Strides (And why they totally suck) - The Showjumper's Diary
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   2nd Nov 2013   •   4,933 views   •   0 comments
The Showjumpers Diary

The Oxford dictionary describes a stride as “a long, decisive step”. But to us showjumpers, it’s often a lot more ‘long’ than it is decisive.

Studies have shown that the average horse’s canter stride covers 3,65 meters. We know that jumps seven steps apart will have one canter stride between them, and that jumps eleven steps apart will be separated by two. We know that if the distance between two jumps walks short then we should collect the canter, and we know to extend the canter if the stride walks long. We know all of this and more, and when we walk a course we can measure every distance and know exactly how it is supposed to ride. We know exactly what we’re doing, so it should be easy, right?

Well, it’s not. Why?

Because strides totally suck, that’s why. The minute you get on your horse, that short six that you walked suddenly becomes four. And while you’re jumping rope with your reins and trying to find your stirrups after the huge stand off, suddenly the next stride isn't there at all. By this point you've got your crop upside down and your reins somewhere up near your ears, and there’s nothing for it but to close your eyes and pray.

Related: Flatwork for Showjumping

Some of the advice that we showjumpers must frustratedly tolerate includes things like, “If you have good rhythm, the stride will be there”, or, “Don’t take the first stride you see, because a better one will always come along.”
Of course, this advice is all perfectly true, but it sure doesn't seem that way when you’re riding into a big fence with your ‘good rhythm’, watching it get bigger and bigger as it gets closer, and thinking to yourself, “Come along, little stride. Any time now would be good. Any time now...”

Of course, the stride isn't going to show up. It never intended to. While you were approaching the big oxer, hoping to heck that it would meet you there, it was off chilling with its buddies at the combination – most likely planning how next to ‘get’ you.

If you’re lucky, your horse might dismiss the stride’s absence and decide to drop it (The nasty piece of work deserves it anyway), and then you’ll be forced to present again. The stride, hopefully a little humbled by being dropped in the dirt, will promise to be there if you wait for it. So, trusting little rider that you are, you come around the corner, and wait. It hasn't arrived yet, so you collect the canter, and wait some more. And you keep waiting, and waiting, sure that it’s going to show up, until suddenly you’re underneath the jump, still waiting.

Strides are deceitful and conniving little things. They pop up from miles away and the second you start chasing them, they just up and run. You wait for them politely, and they stand you up like a bad date. Some will dance butt naked in front of the jump until you’re completely committed to them, only to realize that they were totally wrong to begin with (as butt naked dancers quite often are). They’re more full of evil and treachery than most politicians, and frequently twice as dishonest.

And if that isn’t enough to make you realize why strides totally suck, then consider this for a moment:

If strides are supposed to be ‘seen’, then why aren't they plainly visible and lit up with neon signs, rather than chilling out somewhere under Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?

Because they totally suck, that’s why.

The Invisible Stride’s Latest Victim with the Bruised Bottom
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