Seeing distances

How many strides away do all of you typically see your distances and how high do you jump? I’ve always had the toughest time seeing distances to jumps. I hear about all these people that can find their distance from 10-15 strides away, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do that no matter how much practice I have. Right now, I’ve been doing the countdown technique from 5 strides out, but sometimes I feel like I’d honestly find a better distance if I didn’t look at all…if I end up being wrong about the number of strides I panic and end up at a half stride. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Eh it depends. If my horse is straight and my rhythm is good, I’m pretty aware of the distance about 5 strides out. Otherwise I’ll see something 2-3 strides out, freak out, change my mind 10 times and end up with something terrifying. If I don’t see anything I’m trying to train myself to look away from the jump and push my hands up the neck so a short-ish or long-ish distance doesn’t become a pop chip or a flyer!

I compete 2’6"-2’9" hunters and eq, and jump 2’9"-3’ at home. I think my experience is pretty standard for ammies jumping at a lower level. The less I freak out about the distance, the better the jump usually is.

The best thing you can do is keep your leg on and ride forward at a nice pace. If you do that, the distance will be there. Searching desperately for a distance almost always results in a wrong decision, as most riders panic and then want to pull back until they can find a distance. Unfortunately, by that point, you have lost so much impulsion and pace that either a short or a long distance results in a very bad chip or a flyer due to lack of pace. :wink:

Always remember: If you can’t see a distance, make sure you keep your leg on and continue to ride forward.

I compete in the 3’3" hunters and I usually see a distance about 4 strides out. My horse has a really good rhythm and I just concentrate on “staying the same” as I approach a jump. My biggest issues are to either panic and start picking when I don’t see anything or to try to move up out of the corner before I know where I am. If I concentrate on riding the rhythm something usually “appears”.

I’ve learned to take those stride estimates with a grain of salt…have you ever sat and watched a video of yourself jumping and realized HOW FAR AWAY you are when you’re 10-15 strides out? In many cases, you’re not even ENTERING the corner yet, nevermind locking in a jump. If you do see something from that far out, it can change so quickly from even a slight plan deviation, such as a horse popping his shoulder, drifting out, losing some impulsion out of the corner, etc.

I ride and school a variety of horses every week and usually steadily rotate jumping 4-6 different ones in any given month. They’re a variety of green, made, naughty, good, big, small, etc and I typically jump and/or show in the 3’0-3’6 ammy adult height range. My eye is very consistent, occasionally bordering on “pretty darn good” (:lol:) but varies depending on the horse. I find my jumps on average about 5-6 strides out, sometimes 4 in the indoor because it’s tighter. I never realized how far out 5 strides actually can be until I started reviewing video, then I realized that seeing from any further probably is more of a hindrance than anything.

I focus on:

  • finding the right pace: forward but still adjustable
  • a decisive line for my approach: where am I jumping to

After those two things, I just count in my head once I’m straight to the fence, and any necessary adjustments become clear pretty quickly. I find it’s easier to set the horse up to jump well than to see a certain number and aim for it.

On an amazing day, I can see it from five strides out. On a terrible day, I can’t see anything.

I focus mostly on getting the right canter - if I have a nice round, forward canter with my horse sitting on his bum, the distances just appear. If I have a flat, strung-out canter, I can’t see a thing. If I focus on the distance rather than the canter, I nitpick and it’s chips ahoy.

The countdown technique doesn’t work for me because I obsess over whether I’m right or not. Especially on a long approach, I’ll count “one, two, one, two” to keep my rhythm and it all works itself out!

I once said to my trainer that I want to see my distances better - he said - that’s what everyone wants! LOL

I watch riders that nail every distance and try to figure out how the heck do they do that… then I see them get a bit deep or a bit long but they don’t make any big movements or say out loud (like I do - ugh) "Ah I don’t see it!!!"They just make it work.

Or don’t pull on take off because the distance is deep… yeah I do that too. My horse politely told me a few lessons ago that the only thing he wants to think about as he is jumping, IS JUMPING. Any adjustments must be done a few strides out. There are days I see a few strides out that I’m not on stride and it’s going to be long or short so I need to make a choice -aaaaaaand - I don’t… so making decisions is also something you need to do. :slight_smile:

Like 173north; I have good days and then I have bad days… but what seems to get me better days is making sure I am plugged in to my horse… I am connected with a canter that is in front of my leg; I am soft but connected.

And practice, practice practice… some people seem to be naturals, some need to practice and some (ME) over-friggen-think everything. When I was young and jumping I don’t even think I knew what a distance was… LOL

stop looking for it and start counting 1-2-stay-straight-1-2-no-changes-1-2-stay straight on down to the jump. also, don’t forget to ride a line beyond the jump; think of a straight line and a jump just happens to be in the middle of it.
distance killers are changes to the rhythm, particularly in the"red zone", crookedness in the horses body, drifting off the line, and losing your canter off the corner. In other words, same speed, straight lines!
also, the counting of the rhythm is calming to you and everything is easier when your calm!

If I’m watching a Grand Prix on TV I can usually see their distances seven strides out - even if I can’t see the jump yet. Don’t know why that is!

For myself, it is a feeling more than a seeing - which isn’t to say that I don’t eff up - I just know I’ll eff up ahead of time! I know that isn’t very helpful.

Perhaps practicing with ground poles would be helpful to you. Set two ground poles an average six strides apart. Canter them in six. Then see if you can get seven. Then see if you can get five. Practice adjusting your horse’s stride. See if when you’re in the middle you can tell where you’ll “take off” from.

I’m coming back into jumping after a bad fall this spring. As Pocket Pony said it’s more of a feeling for me. If I’m spot on I can usually see it 5-7 strides out, the problem more comes when we get closer and I allow tempo to change, well then it’s just all sorts of jacked up.

The big thing for me to remember is inside of 3 strides I just can’t touch her if it’s gonna be rough it’s gonna be rough, let her jump and we’ll deal with it on the other side. IF I pick at her at ALL 3 strides, she is not a happy camper, and she’s all mare when she’s not a happy camper.

Most experienced mares are pretty good at teaching you to leave them the eff alone inside of 3 strides out and stay the heck out of their way over the fence and for the next few strides after landing.

Geldings try to be too polite about it, you need a crafty byatch of a mare to learn you right. That would be shut up and steer, just ride the canter and the mare will count the rhythm along with you to perfect spots as long as you just ride that canter. Start to micro manage and beware the consequences, they do like to get even more then the boys do.

Honestly, stop looking for spots, just ride that canter and stay straight, everybodys happy. Of course, something I never quite mastered…:cool:

I did finally get that not being straight created a lot more bad spots then mismanaging the canter ever did, even with the great canter, distances go poof and aren’t there when you get to the fence crooked or drifty. Think it was LordHelpus that had a tag line “I finally found the perfect spot but somebody moved the fence”.

I can usually see the distance from 5-6 strides out, as long as I start with a good canter. That canter may change (she tends to want to build as we go along), but that’s why I half-halt when I land, in the corner, etc. - maintain the pace. That way, my mare has the opportunity to adjust her own stride and move up to the spot if needed. If you’re too collected, you can always open up the stride in the last three steps to get a better distance, but it’s REALLY hard to collect right before a jump - actually, by then, it’s too late and you’ll get the chip or the launch.

Keep the leg on, sit up, wait, and soften my hands two strides out, and the horse finds her own distance. If I try to place my mare and tell her, “Leave the ground here,” it’s usually ugly.

At my level of jumping (under 2"6), I don’t really worry about the distance. On a good day, if I’m doing pole exercises, I can see maybe 3 strides out, but when I’m jumping (beginner here), I have other things to worry about and usually this go over my head.

Agree with findeight, maintain straightness is my number one priority now, since my pony likes to drag me to the right, it adds a lot to the distance and gets us in bad distances. Keeping my canter in good rhythm and ride him straight, he will take off at the right spot.

OP: I do the 3ft adult eq and .95 jumpers. My trainer says don’t look for a distance. Keep the same rhythm and support what you have. Rhthym and track are what matters. If you get too deep, stretch up so your horse can rock back; if its long, go with your horse. She says no one ever gets 7 perfect distances out of 7 jumps; they key is to make them look perfect by supporting your horse and keeping things the same (ie in rhythm). I find that when I count and keep my eyes up–9 times out of 10 the “distances” appear. Don’t worry about seeing it; just feel the rhythm and support what you have.

[QUOTE=findeight;8835513]Most experienced mares are pretty good at teaching you to leave them the eff alone inside of 3 strides out and stay the heck out of their way over the fence and for the next few strides after landing.


So true!!! ^^^^ :lol:

I do 2’6 to 3’6 divisions, depending on which horse I’m riding.
I can see the distance about 3/4 strides out, but like many others, if I’m off, it disrupts what otherwise could have been a decent jump. So I count 1, 2, 1, 2, 1… out of the corner, and I don’t care if I jump on “1” or on “2”. Counting aloud helps me hold the rhythm instead of picking or changing my mind 10 times. Unlike many others who tend to hold, hold, hold till they see something, and turn the effort into an ugly chip, I tend to want to run at it, and get the flyers… not good. So I’ll kind of think wait, wait, wait, as I count 1s and 2s.

The quality of the canter is a huge contributor, but I can drop dead miss from a perfect canter too, lol. Some days I’m great, some I can’t find anything. But counting 1,2,1,2 is the most successful trick for me so far.

It depends on the horse. It is tough on a green horse or one that waivers to the jumps. If I am on a more made horse, I can usually see the distance from 5 strides out. I do not try to judge any further back.

And the canter is the key. Ride a forward straight canter, and the jumps pretty much happen nicely.

I am currently schooling consistently 3’3-3’6. Typically on current horse, I can see a distance (or a couple, depending on the ride to the fence) about 5-6 strides out, but as others have said that’s not my focus. If I see 2 distances for example (a long and a short), it 99% of the time means we don’t have the right rhythm/pace AND/OR are not quite on the right “track” in our approach. These are what causes us to have a less than ideal approach.

At that point there are 2 options: commit to riding whichever of those distances comes most naturally by sitting tall, maintaining leg, etc. and let one “come to us”- which for said horse is usually the long… Or there’s room in those 5-6 strides to try and adjust to make a better distance come up.

Often times I find it easier to just ride what we’ve got and support the horse to a single jump, but if we’re headed into a line/combination that has the questions close together (in and out, 2/3 strides, etc.) I’m more likely to work hard for an ideal spot so that we don’t end up frazzled through the line.

If everything else is as it should be: horse is very balanced, straight, moving with impulsion and light in the front then I am definitely more likely to adjust than if everything isn’t entirely put together as it should be.

My old horse who competed consistently in the 1.0m jumpers and would have moved up to the 1.10m if it hadn’t been for an injury was a very different ride. I could see a distance as soon as we faced a jump. If that was 10 strides out on a straight away or 8 strides out on a broken line I saw it then. BUT I was not afforded much influence on the approaches. Horse saw her distance as soon as I did and she would commit to whatever she saw out there regardless of how less than ideal it may be. I always supported and just rode whatever distance we were headed to.

With this horse it was EXTREMELY important to ensure correct pace (this was hard, she adjusted herself as she saw necessary) and nailing the track every time so that we can ride to the best possible distance with limited adjustment. If I wanted to have more influence on the ride to a fence I needed to find a parallel approach and straighten about 2 strides out to give less time for her to change the ride on me. This required great accuracy though, if I messed up there was almost no room to recover it.

If you don’t see distances way out or find that you aren’t seeing the right one, don’t fret. Change your focus to the horse’s pace, consistency, balance, straightness, keep your eye on the course and do your best to find the correct track. That is what will bring you to better distances.

Am I the only one who cannot “see” squat? I know I’m short or long two strides out. That’s about it. Now, I don’t think I ride crappy all the time. I just can’t see it, but I maintain as best I can. If I stress about it too much, I will mess it up. I just have to ride my ride and let it happen. If I count one, two, one, two, it makes no difference. If I’m off, I just end up counting one, two, one TWWWOOOO…to make it. :slight_smile: So I really just try to ride well and let it happen. I can’t “see” the number of strides. I’m jumping dyslexic I guess. I just know when I have a good canter and I’m straight, etc. Numbers stress me out.

ETA I ride 2’6" to 3’.