Site icon Horse Network

Counting and Rhythm Make Great Dance Partners

This excerpt from Anne Kursinski’s book, Riding & Jumping Clinic, takes the rider through an exercise that helps leverage a key component of a good distance: rhythm.

Refining Your Sense of Distance

While the final responsibility for finding a takeoff spot is up to your horse, to do your job of establishing rhythm and pace, you must be able to see what will give him the smoothest and most uncomplicated trip to the fence. Thus, you need to be aware of distance to the fence.

The following exercise depends significantly on rhythm. To ride it successfully, you’ll need to have already learned to trust your horse’s ability to take care of you, and developed a clock in your head to keep your rhythm steady and your pace accurate. If you’ve reached that point (so that you’ll be able to resist the temptation to take back or gun him in front of a fence), this exercise will work for you.

Place a rail or a small jump in the middle of your work area, where you’ll have plenty of room to jump it as the center point of a figure eight. Begin by riding a large figure eight, giving yourself long approaches to the rail. Each time you approach, count strides aloud.

Fig. 1.

The first time you ride to the rail, say, “One” when your horse’s hooves hit the ground just before the takeoff. Next time, start a stride sooner—“One, two” as his hooves touch the ground. And the third time start when you think you’re three strides away. Then try four, then five, then six; you can go all the way up to eight or ten.

Whether you’re right or wrong about the number of strides is not the most important point. The major thrust of this exercise is to take your mind off the fear of being unable to see distances; the counting does that by giving you a job to do. Besides, counting will further develop your sense of rhythm and improve your consistency. Out of those things, plus the experience of comparing your judgment with the actual number of strides you get, will come the ability to see how many strides away you actually are.

In Fig. 2, I am just saying, “One,” as my horse’s hooves hit the ground just before takeoff.

If you’re wrong, don’t cheat by fussing with your horse’s rhythm and stride. Instead, move your line very slightly by shortening or opening up your turn.

Fig. 2. ©Amber Heintzberger

Let’s say, for example, that you think you see five strides. You start counting, but then you realize you’re going to be tight. Quietly help him wait with your hands and let him drift out just slightly, without ruining the rhythm, to the point where you can see the five. Be careful not to overdo the drift, as you may teach him to bulge through his turns and end up with five and a half strides before the fence.

Don’t worry about what lead you land on, either. If it’s the wrong one, do a simple change then pick up the canter again on the correct lead.

The most common problem riders have with this exercise is forgetting to look in through their turns and focus on the jump early enough. If you do look in and start thinking early, you’ll automatically get a lovely rhythm, you’ll start seeing the number of strides accurately, and your horse will relax more because he feels you being more relaxed and confident on top of him. More often than not, this exercise turns even hot horses into calmer, softer movers that consistently find good distances.

This excerpt from Riding & Jumping Clinic  by Anne Kursinski is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books.

Exit mobile version