In National Hunt racing, over hurdles or fences, ‘seeing a stride’ refers to the ability of a jockey not only to identify the point at which, ideally, a horse should leave the ground to negotiate an obstacle successfully, but also to ride positively to reach that point. To position a horse optimally – that is, close to the base of an obstacle, but not so close as to impair take-off – a jockey must consider the characteristics of the horse, in terms of balance, suppleness and temperament and, of course, its stride length, as well as the nature of the obstacle. Of course, the different types of obstacles include hurdles, plain fences and open ditches; the tallest and broadest fence on the Grand National Course at Aintree, known as ‘The Chair’, is 5’3″ high and 9′ wide, including a 6′ wide ditch on the take-off side. A horse typically has a stride length between 9′ and 12′, so will cover at least that distance in the air and possibly further, if the obstacle is wider. Nevertheless, while momentum is required to jump larger obstacles, a jockey must avoid ‘kicking on’ too hard, which can lead to jumping errors, loss of confidence and injury to horse and rider.
The fifteenth fence, known as ‘The Chair’, is both the tallest and broadest fence on the Grand National course. The fence, itself, stands 4’ 8” high, but the ground on the landing side is actually 6” higher than that on the take-off side, so horses must clear a total height of 5’ 2”. Breadth-wise, The Chair measures 3’ 0”, but is preceded by a ditch, 6’ 0” across, to create a total breadth of 9’ 0”.
Along with the sixteenth fence, the Water Jump, The Chair is jumped just once during the Grand National. By contrast, ‘Becher’s Brook’ is jumped twice, as the sixth and twenty-second fence. Again, the fence, itself, stands just 4’ 10” high, but the lie of the land means that it is effectively 6’ 9” high, from the top of the fence to ground level, on the landing side.