I have often been asked by my students when they should count strides in jumping?
by Alan Korotkin (Wellington, FL, USA)
The first thing I tell them is that stride counting is a very useful tool, and when used correctly can make negotiating a course of show jumps far easier than without counting strides in jumping that course.
The general rule of thumb that I use with my students is to count strides in any related line of eight strides or less.
Most hunter / jumper courses have several of this length line within their parameters.
Hunter courses usually contain two or three related distances that require counting.
And the course designer should post footage between their lines.
Sometimes an outside course in a huge jump field will have longer lines that need to be counted, but these classes are rare and usually reserved for the very experienced equestrian showjumpers.
Jumper courses are a little different to hunter courses in respect to stride counting.
Jumper courses are open to a bit more creativity as to how many strides you do with your horse within a course of show jumps.
Usually the eight or less rule applies, but jumpers can easily add or subtract strides in a line of jumps depending on the length of stride of a particular horse, or what type of event or class the horse and rider combination is competing in.
A jumper speed class would force horses to gallop and thus lengthen their steps, resulting in less strides.
Hunters are judged subjectively, and when provided, footage can be a determining factor as to how many strides a horse needs to do.
If a show jump course designer lists a line at seventy-two feet, he wants the horses to do five strides in that line.
The judge knows this, and will use that information to help him or her judge the quality of each horse competing.
If a horse needs to fly down the 72ft line, chances are that this particular horse has a shorter step than a horse that walks down the line.
Counting Strides in Jumping is essential in these events to help you determine what a judge is looking to see.
If you keep doing six strides in that 72ft line and wondering why you haven’t pinned the jump, well, you have your answer.
Bending lines without posted footage are open to interpretation.
If a line is quite long and posted without footage, judges will probably accept a variety of steps in a line. They could be well ridden in perhaps a nine, ten, or even an eleven. Judges will not hold you to a set number of strides in these types of lines.
Horse back riding has become a more complex sport over the years and it seems counting strides in jumping has developed into a necessity.
I have merely touched on the basics of when, or when not to count your strides, here and I would stress the importance of having a knowledgeable instructor walk show jumping courses with you.
Every course you ride will add to your experience, until eventually you will know when and where to add, subtract, or just when you should be counting your horses strides.
Alan Korotkin runs his Castlewood Farm, Inc. in Wellington, Florida. where he trains an average of fifty students at a time. He buys and sells quality horses, and can be found at: castlewoodfarmsales.com