Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Calculating Number of Strides in a Line

Jump courses are set with specific distances between the fences in the lines, and you are expected to get a certain number of strides within those lines.  In today's blog, we will discuss how to calculate the number of strides you should get in a line.

There are three pieces of information we need:
  • Length of the line in feet
  • Length of stride
  • Length of landing and take-off

Length of the Line in Feet
You can find the length of the line in feet from the posted course diagram, or you can walk the line on foot.

Here is a posted course diagram showing the length of the lines:

The line between fences 2 and 3 is 72 feet and the line between fences 6 and 7 is 48 feet.

Length of Stride (12 Feet)
Most jump courses are set on a twelve foot stride, which means that each stride the horse takes should be 12 feet long.

drawing credit Cody Cheek

Length of Landing and Take-Off
We also have to take into account the length of the landing from the first jump and the takeoff point for the second jump. 

6 feet for landing + 6 feet for take-off = 12 feet

You can see in this diagram that the horse lands from the first jump in the line 6 feet away from the first jump, and takes off from the second jump in the line 6 feet in front of the second jump, 6 feet + 6 feet = 12 feet, which is the same as one stride (12 feet).

Now that we have the information we need, we can calculate the number of strides we should get in the lines.

Calculating the Horse Show Stride
The number of strides you should get is the length of the line in feet divided by the length of each stride and minus one for the landing and take-off.  

(Length of Line ÷ Length of Stride) - 1 = number of strides

Let's use the 48 foot line between fences 6 and 7 in the course diagram above as an example:

(48 ÷ 12) - 1

First, take the total length of the line and divide by 12:

48 ft ÷ 12 = 4 

Then subtract 1 to account for the landing/take-off:

4 - 1 = 3  

So a 48 foot line would be 3 strides.   

The diagram below may make it easier to visualize:

6 feet landing + 12 feet + 12 feet + 12 feet + 6 feet take-off = 48 feet = 3 strides

Using this formula, you can calculate the number of strides in a line.

1 Stride Line = 6 + 12 + 6 = 24 feet
2 Stride Line = 6 + 12 + 12 + 6 = 36 feet
3 Stride Line = 6 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 6 = 48 feet
4 Stride Line = 6 + 12 + 12 + 12+ 12 + 6 = 60 feet
5 Stride Line = 6 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 6 = 72 feet
6 Stride Line = 6 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 12 + 6 = 84 feet

This is known as the "Horse Show Stride," which is the number of strides you would expect to get if you were riding a relatively large horse (maybe 16 hands or taller) and jumping bigger fences (maybe 2'9" or 3' or higher).

Calculating the Add Stride
So what do you do if you are riding a shorter strided horse or jumping smaller jumps? Many horses that are used in IEA/IHSA competition don't have a big-enough stride to do the lines in the "horse show stride."  In that case, you may choose to do the "Add Stride."  

The add stride is exactly what it sounds like, you add one extra stride into each line.   

To calculate the add stride all you have to do is calculate the horse show stride then add one stride.  

If we go back to our 48 foot example:

48 Feet = 3 horse show strides

3 + 1 = 4

48 Feet = 4 add strides

So that's how you do it!  Or, you can just memorize the table below, lol.

In IEA/IHSA competition, you should work to get the appropriate striding for the horse you drew (horse show stride or add stride) and be consistent throughout your course.  For example, if you were jumping the course in the diagram at the beginning of this article and you got 5 strides in the first line you should get 3 strides in the last line (horse show stride).  Or if you got 6 strides in the first line you should get 4 strides in the last line (add stride).

If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to like and share on facebook. Thanks!  --Amanda

Monday, August 25, 2014

Melanie Smith Taylor Clinic--Athens, GA Sept 6-7

UGA Livestock Arena, Athens, GA Sept 6-7, 2014

From Clinic Host Christine Rodick:
I am honored to be hosting my friend Melanie Smith Taylor for a clinic in Athens on September 6 and 7.  This will be a wonderful experience for equestrians of every level. Our goal is to create a welcoming and supportive environment in which to learn.  

While Melanie's early career and Gold Medal were defined by the jumping tradition, her clinics often include horsemen and women from many disciplines.  I have seen hunters, classical dressage and 3-day folks, as well as those working in the vaquero tradition, make beautiful progress with Melanie.  

In addition to a variety of jumps, she will be doing flatwork and focusing on the connection between the horse and rider from the ground, as well as in the saddle.  We will arrange the participants into groups of 7 or 8.  Group assignments will be based on a discussion with the participant and/or trainer, and will take into consideration the level of the horse and the rider. 

Melanie worked with Ray Hunt and continues to honor his tradition at her clinics and with her approach to complete horsemanship.  You can learn more about Melanie at her website:

Christine Rodick

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interview with USEF R judge Woody Dykers

Last weekend I had the pleasure of judging the H.J. Fox show in Conyers, Georgia along with Mr. Woody Dykers, longtime USEF, IEA, and IHSA judge.  I had an opportunity to sit down with Mr. Dykers Saturday evening and pick his brain about his likes and dislikes in the IEA/IHSA show ring.

Can you give me some insight into how you judge equitation on the flat?

With regards to rider position, one of my biggest pet peeves is when a rider sits behind the horse's motion.  I want to see you sitting in the middle of your horse, over your leg.  I also like to see a solid leg and a nice soft hand with a straight line from bit to elbow.

Also, to add a little polish to your flat ride, when coming into the lineup at the completion of the class, continue tracking toward the right on your way into the line.  

I'd just like to add that I don't like to see trainers coaching from the rail.  It is inappropriate in equitation.  This applies to fences classes as well.

How about equitation over fences?

Again, no coaching from the rail as I mentioned before.

When performing the opening circle, you have the option of exhibiting a sitting trot or posting trot or going directly from walk to canter.  You are not required to do a sitting trot.  However, if you can do a sitting trot well and you feel it will increase your score, feel free to do so.  On the other hand, if your seat isn't up to par or if you've drawn a very bouncy horse, you may be better off with a posting trot.  It's better to do a nice posting trot or go directly into the canter from a walk than to do a poor sitting trot.  The same is true in the closing circle.  If your sitting trot isn't going to impress the judge, go to a posting trot or even transition downward directly from canter to walk.

Also, in recent years many riders seem to think it's necessary to go directly to fence one without an opening circle.  If you aren't confident that you can do that successfully, it is perfectly acceptable to begin with a circle to establish rhythm and pace, unless otherwise stated on the posted course.  An abrupt start to the course is not always the winner.

Regarding striding in the lines, you should do the striding that is appropriate for the horse you drew.  For example, if you drew a 15.1 hand quarter horse with a ten foot stride, the add may be the best choice.  Above all, be consistent.  Whichever striding you choose, try to maintain that striding throughout the course.

Any thoughts on riding attire?  Things you like/don't like?

I prefer conservative and traditional attire.  Keep it simple.  Clean and polished boots and well-fitting clothing are important in the equitation ring.

Your hair should be neatly contained in a hair net under your helmet.  If a younger rider chooses to wear braids and bows, the bows should never cover the back number.

Specifically related to IEA and IHSA, does the size of the horse (for example a tall rider on a smaller horse) affect your judging?

Honestly it doesn't.  I know the competitors don't get to choose which horse they ride.  What I don't like to see is a tall rider trying to make herself look small to fit the horse she drew if that horse is on the shorter side.  I want to see that rider sit up and carry herself with confidence regardless of which size or type of horse she has drawn.  

Thank you so much for your time.  Any closing thoughts?

In IEA and IHSA competition you should strive to do the best job you can with the horse you drew.  I want to see a rider who takes what he or she is given and shows that horse to the best of it's ability.  The winner is not always the one riding the fanciest horse. 

Woody Dykers been involved in the equine industry for over forty years.  A USEF R judge, he has officiated at horse shows from Florida to Alaska.  He is also an animal portrait artist. He resides in the Atlanta area.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Evaluating the Horse You Drew Before You Ride

One of the most challenging aspects of IEA and IHSA competition is riding a horse you’ve never even sat on before with little or no warm-up.  Today’s blog post will help you prepare to ride the horse you’ve drawn before you even put a foot in the stirrup.

Watch the Morning Schooling.  If you are lucky enough to find out which horse you drew before the schooling takes place, watch your horse and ask yourself these questions: 
  • How long was the horse schooled on the flat before beginning the fences?
  • What height is the horse schooling? (remember the horses are only schooled at their highest fence height, so if a horse is doing 2’6”, 2’, and cross rails, it may only school at 2’6”)
  • Is the schooling rider using a crop or spurs?
  • Does the horse appear to be going overly fast or slow?
  • Does the horse have a flying or simple lead change?
  • Did the horse stop at any fences?
  • How many strides did the horse get in the lines?  Did the horse get the “horse show step” or the “add step?”
  • Overall, how did the schooling go?

Watch another IEA rider compete on your horse.  If you didn't get to see your horse school, you may have the good fortune of getting to see your horse compete with a different rider before your class.  If so, you can ask yourself some of the same questions you asked during the schooling:

For Fence Classes:
  • How many strides did your horse get in the lines?
  • Did the rider take the inside or outside options?  Was that the best option for the horse?
  • Did the horse do simple or flying lead changes?
  • Did the rider have a spur or crop?  If so, did she need them?
  • Was the horse unusually fast or slow or long- or short-strided?
  • If there was a halt in the course, did the horse perform the halt willingly?
  • If there was a trot jump in the course, did the horse come back to the trot and stay in the trot until he left the ground over the jump.
For Flat Classes:
  • Did the horse get both leads easily?
  • Was the horse unusually fast or slow?
  • Did he seem smooth or bouncy?
  • Did the horse do the upward and downward transitions promptly or did he pull on his rider in the downward transitions or balk at going forward?
  • Did the rider have a crop or spur?  If so, did she need them?

Observe your horse in the holding area.  If you didn't know which horse you drew before the morning schooling and you didn't get to see him go with another IEA rider, you can still find out plenty about your horse by strolling over to the holding area and asking these questions:

  • What breed of horse have you drawn?  Is it a quarter horse, thoroughbred, warmblood, etc.?  Every horse is an individual and you really can’t generalize based on breed, but knowing the breed doesn’t hurt.
  • Is it a mare or a gelding?  Again, just like with breed, you can’t generalize based on gender, but it’s always important to remember the old phrase, “you can tell a gelding, but have to ask a mare…”
  • Which type of bit the horse is wearing?  A horse that wears a snaffle may ride differently than one that wears a three ring elevator, gag, or kimberwicke.  A horse that goes in a pelham may be an equitation specialist, or it may just be too strong for a plain snaffle. 
  • Is the horse wearing a martingale? Many horses wear standing martingales, so you can’t infer too much from that, but a horse wearing a running or german martingale may have a higher headset or need a more sophisticated ride.
  • How is the horse behaving in the holding area?  Is he quiet and unconcerned about the goings-on, or is he chomping at the bit and walking nervously around his handler?
  • What does the handler, owner, or coach who brought the horse have to say?  Listen to what you’re told, but be careful about taking the advice you’re given because one person’s impression of a horse may be different from another’s. You should confirm everything with your coach before entering the ring.
  • Has one of your teammates ridden the horse before?  You will see many of the same horses at the IEA shows you attend, so it’s likely that one of your older, more experienced teammates has ridden the horse before or at least seen it go.   She may be able to give you some insight into the ride.

Your class will only last a few minutes, but by paying attention to your horse during schooling, watching another rider compete on your horse, or observing your horse in the holding area you can prepare for your ride throughout the day and have a more successful show experience.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Take a Lesson

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably taken dozens or even hundreds of lessons in your lifetime.  But are you getting the full benefit of your time under instruction?  Here are ten tips to help you get the most out of your lesson time

1.  Arrive early enough to properly groom and tack your horse.  Your tack should be clean and your horse should be properly turned out for the lesson.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to catch the horse from the pasture, groom and tack up, and get to the ring on time.

2.  Be in the ring mounted and ready to begin at your assigned lesson time.  In my lesson program, if your lesson is scheduled for 4pm, you should be in the arena mounted and ready to go at 4pm, not just arriving at the barn or in the middle of tacking up your horse in the crossties.  Being on time helps your trainer stay on schedule.  If you are late to your lesson your trainer either has to cut your lesson short or start the next lesson late.  Many of my college riders take their lessons between classes and if I don’t keep the lessons on schedule they may be late for class.   

3.  Be prepared with the proper tack and aides.  Confirm if your horse wears any special tack or if he needs spurs or a crop, and have everything you need when you enter the arena.  You don’t want to waste valuable lesson time running back to the barn because you forgot the horse you are riding wears a standing martingale or needs spurs. 

4.  Follow the left shoulder rule.  If there are other riders in the arena during your lesson, use the left shoulder rule when passing, which means that you pass a rider going the opposite direction such that your left shoulders are next to each other.  Another way of thinking about it is like driving a car; you should always pass on the right.

5.  Don’t break gait.  You should always maintain the gait you are doing (walk, trot, canter, etc.) until your trainer says otherwise.  For example, if your trainer asks you to do posting trot, you should keep doing the posting trot until she gives you a different instruction, like playing ‘simon says.’  One of my pet peeves when teaching is when I’m working hard to help a rider create a balanced, forward trot and the rider suddenly breaks to the walk.  If you stop trotting abruptly you lose the quality we were working towards and have to start over to get back where you were before you broke. 

Sometimes students break gait because they can’t hear the instructor or don’t understand something she told them to do.  I tell my students to try to keep going while asking for clarification.  It’s much easier to fix a problem if you keep going, than stopping to ask a question, then having to completely reestablish your gait and start again from the beginning.

If something happens and you need to stop (you feel sick or dizzy or another rider in the arena falls off), it is best to perform a correct downward transition to a forward walk.  Don’t just slam on the brakes and drop the reins.

6.  Remember that the walk is a gait.  It’s easy to think of the walk as a time to rest or stretch out your legs before resuming work, but the walk is a gait that should be ridden correctly.  If your trainer instructs you to walk, come down to a working walk and continue riding with purpose, maintaining connection and forward rhythm.  Your trainer may then tell you to relax and “go to the buckle” (lengthen your reins so your horse can stretch), or she may tell you to transition to another gait.

7.  Don’t interact with people outside the arena.  Other people from the barn or your parents may be watching the lesson, and they may try to engage you in conversation.  It may be tempting to talk to them, but you should always keep your attention focused on your trainer and the lesson.   You can’t get the most out of your lesson if you are distracted. 

8.  Watch and learn from the other students in your lesson.  I would argue that riders can learn as much by watching as they can by their own riding.  Watch your lesson partners as they take their turn jumping and note things they do well or not so well, then apply that knowledge when it’s your turn. 

9.  Communicate.  Ask questions if you don’t understand.  It’s better to ask a question before performing an exercise than to do the exercise wrong.  Your trainer is there to help you, but she can’t answer a question that you don’t ask.  Also, let your trainer know if you are uncomfortable performing a certain exercise or jumping a certain height.  As trainers, we want to help you reach your full potential, but we also want to work at the right pace for you. 

10.  Cool out your horse properly and clean and put away your tack.  Give yourself enough time to properly cool out and groom your horse after the lesson.  He worked hard and deserves a good brushing and/or hosing off.  Also take time to clean your tack and make sure everything is put away exactly as it was before you arrived.  Clean up your crosstie space and take one final look around to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

By following these ten easy steps, you can get more accomplished in your lesson time and your trainer will thank you for being such a teachable student!