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How to measure and improve your horse’s stride length

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A horse’s stride can make all the difference for an equestrian. Stride length refers to the distance between two successive steps or jumps made by the same leg. These horse steps are usually measured in meters or feet.

Why is a horse’s stride length important?

When designers construct a course for equestrian events such as jumping, they do it with the standard 12-foot stride in mind. And once you know the length of your horse’s stride, you can adjust your training accordingly to lengthen or shorten your horse’s stride. Not only will this improve your horse’s performance, but it will strengthen the partnership between you and your horse as well.

Measuring your horse’s stride length

There are a number of ways to measure the stride length of your horse. Famed American equestrian and three-time Olympian Jim Wofford has written several books and articles about eventing, training, and riding your horse. In these books, he discussed horse stride in detail.

Wofford cites two basic methods in measuring your horse’s stride length. Both methods work well if your horse has experience in cantering (a three-beat stride that falls in between a trot and a gallop).

  1. The intuitive way

    What you’ll need:

    • A vertical
    • An oxer
    • A measuring tape

    The distance between the vertical and oxer depends on how high your horse will be jumping. For a jump that’s less than 3 feet, position the obstacles 57 feet away from each other. But if the horse will be jumping 3-feet-high or more, place the vertical and oxer within 60 feet of each other.

    Once your horse starts doing its jumps, count each stride it makes. Horses will typically take four strides when cantering from the vertical to the oxer and vice versa. If your horse takes three or five strides instead of four, it means that your horse does not have the standard stride.

  2. The mechanical way

    Unlike the previous method, this one is much simpler since it only measures your horse’s stride.

    What you’ll need:

    • A measuring tape
    • A rake
    • An arena with a level surface

    After warming up your horse, use the rake to make a path on one side of the arena. Let your horse canter along this path several times and use your tape measure to take note of each round.

Tips for improving your horse’s stride

  • Place poles in varying distances from one another and at different heights then let the horse jump over them. This activity can do wonders for your horse’s stride. Apart from giving a consistent rhythm to the horse’s movements, it is also a way of boosting your horse’s confidence in the face of obstacles.
  • When measuring your horse’s stride length, make sure to count out loud and to count down. This is more effective than counting in your head. Hearing yourself count helps in making you remember better the counts of each stride.
  • Staying calm is an important tip to keep in mind. Many riders may become anxious when their horse is not doing the proper strides. Instead, focus on keeping the rhythm and refrain from jolting the horse with another move that will throw off this rhythm.

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