Related distances seem to cause a lot of problems but for no real reason.
Once you understand what they mean, if you concentrate on your horse’s rhythm and stride regularity you’ll have no problems.
Course builders build jumps that are related to each other in some way — this means that there is a set number of strides between the fences, usually between three and seven. At more advanced levels, the course builder uses half distances, so instead of say five nice strides, he will use five and a half to test rider technique. Remember that a course builder does not design a course for your horse, but for the average horse, with a canter stride of 3.6m.
Walking a Related Distance
Before you can understand how to ride a related distance combination, you need to understand how to measure them and importantly the length of your horse’s stride. As you do not want to go everywhere with a tape measure it makes sense to be able to measure as you walk. The canter stride is 3.6m long. Measure this distance out against something; for example see if you have a jump pole this length. Practise walking this distance, if you do it correctly you will take four steps. Practise doing this without looking at the pole until you are confident that your own steps are even and rhythmical. Sounds obvious, but it’s a common mistake to walk a course taking huge big steps, converting this to horse strides and then struggling when you ride the course. And don’t look down at your feet — this will make you take smaller steps!
So now do it between fences. Stand with your back to your first fence, as close to the fence as you can. Many riders get this bit wrong and start counting steps straight away, not allowing for the landing and walk right up to the second fence and therefore miscalculate the take off position.
Think of it this way:
• When your horse jumps a fence it is really an exaggerated canter stride.
• A canter stride is four of your steps.
• The fence is in the middle of your horse’s stride.
• So take off is two of your steps before the fence and landing is two steps away from the fence.
Imagine that you are stood with your back to fence.Take two steps and you will be where the horse lands.Take four steps and this will be the first canter stride. Four more steps and this will be the second canter stride. Like your horse, you need to keep your rhythm! When you get to two of your steps before the second jump, you have reached take off point. Easy — but it is surprising how many people get it wrong.
All you need to do when you ride the fences is to concentrate on keeping your horse in a rhythm to ensure the canter stride is regular in length.
Also, remember this tip: The course builder builds for the average horse with an average stride length and this is where the link to your flatwork is vital. If you habitually ride your horse on a very short stride, he will struggle with related fences on most courses and you will really come unstuck as the fences get bigger.