By focusing down an entire line of fences, rather than from one fence to another, you encourage straightness in your horse and make it much easier for the animal to get down the line “in the numbers”—that is, in the number of strides intended by the course designer. The straighter a horse is in a line of fences, the less footage the animal loses to sideways motion. Straightness, then, makes it possible for the horse to travel down the line in the proper striding without having excessive pace. In contrast, a horse that wanders off the correct line must increase its speed to lengthen its stride, so that it can make up for the footage lost in sideways motion.
In figure A, the solid line shows the proper path between the fences, while the dotted line shows a horse making the distance between the fences longer by “bowing out” down the line. In figure B, the solid line shows the proper path, while the dotted line shows a horse “wandering” from side to side, which also increases the distance between the fences. Bowing out or wandering frequently result in the horse adding an extra stride (or even two strides) between the fences and often leads to “chipping in” at the base of the fence–i.e., taking a short step at the last moment so that the take-off spot is too close to the fence for the horse to jump well. The direct path is your best choice, so make every effort to take it!