Leonora Smee answers:
Being able to effectively lengthen and shorten your horse’s stride is important in flatwork and jumping, but remember that lengthening his stride should make his steps longer, not faster, than his regular stride. The key is to lengthen his whole body so he can cover more ground. However, it’s important to remain balanced with a consistent contact and good rhythm.
Try including canter poles in your flatwork training. Start with the poles set at a normal distance (three human paces or 2.7–3.4m) and gradually increase the distance between the poles to encourage your horse to lengthen his stride. Another good exercise is two fences or cavaletti in a straight line, a set distance apart – for example, five strides (20–22m). Ride the line, ensuring all your horse’s strides are even and in good balance and rhythm. Progress to riding the line on four strides, again maintaining the rhythm. If you wish to practise shortening his stride, you can also try riding the line on six strides. Doing this teaches your horse to lengthen and shorten, and also builds confidence and consistency. Repeating the exercise correctly is key to developing good habits.
TOP TIP If you’re finding it difficult to achieve the correct number of strides between fences, try placing canter poles between them to encourage your horse to stride out correctly.
DID YOU KNOW? A related distance is two fences with three, four or five strides beween them.