If I could give amateur riders one bit of advice, it would be: Ride forward out of the turn. If you carry enough pace, things will happen for you.
Professionals have learned that when you don't see a spot, you do better to maintain your rhythm and pace and keep coming to the fence than to pull back on the reins. If you start pulling back just out of the turn, you soon don't have anything to take away from; if you're already on a short stride when you see a short distance, sometimes your horse just can't shorten any more. Or if you see a big distance and really have to go for it-that's the moment when most amateurs throw their shoulders forward and try for a long, long spot that's almost impossible. And that's when horses begin to stop or get nervous.
With lots of pace, though, it's easier, not harder, to adjust when you finally see the distance. If you see a long spot, you can keep going, and you have plenty of energy for the jump; if you see a shorter distance, you can still take back.
This article first appeared in the February, 1994 issue of Practical Horseman Magazine.