Finding the perfect distance to a fence takes a good eye, a good canter, and rhythm! Just because it sounds simple doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, though. It’s tempting to ride “backwards” to a fence, slowing your horse down to find a spot until he no longer has the impulsion to jump. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of getting too quick to a jump and have your horse get too flat.
Here are a few tips that work for me.
- Use a neck strap when jumping. I’m one of those people who can get too busy with their hands instead of finding a rhythm, keeping my leg on for support, and leaving my horse’s mouth alone. If you hold onto the neck strap, your hands stay quiet and it helps your horse relax.
- Ride in a bitless bridle. In many ways, bitless bridles “muffle” your hands and keep you from pulling back. One of the most important things about finding the right spot is remembering your horse is the one who needs to jump and getting out of his way.
- Canter over poles on the ground instead of jumps. This is a great way to train your eye without drilling your horse over fences. You can even set up a course and “jump it.”
- Count down your strides to the fence — out loud. Can you visualize when you are six or eight strides away? Start counting and train your eye.
- Put ground poles in front of a fence to help guide you to the correct take off spot. This will help train your eye. Ground poles also take the onus off of you to “get” the horse to the correct spot as they set you up perfectly.
- Jump through grids. As with ground poles before a jump, a grid is set up for success. With the correct striding your horse will jump through perfectly and teach you what it feels like.
The three videos above from Evention TV give great advice on how to see that perfect distance every time — with their distinct brand of humor!. Now you just have to go out and practice.