A friend of mine is preparing for her BHS PTT exam soon and has been picking my brain about distances and stride lengths. I feel like I`m sitting my A-Levels again!
I think the first thing with learning about pole distances and strides is to keep it simple. Don`t overcomplicate things as that`s when you forget and get muddled.
I spent ages in college learning to stride properly. Initially we all put in a lot of effort and took about three paces to cross the classroom. I soon learnt to stride a yard, or three feet, consistently.
Next, there are a handful of measurements to remember:
- 3 feet equals 1 yard
- 1 yard equals 1 human stride (with practice)
- 1 foot is approximately 30 centimetres
Then you learn the golden laws about strides:
- 1 horse canter stride equals 4 yards
- 1 pony canter stride equals 3 yards
- 1.5 yards equals trotting poles (this one is open to disagreement though as some horses have larger strides and some ponies need shorter, but this is where practise improves your eye)
- 3 yards for canter poles (again, this is open to adjustment depending on the horse/pony stride)
- 2 yards is needed either side of a jump to land and take off (again, this is based on an average jump so would need altering over larger fences)
- 3 yards between a placing pole and the fence
And finally, you need to practice building grids and combinations. Start with an average sized horse to get your eye in for normal. Then start to link things together to help cement them in your memory. For instance, if you were to begin with three trotting poles 1.5 yards apart, which is commonly used for novice jumpers to improve their light seat, if you are to roll the middle pole towards the last pole, voila, you have created a fence and placing pole.
To build doubles and related distances I keep it really simple, sticking to breaking it down to “landing strides, canter strides, take off strides”. Just to confuse matters, the strides I`m talking about here are human strides, or yards.
So to stride out a one stride double I walk (one of my strides equals one yard, remember) …
2 strides to land, 4 strides for a canter stride, and 2 strides to take off.
For a related distance of five strides I walk …
2 strides to land, 5 x 4 canter strides, and 2 strides to take off.
To remember how many strides I`ve walked I say “1,2,3,4. 2,2,3,4. 3,2,3,4. 4,2,3,4. 5,2,3,4.” That means when a client talks to me I can keep track of where I am!
Ultimately I found that walking strides became much easier when it was simplified, and I had logical building blocks which enabled me to build any combination, and when I practised. So I could see the effect a long distance had on the horse or if the pony has short strides and needs the distance adjusting.
On a side note, I was always taught that if teaching a mixed group you build it to the size of the larger horse as ponies can comfortably adjust his strides to fit in an extra one, but a horse finds it harder to shorten and it could be dangerous with novice jumpers.