It’s easy to get hung up on being able to see a stride. But what does that phrase mean?

British Show jumping coach, Mia Palles-Clark, prefers to use different terminology. Riders can get fixated by ‘seeing a stride’ at the expense of what actually gets them to the fence on the correct distance in the first place. The canter is the most important factor to consider. Mia offers some top tips to help rider and horse jump well.  

Q: Does seeing a stride matter if you have a good canter?

A: If you have a good canter you will arrive at the fence on a good distance (stride) the canter is the most important part of this… I would change the phrase ‘seeing a stride’ to ‘judging a distance’ I find it more positive for the mindset.

Q: Should the canter be forward going and onward bound or shorter and bouncier?

A: The canter must be able to be both of these… forwards and powerful as well as collectable into a bouncy, round, punchy canter. This is where training the transition within the pace will give you more options when jumping.

Q: How much should you try and place the horse, does that depend on the height you are jumping?

A: The horse does the jumping, you do the getting him there part. Let each other do the job. ‘Placing’ implies a late decision…your organisation of the pace should be early enough that the place you take off feels a natural extension of the horse’s stride.

Q: How does a rider’s position affect the canter and the horse’s stride – how should the rider be?

A: Absolutely the rider’s position and affects the canter and therefore the stride pattern…the rider must be in balance with the horse. Have a connection (leg to hand) and support the horse where needed (take off and getaway) and allow the horse to make a shape over the top of the fence.

Q: What tips can you suggest for getting your horse to the fence in balance and in rhythm…i.e. counting strides, taking the correct line…

A: Use 3 poles on the ground with a set distance (4/5 strides between each) that’s if your arena is big enough.. practise riding level strides in each distance and notice how the first distance affects the second. Work on lateral moves from the outside to the inside to engage your horse’s hind quarter and improve the quality of canter. Improve your line riding by using cones or discs on the ground to make sure you take the best line you possibly can to and away from the fence.

Q: If a rider is nervous and uptight, how can they settle themselves to make the most of their round?

A: This is a huge question…physically you could use breathing techniques, positive self-talk and visualisation. Mentally you need to practise riding under pressure and become more comfortable with this uncomfortable feeling. The use of sports psychology methods will help greatly to maximise your performance and make sure you’re riding at your best in competition rather than shrinking with nerves. A routine really helps as well as a supportive team around you and a positive organised well practised mindset.