Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I Can't Find A $!%#ing Distance!





That was me riding down to each fence the other night during my lesson.  I couldn't find a distance to save my life. Not even if I had a GPS with stride-by-stride feedback.  Time after time I approached a fence, counting out loud like some deranged refugee from Sesame Street, only to take off from practically under the base or somewhere about three counties away.  It was not pretty, and the Sainted Mare was losing patience, as was my trainer.

The problem, according to my trainer, is the fact that I am trying to find a distance.  In doing so, I pull on the Sainted Mare's face and disrupt her flow, and then we get all herky jerky and Up and Down and whatever distance I thought I saw is no longer there and then AAAAACCCKKKK!  CRAP!  BUGGER!  $!%#!!!!  Sugar is either launching herself vertically in her best space shuttle impersonation or hurling herself across space a la Carl Lewis in the long jump with me clinging like a burr to her back.

My trainer implores me to forget about the distance, to get into my canter rhythm, balance her up about 6 strides out and then leave her alone. In other words, I should worry less about the distance and more about the rhythm and then, Voila! The distance will appear.  Easy Peasy.  Like magic.

So I tried it.  Set off, got my canter, balanced her up, and "Let go and Let God," so to speak.  The Sainted Mare promptly grabbed the bit, took off and made a bid at the fence, deciding on a leap that would have put good ol' Carl Lewis to shame.

Words I need to live by.

Sigh.  Back to the drawing board.

So the next day, per my trainer's suggestion, I worked on counting down to a small cross rail from 5,4, and 3 strides out.  I also worked on trotting in to a seven stride cross rail line and then cantering away, trying my best to stay still in my half seat and not to touch her face. 

I learned two things.  1) I suck at counting.  2) I am very good at leaving my horse alone and finding distances to very small fences.

Are there any shows with divisions called "Cross Rails for the Aged and Afraid?"  I think I'd have a shot in something like that.


  1. Miranda put cones at the "right" distance to train her eye and Pippis. She still counted her strides, but was able to set herself up better this way. But what the $%&* do I know. LOL

    1. Ooooh, thanks for sharing! That's a pretty good idea. Good one, Miranda!!

  2. This cracked me up. Not that I'm laughing at you ;) I tell my lesson kids to just leave JR alone (or, in my words, "Eyes up, heels down, don't jump til the pony jumps.") It's easier said than done though.

    1. Glad to hear it, Dom! And no worries, feel free to laugh with me or at me. It's all good. If I was thin-skinned I'd have no business putting this up for all to see, now would I? And yes, much easier said than done, especially for a card-carrying control freak. :)

  3. I am laughing at work... love this post!

    I am queen of "SORRY" over the jump when it's a bad spot... not sure if I am saying that to Henry or my trainer but I guess I am apologizing to both? :)

  4. Oh, you're bringing back a baaaaaaad memory. I almost quit the entire H/J thing (there's a Saddlebred barn down the street and I was ready to call them) after a lesson where I Simply. Could. Not. find a distance to the in-element of a four-stride line. Small jumps, like 2'. Didn't matter - I hit the first one wrong EVERY time, which then of course loused up the second. My instructor was disgusted. *I* was disgusted and embarrassed. The saintly horse kept on trying, bless her. She wasn't really the "trust the horse" type, either - I had to provide input.

    Then I remember the lesson on another horse when I could do no wrong: EVERY fence I jumped, more than usual, came up perfectly. That memory is the one I try to focus on. Just think, "I CAN do it, I CAN do it..."

    I like the idea of a cone where the takeoff point should be a lot , though; that way you'll feel it happening correctly. Good input!

  5. I have the same issue. My trainer tells me to leave it be and focus on rhythm but that is easier said than done! You are not alone!

  6. 'deranged refugee from Sesame Street' made me laugh out loud!

    I SO enjoy your blogs Amy!

  7. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts and experiences and advice -- it's really nice to know that others struggle with the same issues.

  8. Denny Emmerson did a video with how to train yourself to see a distance with an easy and effective exercise to practice practice practice. You should look into it!

  9. When you find your rhythm you'll find your spot. Sing out loud...Mary Had a Little Lamb and the ABC song are both excellent at finding canter rhythm.