say 3 or 4 strides. Try to figure out how many strides away you are if you don't change your stride length. Then try from farther away. It will help you judge distances relative to stride length (yours). The same principle applies to when you are on the horse.

          Many times a bad distance is easy to "cover up" if you have good pace/impulsion. Too often people will "pick" if they don't see a distance and end up with no impulsion so you can't adjust the horse. Get a pace/establish a rhythm, and have proper bend around corners and straightness and the distance will usually be there. If you keep getting a bad distance to the same jump, change your turn coming out of the corner. Go deeper or shallower.

          Throw poles around the ring randomly and canter over those, saying 1,2, 1,2 and practice on those.

          Comment


          • #6
            This is something I am working on, as well. My trainer does not have us obsess over finding the "perfect spot", but likes us to have a general idea of where you want to take off. I like what Cinnybren said about "feeling" the distance. That is just enough to help you know going down a line if you need to move up or half halt, or if you need to ask for a long spot.

            To get my horse to take a long spot, I sit up super straight (getting ahead here can cause trotting or adding a stride) and use leg.
            My blog: Journeys in Riding

            Comment


            • #7
              Or to even make it simplier...

              Count your rhythm like a metronome.. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1.

              Work on canter control exercises away from any jumps and poles.

              On one particularly squirely horse I have, I like to use leg yields before and after the fence to keep his attention on me. Or I might use a rubber band exercise where I go from a medium canter to a collected canter to a medium (4 strides each) and then jump.

              The leg yielding really works great to keep him waiting and paying attention, and it may be inperceptible to an on looker but he's paying attention to ME and not trying to make his own bid at the jump so I get to place him for the medium or deep distance. LONG GONE are the days of missed distances.

              I think for me, it's making a commitment to RIDE a PARTICULAR distance and having the tools to get it done on the horse I'm riding. Simply waiting to see a distance is probably not the best plan for most of us.
              Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN

              Comment


              • #8
                I have always been terrible at this as well. My first coach used to call me "Chipper." Then, at the age of 27, I got my vision tested and found out I need glasses to see things at a distance! Things have suddenly gotten much easier

                But when I was growing up with vision deficiency, I learned this way. You have to trust your horse first... that was a hard part for me. I realized I was really trying to do too much of the work for him by "picking" the spot and "telling" him when to leave. You have to let go of that mentality.

                To work on this, my trainer would set up lines, and I would work on coming down them with good pace, setting a rhythm, and then jumping and keeping the same rhythm. Count however you need to - I do it 1, 2, 3, etc. But I start as soon as my horse is straight in the line from the curve, even if that's 7 strides out. Counting down from 3 strides out did not work for me because I couldn't tell when 3 strides out was! Counting out loud also helped me to hear the rhythm in my head. I also used to connect it with my breathing. Helped me to think less about the jump and just allow the horse to do the work.

                I focus on the top rail of the jump until doing so would cause me to drop my eyes/chin at all. Then I move my focus to beyond the jump. I find that if I rigidly focus on the top rail, I always chip in. Just focus on your rhythm and quality of stride and you'll be fine. Unless your horse is totally green or untrustworthy, you don't need to tell him when to leave beyond keeping your leg on and following him - they know their abilities better than we do, and it's easier for them to jump out of stride than scrambling to push off from one leg.

                My coach always used to say that "a jump is just a stride in the air." I had to do a lot of work mentally to focus more on the strides on the flat before and after the jump and less on the hangtime over the fence because I am a bit of a control freak in life. But it really helped my horse too, suddenly he was much calmer and nonchalant about jumping... go figure! I still don't have an awesome eye for distance, but I have learned to let my horse figure out if he needs to leave a little long (which isn't a problem because I haven't been jumping high enough to test his scope), and to stop interfering with him so that he feels the need to leave too close.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I like the "rhythm, pace, line" quote. My "misses" seem to result from (1) too slow pace, especially coming out of a corner to a line (2) wavering/swerving down a line (3) changing the pace a few strides out (disrupting the rhythm).
                  So this little saying is quite helpful!
                  Love my "Slow-T T B"
                  2010 OTTB, Dixie Union x Dash for Money

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    adjustability is key! as is balance, impulsion from behind, and forward motion. ideally, as long as you have all 3, it's even OKAY to miss the spot as long as you've got yourself all set up. (now this is not necessarily okay for a 3'6"-4' oxer yano, but in general) a horse should be able to take off from a shorter or longer spot as long as you're supporting them every step of the way.

                    for some people counting helps (i prefer in metronome, it keeps me from throwing off my rhythm) or singing.

                    now, obviously, you want to know what you should be getting in those lines. ask your trainer: is that going to be a quiet six (quiet might mean two different things depending on your trainer: for me, it usually means "waiting" but it can also mean 'steady/normal' for others) or a galloping five? now ride up to your line. keep the horse balanced through your turn and start to think about what this feels like. you can see how close you're getting to the fence. you feel like it might not come perfectly. you may either want to "wait" and come a little deeper to the fence (not burrying though!) or if your horse is very forward and you don't feel you can fit another stride in, go ahead and take the long spot if the jump isnt huge.

                    sorry, poles and gymnastics really are one of the only other ways to learn to 'see' the distance
                    (|--Sarah--|)

                    Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Let the jump come to you. Don't attempt to make a distance out of nothing.
                      ~*~Ocean Avenue~*~
                      ~*~Bed Rock~*~
                      ~*~Bissinger~*~

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TakeNote View Post
                        Let the jump come to you. Don't attempt to make a distance out of nothing.

                        I guess I'm not a good enough rider to take instruction like that and actually put it to use. I need to understand the mechanics of my horse's stride, how to adjust it and how to use my body to influence my horse and where he does or does not take off from.

                        I can not successfully ride up to a 4'3" jump, or even a cavaletti, just letting the jump come to me. I need to have my horse up, engaged, attentive and allowing me to ride him to the base. If I take that advice and act like a passenger it will result in a miss, a long spot, a rail, unless of course I'm just riding on luck and not any kind of skill, but I don't have that kind of luck so I try to actually pilot my horses to the jumps.
                        Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Lots of good advice already given.

                          Several years ago, one of my trainers told me 'I can't emphasize enough how much easier it will be to find a good distance when you are straight.'

                          Well, darn if she wasn't right! That has been the number one thing I've learned to get a nice distance. As others have said, it's pace and line.

                          I also find looking past the jump helps. I usually look at the arena fence or a tree outside the arena.
                          ~ Citizens for a Kinder, Gentler COTH...our mantra: Be nice. ~

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Lots of great advice here, especially working on adjustability/straightness without jumps, staying straight & counting the tempo. And poles, poles, poles!

                            I get good results from looking at the jump (or pole) until the horse's neck takes it out of my vision, and then moving my eye beyond it, either to the next pole or jump, or a focal point such as a tree or post, depending on the situation. I look at the top of the fence, except on one little, very scopey horse, where a big-time showjump guy had me look at the base, which works better for him.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by snaffle635 View Post
                              ...

                              Several years ago, one of my trainers told me 'I can't emphasize enough how much easier it will be to find a good distance when you are straight.'

                              Well, darn if she wasn't right!....

                              And I hope your trainer was able to give you some tools to use on HOW to keep your horse straight?

                              That's where a real trainer is worth their weight in gold, any Tom, Dick, or Harry, or JoeBlow off the street, can tell you that your horse is crooked, it's the HOW to fix it that is the trick.
                              Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by evans36 View Post
                                I have always been terrible at this as well. My first coach used to call me "Chipper." Then, at the age of 27, I got my vision tested and found out I need glasses to see things at a distance! Things have suddenly gotten much easier

                                But when I was growing up with vision deficiency, I learned this way. You have to trust your horse first... that was a hard part for me. I realized I was really trying to do too much of the work for him by "picking" the spot and "telling" him when to leave. You have to let go of that mentality.
                                I experienced something similar. I could never 'see' a spot but I was riding a very good school horse who would adjust himself. It wasn't just that I could not see it. It was that everything that I thought was correct was wrong. I realized I was better off just leaving it to the horse.

                                I am now taking dressage lessons at a new barn. My instructor was always on me about my horrible geometry and riding off the track. Again, I always thought I turned at the right spot but it was always wrong. Finally one day she decided to give me a bunch of stop here, turn there, change diagonal there instructions. Afterwards she said my distance perception was messed up. What I perceive is not correct. She then stood where she wanted me to turn and I had to walk my horse up to where his nose could touch her. (Brave of her to trust me to not accidentally walk over her.) It seemed like I was turning late everytime. She also took the reins and led the horse to where she wanted him on the rail and asked what I saw. To me it looked like my horse was going with his outside feet outside the arena.

                                Eventually I learned to adapt to this "wrong" way of going. But, I'm riding on the rail and my scores/comments from the judges have gotten better. (All of this also explains why I was always getting fussed at about not riding to the center of the jump.)

                                In addition to all the good advice about feeling your distance it might not be a bad idea to have your vision checked and go through a similar type of exercise and make sure that what you perceive you are seeing is correct.

                                I am planning to start jumping again with my new horse after I am solid on the flat and more comfortable/confident with him. I hope she will do the same type of exercise then and that I can eventually get my visual cues to help me feel the distance.

                                Good luck to you!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Rebelpaintrider View Post
                                  This is a completely noob question, I've been riding for quite some time now... I've always found that for the life of me I can never "see" my distances/spots cantering up to jumps... How would one go about learning how to do this? It drives me nuts... I'll jump anything, just scares me and I loose confidence when I mess up the take off...

                                  Any exercises to help? Ground rails don't really do much for me... I've tried...

                                  Also, When find that spot, and per say, you see that it's a stride and a half, how do you ask your horse step up and extend the stride or if needed, take that long spot?

                                  Sorry if none of this makes sense to anyone... I've always had trouble with these two things...


                                  -T

                                  Once you have a set rhythm that is appropriate for the size jump you are doing, two words are all you need: Look Up.

                                  If you maintain the rhythm and look up, chances are you'll get a perfect or almost perfect spot (assuming the horse doesn't pull you past it or suck back). This seemingly simple lesson has taken me years to learn, and I am still guilty of staring down at the jumps, creating ugly equitation at best, and awkward jumps/chips/runouts at worst.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Set up an easy 5 stride line that you don't have to push or hold to make. Just 5 strides without you having to do anything. On your last stride to the 2nd jump, notice where you are. Once you can predict where you should be on that last stride, start counting from 2 strides out. "2...1" Then from 3. And so on.

                                    That's pretty simple because the strides are already there for you; you just have to count them.

                                    For a harder exercise, set up a single jump. Then do the exercise all over again. When you see you're on your last stride before takeoff, count "1". Then start counting your last 2 strides, "2,1." Make it a game; see how far out you can correctly count down your strides. You'll have plenty of, "3,2,1,0,0, jump" or 3,2,jump, oops!" But it can help develop your eye.

                                    If you're like me, you may need to make some alterations. For instance, I can't count backwards when I see a distance. I don't know why I'm so "speshul" that I can't say "4,3,2,1" but it just messes me up. So when I see it, I start counting, "1,2,3" or "1,2,3,4" I might count to 3, 4, or 5, but when I start counting, it's because I see the distance. I just can't go backwards, which always drove my trainer nuts.

                                    Whether to push or hold to a distance and how to do it should come after you can see the distance.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I'll give it a try

                                      Many years ago Mike Heneghan told me to count 1 2 3 4 repeatedly. He said, you won't understand why you are doing it at first but eventually you will begin to see groups of four strides. In the mean time it will help keep a rythm to the jumps. Guess what? One day I saw a group of four strides up ahead, then two groups of four, even three eventually. I think you have to be able to judge at least 4 strides out from the jump to be able to compress or lengthen effectively. If you are seeing where you are 3 strides out you are going to chase to the jump or pick to it. Of course balance and the ability to straighten out of a turn are very important as well.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I count, 1,2, etc., but I make sure I am counting off the outside hind leg (the canter push leg). Seems to help me to be paying attention to that leg under me. Helps me wait until I'm there. But my horse does not like big distances, and lets me know by swapping in front when the distance is past his comfort level.
                                        Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.

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