Pluto is taking a little winter break and spent the last month just flatting. Last week, we added some small jumps back in and worked on being smooth and light over the jumps, which got me thinking about distances. I thought it would be interesting to write about my struggles (and strategies (?)) for finding distances, because I still miss a lot and am definitely not an authority. So here is one person’s ideas in their quest to miss their distances less.
If you know me in real life or follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I am the chocolate chip queen! I am so talented at chipping that sometimes it will look like the distance is there to everyone, but Pluto and I will find a way to put in that tiny step.
When I’m riding, I often get so consumed with finding my distances that I ride backward and can’t find any jumps. I either chip, pull to add a step, or take desperate fliers. Thinking about my spots completely sabotages my ability to find a distance.
So what do I do?
I still chip a lot. This is definitely one of my biggest ongoing struggles and will possibly always be hard for me. I am a perfectionist, and being a perfectionist as a rider just sets me up for failure.
However, the Katies tell me the same thing every lesson, and I have found that it is completely true: when I concentrate on my medium-speed, good quality canter, it gives me options, so I can make a variety of distances work. We may not always get to the perfect spot, but we have the balance and pace to get a better jump even if we’re a little off.
I love to do exercises to sharpen my eye. The Katies set up exercises with rails and small jumps–often in turns or where we change the striding–that really help to sharpen my eye. The other things I like to do are canter flower boxes and poles on the ground, although I am mostly still working on my good canter when I do them. Anne Kursinski has a great progressive counting exercise that I like to do and I definitely recommend.
Distances become such a “thing” for me, which is silly, because of the 2 minutes used for jumping a course, only 16-24 seconds are in the air. Flatwork is what makes all the difference in my riding.