Understand all about speed, stride length and cadence.

Understand all about speed, stride length and cadence.

December 9, 2020 Off By Daphne Maujean

Whether it is for jumping or flat trainings, the speed, the cadence and the stride length are basic concepts which need to be worked on. We can hear these terms in every equestrian discipline and at every level, even though riders sometimes tend to mix them up and to not understand how to use them.

But then, what exactly do speed, cadence and stride length mean? It is what we are going to discuss in this article, in order to allow you to review the basics of these three notions and learn how to differentiate them. We will also give you several exercises to help you objectify your sensations once on your horse.

I. Speed

The speed corresponds to the time necessary to cover a certain distance.

However, it is not a notion specific to the practice of horse-riding. Indeed, it is found in many fields such as automobile racing or running for example. Even though the universal computing unit of speed is either mph or m/s, for equestrian sports the speed is given in m/min.


Computing the speed is easy. You simply divide the distance you covered by the time it took you to cover it.


The speed notion is essential in several disciplines in equestrian sports. During a jumping course, it is the speed which will help you to improve your time compared to your competitors, thus enabling you to claim victory.

The reference speed in competition varies from 250 m/min to 400m/min depending on the classes and levels, according the federation norms.

Reference speed for Pro CSO classes

Working on your canter speed is essential, whether on flat or jumping trainings.

It allows you to check that you can control your horse, independently of the imposed speed.


Being in control of your horse means that you can vary your horse’s speed through intra-gait transitions while keeping the same gait quality with a relaxed horse, balanced on his hips and engaging his hindquarters. On the contrary, if you don’t have enough control, your horse will gain too much speed, which will impact the quality of his gaits and balance. During competition, his jumps and the layout of the course will also deteriorate.

Excessive speed deteriorates horse's balance

Moreover, it allows you to practice on finding the right canter speed for competing. Work on your competition canter speed allows you not only to be more efficient once in the arena, but also to train on certain points that requires a lot of control, such as jump-offs for example.

Here is an exercise to help you train on control and finding the reference canter speed, as well as your horse’s physical condition.

Exercise on horse canter speed

However, finding the right canter speed for competition when training at home can sometimes be complicated. This is why the iPULSE connected girth is here to help you. Thanks to the live mode of the iSPORT app, you can follow your speed calculated in real time by the girth. It will also allows you to objectify your perception and thus ameliorate your sensations to find the right speed more quickly in your next trainings.

Speed live mode iSPORT app CWD

II. Stride length

The stride length, calculated in meters, can be defined as the size of the horse’s strides, which means the distance covered by the horse in one stride. Thus, the greater the distance covered in one stride, the greater the stride length will be because the horse will cover more ground.

A stride is the distance covered by horse

Although they are sometimes confused by riders, stride length and speed can be worked on separately. Indeed, a horse can do more or less strides and take the same time to cover a distance. On the same basis, lengthening the gait doesn’t necessarily mean to speed-up but just to increase the stride length.

Working on the stride length is essential and very demanding, both for you and your horse.

It requires you to know how to adapt your position and balance depending on the wanted stride length. Your horse will learn to keep balance on his hips and stay cadenced.


On the long-run, stride length work will allow you to react more quickly and to be more precise in your requests. It will allow your horse to build his hindquarters and back muscles, as well as improving his jump quality.

Here are two exercises, one on flat and another on jumps, that will allow you to train on this important notion:

Exercise to work on horse stride length
Exercise to work on horse stride length while jumping

However, during these exercises, be careful not to push your horses beyond his physical limits because it can deteriorate his balance and make him lose his impulse. Thanks to the iPULSE girth, you can follow accurately your horse’s heart rate and detect any abnormal sign.

Heart rate live mode iSPORT app CWD

III. Cadence

The cadence corresponds to the horse’s rhythm: the more strides he makes in a given time, the higher his strides frequency will be.

The iPULSE girth gives data on horse stride length

Like speed, the cadence isn’t a notion specific to equestrian sports. Indeed, when you play a music instrument such as piano, you calculate the cadence thanks to a metronome.

However, when computing the cadence, only the rhythm matters. The stride length and speed are not taken into account in the calculation because a high cadence (high number of strides per second) could also mean a shorten stride length and consequently a low speed.


What every rider is looking for when working on cadence is regularity. It means that the cadence needs to always remain the same, independently of the changes in strides length or speed.

It is also interesting to work on the variations of the cadence, which can be useful to feel better afterwards when the horse evolves in a regular cadence. Here is an exercise that will help you train on this notion:

Exercise to work on horse cadence

Feeling when your horse changes its cadence is still a delicate exercise that takes time to be perfectly mastered. The iPULSE girth is here to help you objectify your sensations and improve your perception. Indeed, thanks to the iSPORT app, you can follow your horse’s cadence in live and associate the data given with what you feel under the saddle.

Stride frequency cadence live mode iSPORT app CWD

To sum up...

Although distinct, these three notions can be put into relation thanks to a very simple formula:

Relation between speed, cadence and stride length

Indeed, if you increase your cadence while keeping the same stride length, it means that the speed also increases. It is the same if you increase your stride length but keep the same cadence. On the contrary, however, increasing the speed doesn’t necessarily means that the stride length or cadence will also increase.

Knowing how to differentiate these 3 notions is therefore essential to understand how your horse evolves and thus training in the right conditions.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us by phone: +33 (0)5 35 00 42 79 or by mail: isport@cwdsellier.com!

Photo credits: Jessica Rodrigues