More Than a “Good Eye”

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Understanding and implementing stride control (being able to adjust the number of strides before and between fences) improves a horse’s rideability and allows the rider to further improve the horse’s technique over an obstacle. Renowned coach Jen Marsden Hamilton has taught countless riders and horses around the world in the striding techniques that brought her success during her own impressive competitive career, and now she has compiled her knowledge in a concise book of exercises and insightful strategies: STRIDE CONTROL. Here’s the backstory of why striding rules the course.

In the 1970s, change came to the hunter-jumper world. Related measured distances became the norm. Show Hunter courses moved from big open courses on half-polo fields to a ring enclosed by a fence. Equitation and Jumper courses became more sophisticated and challenging due to professional course designing. These challenging courses required analysis and a course strategy. Walking the course became necessary. Wonderful riders such as Rodney Jenkins, Bernie Traurig, Katie Monahan Prudent, Conrad Homfeld, and Melanie Smith Taylor became our new heroes. They didn’t rely on just god-given talent. They were educated and talented. (And now we have superheroes Beezie Madden and McLain Ward!)

StrideControlPin-horseandriderbooksSince then, course design has become an art and probably one of the most important elements of a horse show. Measured distances allow and require a more knowledgeable and sophisticated ride than the old days of “hand riding and a good eye.” The rider has or should have the knowledge of the number and quality of the strides on the course (class strategy, based on the course walk or posted distances on the posted course plan), and then that knowledge has to be put into physical action.

Stride control is about the rider creating and controlling the horse’s stride and rhythm based on the knowledge the rider possesses of the course to be ridden (course analysis). Are the distances (measurements) between the jumps normal, long, or short, and how does this relate to the horse being ridden?

Striding (the counting of strides) changed the jumping world as we knew it. Everyone knew that you couldn’t teach an eye, and “feel” was never really discussed. But now a new tool for teaching was added to the equation. The measured distances based on a 12-foot stride provided predictability.

Riders and teachers knew how many strides were to be ridden between jumps. The guesswork was being taken out of riding a course, and it was being replaced with the training of both rider and horse. Dressage always had structure, but jumping was a bit of an organized free-for-all until this change. The “jumper cowboy” was about to be tamed!

Now there really could be a method to teach the rider “feel” on course and educate the rider’s eye…through counting strides.

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What is stride control all about?

• It’s about creating enough canter to get to the jump, jump the jump, and leave the jump to jump the next. The main focus is longitudinal connection (leg to hand) and control while also maintaining correct suppleness laterally, giving more control longitudinally.

• It’s about strengthening the horse and doing gymnastic exercises to improve the horse’s shape and technique over the jumps.

• It’s about the flatwork between the jumps. The hardest part about jumping a course is getting to the jumps! That’s flatwork!

 

STRIDE CONTROL by Jen Marsden Hamilton is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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