We are delighted to introduce Sally Cousins as our newest guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of weekly training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.
When riding jumping courses, there are a large number of variables that we need to consider while planning our ride. Some major ones are grade, footing, tightness of the turn, shape of the fence, and if we are jumping towards or away from the in-gate. These are aspects of the jumping round that we can plan for.
Then there are the unexpected things that can occur — our horse spooks at the banner on the side of the ring, he backs off a type of fence he has jumped a hundred times or he stares at the judges stand on the way to the combination. This type of thing calls for quick reactions, since it was not in our original plan.
I like to take one variable out by walking the exact distance in the lines and combinations in feet. It is not hard to teach yourself to walk a three-foot step and then learn the normal distances used in course design. This will help you plan the type of canter to use in your approach. The canter we need to use for a 36-foot two-stride is different from the canter we need to a 33-foot, two-stride combination.
When I teach, I always tell the riders the distance in the lines so they will have a point of reference to use at a competition. This will help plan the approach and help the riders know how to react when they jump into a line or combination with a too weak or too bold jump.
If in practice you know that for your horse a weak jump into a four-stride line set at 60 feet requires a strong and quick move forward, this will help you know the degree of aid needed in the ring. For the same horse, a weak jump into the four-stride line at 57 feet may not require much lengthening at all to get down the line well.
Linda Allen has a book called 101 Jumping Exercises that has a great chart of distances, and I highly recommend reading it. You will still need to plan your round with your horse’s strengths and weaknesses in mind, but knowing this information takes some of the guesswork out of your plan.