Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Practical Horseman - - Features -

What the horse takes, the rider gives.


This is a good rider with an ex­em­plary leg, a seat that has been thrust out of the sad­dle just the right amount and a work­man­like crest re­lease. He has a re­laxed po­si­tion and looks as if he can ride—not just ap­pear soft and beau­ti­ful.

A tiny de­tail to fix is his stir­rup po­si­tion. The iron is not at a right an­gle to the girth so the out­side branch isn’t forward enough. He should twist the iron so the out­side branch leads the in­side with the lit­tle toe touch­ing the out­side branch and then prac­tice main­tain­ing this po­si­tion first at the walk and trot and then at the can­ter and over cross­rails. Other than the stir­rup po­si­tion, his leg is solid.

His seat is also very good be­cause he has al­lowed the horse’s jump to open his knee an­gle and close his hip an­gle, toss­ing him slightly out of the sad­dle. I could say he’s dropping back in his seat a lit­tle, so I might shorten his stir­rup a hole to help him be lighter in the sad­dle at this point in the jump. His pos­ture is nat­u­ral and re­laxed, and he is us­ing a clas­sic crest re­lease, half­way be­tween a long and short. This kind of re­lease gains sup­port for the up­per body in the hands.

The horse is a pow­er­ful jumper, but he doesn’t have very good tech­nique. I don’t hate his front end, but I don’t like it. The left knee is higher than the right, which he’s close to hang­ing. He’s also heavy on his fore­hand with a big head and loaded shoul­der.

The turnout of horse and rider is av­er­age. The horse, while healthy, has too much hair, the or­ange sad­dle sticks out and the sad­dle pad is a lit­tle large. The rider’s boots are not pol­ished and the stir­rup iron looks dirty. The gloves are a nice touch. He’s us­ing two reins on the bit ring, which is in­struc­tive—I of­ten see just one. The top is the snaf­fle, and the bot­tom rein, when used, ap­plies pres­sure on the cor­ners of the horse’s mouth.


Our sec­ond rider has a few po­si­tion faults in her seat and with her re­lease, but she’s an ex­cel­lent stylist. She has a leg po­si­tion rem­i­nis­cent of those from the 1950s and ’60s. Her heel is down and close to half of her foot is in the iron with her toe turned out 35 de­grees. It is a se­cure, strong leg, es­pe­cially for fast rid­ing. To­day peo­ple ride so that one quar­ter to one third of the foot is in the iron and the lit­tle toe touches the out­side branch; the toe is turned out 15 to 20 de­grees with con­tact in the calf. This al­lows for a se­cure but sup­pler and softer leg.

Though this rider has good calf con­tact, she also looks to have an ex­ces­sive grip in her knee. She needs to make sure the con­tact is evenly dis­trib­uted among her thigh, in­ner knee and the calf. Her seat is a lit­tle too far out of the sad­dle. She has beau­ti­ful pos­ture with a hol­low back, chest out and eyes up and ahead.

How­ever, this is a gross car­i­ca­ture of the crest re­lease, the whole point of which is that the rider’s up­per body has the sup­port of the horse’s neck. This rider’s hands are float­ing about 2 inches above it, which is open­ing up her hip an­gle. To cor­rect this, she needs to put her hands along­side the neck about half­way up and press into it. She also could prac­tice the au­to­matic re­lease in which the horse takes the re­lease. What the horse takes, the rider gives.

I love this at­trac­tive horse’s alert ears and eyes. He’s long-backed and jumps flat, but he’s re­spect­ful of the fence. His front end is dra­matic with his knees way up. They are not even—his right knee is up but his left knee is higher. The right is not bad or a safety is­sue as if he were hang­ing.

The horse’s and rider’s turnout is solid. I’m not a fan of color, but at least the sad­dle pad, shirt and bon­net are all in a match­ing blue.


This rider looks like she has the old Vir­ginia– Mary­land fox­hunt­ing seat, where her heel is down but her leg is braced forward, push­ing the seat back into the sad­dle in a de­fen­sive po­si­tion; her foot is al­most home in the iron. This can be use­ful if you’re in trou­ble over the fence but not for ev­ery­day use. This po­si­tion gives her a roached back. I would shorten her stir­rup for jump­ing and put the iron closer to her toe so that a quar­ter of her foot is in it. Then she can prac­tice push­ing the weight down and back into her heel. It’s said that you can’t put the po­si­tion on a rider when jump­ing. In­stead do it at the walk, trot and can­ter and over cav­al­letti and cross­rails.

Her eyes are up and ahead. She has one of the few truly straight lines from her el­bow to the horse’s mouth. It’s called jump­ing out of hand. She’s hold­ing the whip cor­rectly so that about 2 inches of it are above the hand. The nubby end of the whip should be a half an inch to 2 inches above the hand so the whip is bal­anced.

This is a very pleas­ant horse. He has a nice eye and kindly ex­pres­sion. Though his knees are even, I don’t like them point­ing down and loose—it’s called hang­ing. Imag­ine gal­lop­ing down to a fixed fence and the horse got too close to it. If a horse doesn’t have the abil­ity to snap his knees out of the way, that’s where a ro­ta­tional fall could hap­pen. His bas­cule is also lack­ing: From the poll to the dock of his tail is flat. His palomino color is at­trac­tive, though horses with color tend to be a lit­tle farther from the Thor­ough­bred blood that makes for a good jumper.

He looks healthy and has had a thor­ough groom­ing. I don’t like the blue stir­rup iron—it’s not very classy, and the rider could have pol­ished her boots more and had some­one knock the dirt off the bot­tom.


This rider, an­other stylist, is de­mon­strat­ing the cor­rect dis­tri­bu­tion of con­tact in the leg, an op­ti­mum seat and a per­fect re­lease. Her leg also is more of a throw­back to the 1950s and ’60s. The con­tact is evenly dis­trib­uted among her thigh, in­ner knee and calf. My only crit­i­cism is that she should wear a spur, even if it’s a small one. I don’t jump a horse if I’m not wear­ing spurs and I al­ways carry a stick be­cause you never know when you might need them. I also am not crazy about those black stir­rup irons with the funny twist to them. Irons like that are so light that if you lose them, they’re hard to re­trieve. Plus, they’re ugly.

The thrust of the horse’s jump has opened up the rider’s knee an­gle and closed her hip an­gle so she is tossed out of the sad­dle just the right amount. She has beau­ti­ful pos­ture with a flat back that is not stiff or too soft. This is one of the few pho­tos we have show­ing a per­fect re­lease. From her el­bow to the horse’s mouth there is a straight line. Her hands are about 6 inches below the crest and she’s not re­ly­ing on the horse’s neck for sup­port. There is a straight, steady con­tact, but at the same time, it’s def­i­nite—not too slack or stiff. You just can’t get a bet­ter pic­ture of jump­ing out of hand. The horse jumps and stretches his neck—what he takes, the rider gives. Not more, not less.

The horse is at­trac­tive with a good ex­pres­sion. He’s short-cou­pled with pow­er­ful hindquar­ters and fore­arms that are par­al­lel to the ground and sym­met­ri­cal. Though he’s not tight below his knees, he’s jump­ing so cor­rectly and high that he doesn’t have to be tight.

As much as a stylist as this rider is, I’d like to see her have more in­ter­est in clas­sic ap­point­ments for horse and rider. I’d also like the horse to have less hair—first a body clip and then a trim to his ears and around his coronet. A well-groomed horse just takes work.

Ge­orge H. Mor­ris is the for­mer chef d’équipe of the U.S. Equestrian Fed­er­a­tion Show Jump­ing Team. He serves on the USEF Na­tional Jumper Com­mit­tee and Plan­ning Com­mit­tee, is an ad­viser to the USEF High­Per­for­mance Show Jump­ing Com­mit­tee and is pres­i­dent of the Show Jump­ing Hall of Fame.

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