I’ve mentioned this ad nauseam on the blog, but pace is really, freaking hard. Finding the right pace and maintaining it is absolutely critical to success over fences (at least in the hunter ring)… and it sounds so easy. But let me tell you, for this weenie adult amateur, it is not. It’s like the holy grail or a unicorn; you want so badly to find it… but it seems always just out of reach.
I always thought that pace was just a different way of saying speed, but that’s not true at all. There is so much more that goes into pace than just being fast — you need impulsion, straightness and adjustability. It’s also extremely easy to lose pace once you’ve got it — your path, hands, legs, seat and eye all play critical roles in maintaining pace. Basically, in order to achieve the proper pace and maintain it, you have to be working for it every stride. And it’s hard.
Currently, I struggle with not only knowing what the right pace feels like and maintaining it throughout a course, but also being comfortable with it. You know that whole stereotypical ‘hunters go so slow, they’re practically loping over fences’ and how everyone seems to bash that? I LIKE TO RIDE THAT. Not because it looks good or even because the fences flow well (because when you’re crawling like a snail, the fences do not flow well)… but because I’m a big, fat, nervous Nelly. A normal canter pace feels like a gallop to me and makes me nervous. So I’ve been practicing opening Miles up and riding a faster canter pace, even on the flat.
Guys. GUYS. It’s working! For the first time ever, I was able to get three different paces between ground poles (4, 5 and 6 strides) without becoming totally undone and wonky. And in my lesson last night, once Miles and I got rolling, we had some really awesome jumps that felt effortless because we had enough pace. Sure, it’s not perfect and I need to work on getting more pace sooner… but I can feel that 2’6″ stride pace now and I’m not afraid. This is progress worth celebrating 😀