If you are riding a show ring hunter or showing in the hunter jumpers then getting the correct strides between fences is important. Most horse shows have the strides between the fences set at 12 feet. This means that when you are cantering the number of canter strides between the fences will be a multiple of 12, PLUS the distance for a correct take off and landing.
If the course designer has a distance of 60 feet between fences then the number of strides the judge is looking for will be four -12 foot canter strides. This allows 4 canter strides and then 1 canter stride will be taken for the take off and landing of the jump.
Why getting the Correct Number of Strides is Important
If your horse adds a stride in the line of fences; for example, putting 5 strides in a 60 ft line when 4 strides is required, this signals the judge that:
- Your horse could be short strided and could possibly be an average mover and unable to make the distance because it is not too athletic
- Your horse has a short stride and is not moving forward enough to make a good jump. If your horse is underpaced it may leave the ground for the jump at a bad spot, off one leg or a spot that is too close to the fence and make the form over the fence not very good.
- Your horse is unwilling to open up the stride making the line look choppy and stilted.
If you make the distance and get the correct number of strides between the fences then it signals to the judge:
- The horse has a comfortable flowing 12 foot stride and is suitably athletic to get the distances between the fences
- The horse has a natural flow without too much speed or pace to get the correct striding
- The horse can make the distances look inviting and smooth
If your horse leaves out strides (i.e. does 3 strides where a 4 stride is called for) it signals to the judge that:
- The horse is long strided and possibly going too fast, forward or out of control
- The horse is rushing and will probably jump flat and in poor form
- The horse is tense and not showing a relaxed even stride.
Having a good round and getting the correct striding is important. It reflect on your horse as an athlete and on you as a rider. If you get the correct striding, look the part and your horse has good form over its fences then you could win a ribbon.