Can you see a stride?

By riding instructor Jenny Richardson BHSAI

Seeing a stride to a fence involves knowing the point from which your horse is going to take off in order to clear a jump. It is said to be a natural instinct, but that’s not to say we can’t improve the skills we already have – as with riding practice and correct training, the elusive stride can be seen and found!

castle leslie trainingThe best advice from many trainers is NOT to focus on seeing a stride when show jumping or riding cross country fences.

Instead, it is better to practice correct riding and training, as this helps your horse develop rhythm and agility – this ability helps the horse clear a fence safely, ‘get out of trouble’ if the stride is wrong, and generally clear a fence.

(Remember, this is our ultimate goal as horse riders, when jumping – we want to achieve a clear round that is also safe, and doesn’t adversely affect our horse’s soundness or health).

A well-balanced horse with good rhythm is more likely to approach a fence on a good stride than one whose canter speeds up and slows down on a whim!


Here are my top tips to seeing a stride, and achieving  a ride with your horse that lends itself to approaching a fence on a good stride:

  1. Know your horse’s stride length – the average distance used to calculate jumping distances, or poles used for cantering over, is 9-12 feet. This means your horse will cover at least this distance over a fence, more if the fence is wider. Work with a friend or instructor on the ground to ascertain your horse’s average stride, as you can then stride the distance out yourself on foot between fences, to work out how many you think he will take on a forward-going canter in a course of fences.h
  2. It is important to achieve a canter that is forward going, whatever the pace – and it is perfectly possible to achieve a forward going canter that is slow, but has impulsion.
  3. Don’t rush – many of us are guilty of ‘kicking on’ to a fence because we know we need momentum, however this can result in the horse jumping the fence badly, potentially causing injury and a loss of confidence to both horse and rider.
  4. Get to know the different types of fences – for example, an upright, parallel or spread or ditch. The wider the fence, the wider your horse will jump. 
  5. Don’t neglect your trot work – many show jumping horses don’t trot much in the competition arena, but this doesn’t mean you should neglect the gait. Remember, we want to develop rhythm and agility, and a well-balanced horse.

    jumping pic
  6. Verbally count out loud your strides as you approach a fence – try to start counting at least three canter strides from the fence; one, two three, etc.
  7. Don’t panic! If you’ve got a forward-going, controlled canter, you can jump most things, and will only be half a stride out if you do meet the fence wrong. If your horse is athletic, he should be able to jump the fence.

    If you need jumping practice, consider a training break at a leading venue.
    Jenny Richardson BHSAI is Equestrian Centre Business Manager at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate. 

    The venue offers luxurious equestrian riding holidays and training breaks in the heart of Ireland. The team welcomes riders of all abilities and age groups and offers expert tuition, gentle hacks and exhilarating cross-country rides over an extensive XC course. Visit



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