Want to jump courses consistently well? Then you have to be able to adjust your horse by lengthening and shortening his stride. Very rare, indeed, is the course where every distance comes up perfectly out of every turn to every jump. And that is just a fact of life. Fortunately for all of us …
Adjustability Gives Options
If your horse, when asked, will responsively stretch his stride out, making it longer and more ground-covering, or shorten and contain it, making it bouncy and more collected, all sorts of opportunities present themselves—for placing him correctly in front of a fence, making the distance right and arriving at the best takeoff spot for him to jump comfortably and well.
I call that ability "a feel for the distance"—and if you're like most riders, you've already got half of it: an idea of where you are in front of most jumps. the missing ingredient? You just don't quite know what to do about what you know.
I'll show you how to develop adjustability over two little flower boxes set 24 feet apart. You'll gallop them in a forward one stride and canter them in a normal two stride and a very collected three stride. I like using flower boxes because you can practice over and over without hurting your horse and because they're just like flatwork in that they allow you to feel relaxed and comfortable enough to focus on the details, quality and control of every stride.
This article originally appeared in the November 2001 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.