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Puzzled by Poles & Strides?

Puzzled by Poles & Strides?

Learning & understanding how to walk or set up distances between poles and jumps is a great tool to have in your tool box as a horse rider. That's not to say that it hasn't taken me a long time to get my head round it - or is that just me?!

It's not only a must-have for Showjumpers and Eventers but is also important for those Dressage riders that use pole work in their training. 

What is the true definition of a stride?

A stride is the distance between consecutive imprints of the same foot. From the side view, a horse should place their hind foot in the same spot that the front foot left the ground. 

At competitions, your distances will already be measured out for you. Jumpers use strides to work out how many strides the horse will need to take between each jump and from which angle. Riders memorise the route and walk the lines they will have to ride based on how they will ride their horse to get round the course, as best as they can. So being able to walk them correctly is essential!

If you are new to pole work & jumping and want better understanding, here are our top tips for getting started:

  1. If you or your horse are new to poles and jumps we would advise you to not start alone. Having some lessons with an instructor is a great way to start off confidently for both you & your horse.
  2. If you are ready to do some exercises on your own or want to understand how to walk a course then using a tape to measure the distance & then walking along is essential for setting the correct distance between the poles/jumps. Get a good feel by walking the measuring tape so that the stride you walk is the same measurement, e.g. 1 Horse Stride = 12 feet is equivalent to four human steps - so what we want is a distance of 3 feet per human step. You can also practice by laying a 12-foot long pole on the ground and train by taking 4 equal steps from one end of the pole to the other. For showjumping courses, you will need to remember that you have to add on 2 strides for the landing/taking off. 
  3. The difference between setting up for poles and for jumps. When riding ground poles the difference in strides is different to jumps because there isn't a landing/take off stride. When setting up ground poles, we like to work off of a distance of 12ft as course builders work off of this when setting up courses, and you can ride this in either walk, trot or canter without having to change the poles between paces. In walk it would be 3 stride lengths between each pole, trot 2 strides and canter 1 stride. Using an odd number of poles works best i.e., 3, 5, 7 poles. 

  4. Setting up distances between jumps. For jumps, the distances can change depending on the size of the fence, the quality of your canter, your horses stride and experience level. If the fences keep going up, you will need to adjust the distance accordingly. Remember a canter stride equals 12ft. You need to stand at the base of the jump in the middle of the pole and take two steps for their landing stride (approximately six feet) then from there start to count up to four and begin again at keeping track of how many strides you walk. i.e. 1,2,3,4 - 2,2,3,4 - 3,2,3,4 - 4,2,3,4 and so on. You still with me??

Well I just hope I have been able to shed some light to someone out there, who like me, struggles with this type of thing! I'd love to know if you have an easier way!

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