The Dreaded Add Step

Many of you, Dear Readers, have been following along since I was riding the DragonMare. Which means you’ve seen plenty of videos and pictures and read plenty of long descriptions on how we did NOT do the add step. Ever. Even fitting in the normal number of strides was enough of a struggle, we never came CLOSE to fitting another in. Unless we trotted in. But even then.


Now I’m on a very different horse- one who is much less anxious about jumping and doesn’t rush fences, who is very adjustable, who is very obedient to my cues.

And who is 17hh, has super long legs, a ground-covering stride, and has been taught to go for the hunter gap…because, you know, he was a hunter.

So yeah, the add step is still not something that comes easily to us.

But last week I had to change my lesson time around and ended up with a group that’s working at a lower height than Frankie and I usually practice at. “Pssh, this will be easy, we can trot crossrails in our sleep.”


First of all, that flatwork was no joke. I’m used to basically WTCing each direction as a warmup and then moving into the jumping. But these kiddos did SO much more flatwork. SO much more work on extensions and collections and moderating pace. These are things that I work on extensively on my own time, but having my trainer get after me while doing these things was intense. I was ridiculously out of breath from that.

And then the jumping part. Warming up over a couple crossrails was similar enough to how we usually warm up, nothing major there. But then we were told to do the outside line. The kiddos were told to trot in, and then press press press to canter out in four strides.

I assumed I would trot in, and hold hold hold to canter out in four strides. Sounds reasonable, yes? Frankie has a much bigger stride and more pep in his step, so trotting in and putting the four in would be a challenge.

Except Trainer told me to canter in, and then put in the four. THE DREADED ADD STEP.

Luckily BrontosaurusRex is a Very Good Boy and sat back when asked. But holy moly, that took so much leg. So. Much. Leg.

And then Trainer upped the difficulty even more: she had me canter into a line and put four strides in. But this time, the line was set towards home and the jump in was a little more substantial.

All praise to the Very Good Boy who obligingly put in four teeny strides. It was like riding a carousel horse- he has a very active canter and all that energy was just cycling up and down instead of forward. Super cool feeling. SO MUCH LEG.

The key to this exercise was not to over-release over the first jump. Of course I don’t want to hit him in the mouth or restrain him, but there’s no need to shove my hands up his neck over a 18″ crossrail that he’s barely picking up his feet for.

He barely picks up his feet over this height, so you can imagine that he just kinda lopes over the smaller stuff.

This ties back to what Trainer has been telling me since we brought Frankie home: auto-release is the name of the game with him. Keeping a feel on his mouth not only helps us steer in the air (like we talked about last week), but it also allows us to land and adjust our pace immediately instead of waiting for a recovery stride.

Frankie has infinite good qualities, but he is not a sensitive horse. He is not the type to turn and burn, or to immediately adjust based on light pressure on his mouth. However, he is very happy to maintain whichever stride I set him at. Which means that the key is to ask early and ask firmly so that we can focus on maintaining our step down the line instead of fussing the whole way through.

We finished up by galloping up to a long approach single oxer to let him stretch out and take a mental break from the collection. We were both much happier with that, but the damage was done. My core and legs were so sore for days.

Worth it to add another option to our toolbox!

Do you love the add, or when in doubt do you leave it out?

18 thoughts on “The Dreaded Add Step

  1. nbohl 07/05/2016 / 3:07 pm

    My horse is an ex-steeplechaser and now is a fox hunter/jumper….. I feel your pain for sure & I think my horse laughs at adds


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2016 / 12:51 pm

      That sound I’m hearing is Frankie laughing at me? ….that makes sense actually

      Liked by 1 person

      • nbohl 07/06/2016 / 12:52 pm

        Lol we can start a long strided bay TB fox Hunter “Leave it out” club


  2. Heather 07/05/2016 / 5:00 pm

    I’m more of a leave it out type of gal, but Val is so adjustable that we can do a bounce in a one, or we can do two. Neither of which are what we want, but both have happened. Horses, right?


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2016 / 12:52 pm

      It averages out to the correct striding? That’s what I tell my trainer, anyways. She doesn’t buy it.


  3. carey 07/05/2016 / 5:56 pm

    Cosmo and I worked on this exact thing last week. We backed off our bit so I can and HAVE to hold so much more than I am used to. But, my back and abs were sore, so I must have been doing something right.


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2016 / 12:53 pm

      Pain means something is happening correctly! These big ol’ ponies need so much help from us to mash their bodies together.

      Liked by 1 person

      • carey 07/06/2016 / 1:22 pm

        Seriously, how hard can it be to just take more compact but no less powerful steps??

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Bette 07/05/2016 / 11:11 pm

    Unmmmm…both!! Chimi can do the add real easily (we’re quite talented at putting 3 strides in a 2 stride!) but he can also get strung out and leave long and weak- it’s the happy medium canter that we need help with! Hahaha


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2016 / 12:54 pm

      Seriously it’s that dang medium canter that’s so hard!! Legit the number one thing I’m working on with Francis


  5. Jenn 07/06/2016 / 6:23 am

    Roger says add strides are merely a suggestion, and one-stride grids should be bounced. Obviously 😉


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2016 / 12:55 pm

      Roger don’t need no help with striding, Roger GOT THIS


  6. Centered in the Saddle 07/06/2016 / 1:16 pm

    Drifter looooves the long spot. We’ve been working hard for a month and a half to get him to actually try and add one in. It’s. So. Hard.
    Bonus: I think my abs are as strong as they’ve ever been! 🙂


  7. Stacie Seidman 07/06/2016 / 11:28 pm

    I love the add! I’m all about locking my elbows, and having a good pull… I’ve found the older more seasoned equine just ignore me. But the baby Badger winds up trotting lots of jumps…


  8. Tracy - Fly On Over 07/21/2016 / 2:32 pm

    I’m still in the add camp. Working up to the stride, but I feel more comfortable at a slower pace right now.


    • hellomylivia 07/21/2016 / 2:37 pm

      I think it has a lot to do with the horse’s stride length too- for Frankie, the add step is much harder because he’s got a bonkers gigantic stride length, so it’s actually much more energetic when we do the add!


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