Love jumping? You’ll need to know how to set up courses, combinations and grids that suit your fave pony’s stride. Being savvy about striding will make his jumping and polework much easier for him, and it’ll help you learn how to ace competitions, too!
Setting up distances
When you want to try out exercises that you’ve read about in PONY mag, a book or seen online, you’ll need to work out how far apart the fences need to be. Usually, the exercise will tell you how many canter strides you’ll need between each jump, and there may be a distance in metres, too. This may sound fairly straightforward, but because ponies come in different shapes and sizes, some will cover more ground with each stride than others. This means you’ll need to work out how to set up the exercise perfectly for your pony. The best thing to do is have someone on the ground who can watch you ride through the distance, then adjust it if your pony’s finding it too short or too long. When you’ve got it spot on, walk through the distance on foot and count how many of your own strides fit between the fences. Store this number in your phone for next time.
Did you know? The strides between fences are called non-jumping strides.
Measure a stride
Another thing you can try is to enlist your instructor’s help to measure your pony’s stride. Set out two ground poles approx 12 metres apart, then canter over them and ask your instructor to count how many strides he takes between them. They should then be able to stride out the distance on foot for you and do some simple maths to work out your pony’s stride length. Now jump off your pony and ask your instructor to show you how to stride out the distance yourself. Another handy thing you can do to help you with striding is mark out a 1m distance on the floor, then practise matching your stride to this.
Landings and take offs
When you’re striding out distances between fences, you need to remember to allow for a little bit of room for your pony to land and take off. So, always include approx 2m after a fence and 2m before a fence for this. The distances given for exercises in PONY mag will include the take off and landings.
Learn to adapt
If you’re schooling alone, it’s easy to make all the exercises or combinations match your pony’s stride perfectly. However, if you’re riding in a group lesson or at a show, the others may have longer or shorter strides than yours. Your instructor may be happy to adjust the poles or jumps each time, but show organisers won’t. This means you may need to teach your pony to adjust his stride to cope. For example, you may need to ask for more power so he takes longer strides. Your other option is to shorten his pace slightly so he puts in an extra stride. Whichever you choose depends a little on your pony, and it’s something to work on with your instructor.
If you want to teach your pony to open up his stride length, do this really gradually.
Did you know? If you’re competing in a class that’s open to ponies and horses, the distances will be set out to match an average horse stride.
To help you set out jumping exercises, here’s a guide to average distances for ponies ranging from 12.hh-13.2hh. These are approximate, and don’t forget you’ll need to adjust all of these slightly to suit your own pony…
Test out what you’ve learnt here and have a go at these great gridwork exercises.