Pace Yourself

If you focus on pace—rather than distances—in between fences, you’ll produce a smoother, more flowing round. Because I established my working canter on Louisa Attenborough’s 8-year-old mare Sweet Caroline through the turn, I can relax and stay quiet in her mouth in the approach to our next jump.

Amy K. Dragoo

One of the most common problems I see juniors and adult amateurs struggle with on course is maintaining a consistent pace. Everyone’s goal should be to finish the round with the same pace they had when they started—but that’s easier said than done. Eight times out of 10, riders start too slow and end too fast. Some start at a decent pace but then slow down midway through and never gear up again.

Having an inconsistent pace not only destroys the nice flow the judge is looking for, but it also interferes with your ability to find the distances to the jumps. If you approach each fence in a reliable working canter—the canter that hunter courses are generally set for—you’ll have three options for meeting the correct takeoff spot: maintaining your current pace, moving up or waiting. If you approach the jump either too slowly or too quickly, that narrows your options. For example, if you’re going too fast, you’ll arrive at the jump at the end of your horse’s stride—the biggest stride he can make comfortably—which means you’ll have only two options: Either you’ll arrive at the fence on a very long, flat distance or you’ll be forced to shorten his stride at the last minute and get to a too-deep takeoff spot.

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