It's important to get the distances correct between fences or you can easily destroy your horse's confidence - and your own! Here's a checklist of things you need to remember.
The size of your pony or horse is obviously relevant to stride length, as is the type and size of the obstacle. Working with your trainer and jumping all variations of fences will help you learn how to present your horse correctly, whether it is for an upright, an oxer of a triple bar.
Distances in training depend on:
• The size of the fences
• The horse’s length of stride
• The education of the horse
• The rider’s ability to establish a good canter
Here is the guide to the horses stride length, judged on a working canter.
- raining, riding school cobs, smaller ponies and gymnastic grids.
- Imperial 10ft Metric 3m
- Riding Club and training competition for both horses and large ponies also grids.
- Imperial 11ft Metric 3.25m
- Competition show-jumping novice to international level.
- Imperial 12ft Metric 3.5m
* You need to learn to pace out a distance of 3 feet (or 90cm) so you can easily pace the distance between each fence. Practise this until you know each stride you take measures 3 feet.
* You must remember to allow for the horse's landing and take off points - allow half a stride ie 6 feet for landing and 6 feet for take off. So, if you have two fences, with one non-jumping stride in between, the distance between the two fences will be 24 feet ie 6 feet to allow for landing over the first fence, 12 feet for the non-jumping stride, 6 feet for take off for the second fence.
* This distance of 24 feet will be fine if the two fences are more than 3ft high. If the fences are below three feet then you need to shorten the distance between the two elements, otherwise the horse may well struggle to make the distance. So, in this case, if the two fences were only about 2ft 6ins high, we'd shorten the distance between the fences by 3 feet so the total distance between the fences would be 21 feet. You would need to see how your horse coped with the distance and alter it slightly if necessary.
* If you are building a combination for a novice horse remember to make the first fence inviting, such as an ascending oxer. Remember that your horse should have jumped all kinds of fences individually before putting different types of fences together in grids.
* You can use poles as ground lines to encourage your horse to lower his head and neck as he approaches a fence. However, ground poles must always be placed in front of the fence, not behind it. If you use fillers, ensure these are put underneath front rails and not behind them.
* If your horse is ready to jump bounces ie where there is no non-jumping stride in between two fences, the distance between the two fences should not be less than 12 feet, unless the fences are very small.
In order to accurately assess the distances between fences take steps of 3ft (90 cms), that is slightly longer than a natural human stride. Four of these steps are the equivalent to one of your horse's strides.
Remember - When walking these distances the horse will land two 3ft steps after the fence and take off two of your steps before the next element.
As an example: if you walk 16 strides between two fences, take off 2 for landing and 2 for take off, this leaves 12 in between, divided by four it equates to three horse strides.
Regular practice of walking distances will help you ride a more balanced, accurate round. The walked distances will tell you where to shorten the horses stride and also when you will need to lengthen in order to present the horse correctly for each jump and not put them on an impossible stride from which to jump. Click here for more jumping tips
By getting your distance exactly right means you don’t have to adjust them as you change pace, With all pole work, remember to ride over them in both directions– alternate your riding over poles with going large around the school, give your horse breaks, and always praise him for accurate polework. More related horse jumping exercises and tips helping you improve your technique