Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Practical Horseman - - Contents -

Clean is what horse-keep­ing is all about


Our first rider needs to fix some ba­sic prob­lems with her leg and re­lease. Re­gard­ing her leg, she is stand­ing on the ball of her foot, which pushes her toes down, caus­ing her heel to go up. This makes her seat go up so she is jump­ing ahead. She needs to shorten her stir­rup leather a half or en­tire hole and work in two-point on the flat at walk, trot and can­ter and over cross­rails, driv­ing weight into her heel. This will im­prove her base of sup­port, giv­ing her a se­cure po­si­tion.

What also is caus­ing her to jump ahead is that she is not re­leas­ing her horse. She is try­ing to fol­low his mo­tion with her up­per body in­stead of her hands, which she has in­cor­rectly set just in front of the with­ers. She is hit­ting her horse in the mouth and un­in­ten­tion­ally pun­ish­ing him for jump­ing. She also could fall off if he stops. As she works over cross­rails in two-point, she needs to prac­tice mov­ing her hands halfway up her horse’s neck in a long re­lease and wait­ing with her up­per body. She needs to wait for the horse’s thrust to throw her seat out of it just a lit­tle, al­low­ing the knee an­gle to open and the hip an­gle to close. Her pos­ture is good and her eyes are look­ing ahead.

This horse is quite a saint be­cause even though the rider is restrict­ing his mouth, his ears are pricked for­ward and he’s look­ing for the next fence. Though his knees are sym­met­ri­cal, be­low them he’s very loose and un­even, so I don’t love his front end. He’s also jump­ing flat be­cause he can’t use his head and neck.

Though the horse’s weight is all right, he could be groomed bet­ter to get some of the hair off and to give his coat more of a gleam. His mane needs to be pulled and trained to lie flat on one side. The tack looks like it could be cleaned and oiled. The sad­dle pad fits nicely and the rider’s clothes are clean and well-fit­ting, though I’d like the same at­ten­tion on the horse’s turnout.


This rider has an ex­cel­lent leg, an im­pec­ca­ble seat and she is us­ing a cor­rect short re­lease. More im­por­tantly, from her and her horse’s stel­lar turnout, I can tell she’s a true horse­woman.

While I can’t see her foot com­pletely, I can see that her heel is down and her toe is turned out. She needs to make sure the out­side branch of the iron is ahead of the in­side and that her lit­tle toe is touch­ing the out­side branch to en­sure the most flex­i­bil­ity. The an­gle be­hind the knee is about 120 de­grees and it should be closer to 110 de­grees, so she could shorten the leather a hole. This will help her main­tain a se­cure leg with this nar­row-sided jumper.

Her base of sup­port is cor­rect and she’s demon­strat­ing an ideal short re­lease—hands a few inches up the neck, press­ing into it. If she low­ered her hands 3 to 5 inches so there was a straight line from her el­bow to the horse’s mouth, she would be demon­strat­ing a clas­sic au­to­matic re­lease. This rider could prac­tice this re­lease over cav­al­letti and cross­rails. As she ap­proaches the ob­sta­cle, she should soften her hand and fol­low his mouth.

This horse has a lovely ex­pres­sion through his ears and eyes. He’s a lofty jumper and his knees are sym­met­ri­cal and even, but his left leg be­low his knee is loose and hang­ing, though he’s not what I’d call a hanger. I’d like to see him tighter in the front end to be com­fort­able with him jump­ing solid ver­ti­cals. But very of­ten great jumpers are not tight in front, so they com­pen­sate by jump­ing higher, which this horse is do­ing.

He is beau­ti­fully cared for. Some­one has scrubbed the hair off of him—he’s got a great coat. His tail has been pulled and banged and his mane is ly­ing flat on one side. The tack and the sad­dle pad are scrupu­lously clean and the rider’s at­tire is sub­dued.


This rider is cor­rect in most of her rid­ing ba­sics, but she needs help in her horse-man­age­ment skills. Her leg po­si­tion is im­pec­ca­ble with the iron at a right an­gle to the girth, a quar­ter of her foot in the iron and the leather per­pen­dic­u­lar to the ground. Her heel is down, her toes are turned out and her calf is in con­tact with the horse’s side. She could try short­en­ing her stir­rup a hole if she feels she is reach­ing for the iron—the an­gle be­hind the knee is a lit­tle wider than the cor­rect 110 de­grees.

Her seat is also just far enough out of the sad­dle— she is not jump­ing ahead or drop­ping back. She is duck­ing with her up­per body—throw­ing her­self down along­side the neck of the horse. Her short crest re­lease is try­ing to lift the horse off the ground—she is very slightly pick­ing up her hand and ro­tat­ing it back and down. She needs to press her hands into the crest of the horse’s neck. She also could lower her hands 4–6 inches and fol­low his mouth with a soft con­tact, invit­ing him to drop his head and neck and jump rounder.

This horse has a good ex­pres­sion with alert ears and eyes. His knees are up and his fore­arm is par­al­lel to the ground, though he could be tighter be­low the knees. From the poll to the dock of his tail, he’s in­verted—the rider’s slight lift of the hand is con­tribut­ing to that. In ad­di­tion to fol­low­ing his mouth more, the rider could prac­tice trot­ting deep to the fence and get­ting off his back to en­cour­age him to jump rounder.

This is very poor turnout of horse and rider. The horse’s coat is dull and his mane needs to be pulled and trained to lie flat. The tack looks dirty and the rider’s boots need to be pol­ished and the brown spur straps should be black. The first cri­te­rion of horse man­age­ment is ev­ery­thing must be scrupu­lously clean—dirty pre­dis­poses ac­ci­dents and dis­ease.


Our fi­nal rider is fo­cused and stylish and she would be even bet­ter with a few po­si­tion tweaks. Her iron is not at a right an­gle to the girth—in­stead, it’s at a right an­gle to her foot. She needs to ad­just it so the out­side branch touches the lit­tle toe and is an­gled so it is ahead of the in­side branch. In this po­si­tion, it will cor­rectly be at a right an­gle to the girth, which im­proves the sup­ple­ness and flex­i­bil­ity of the rider’s leg. Other than that, she has a solid leg po­si­tion with her heel down and calf in con­tact with the horse’s side. The stir­rup length looks good as well.

Her seat is maybe a hair too far out of the sad­dle, which we rid­ers tend to do at ox­ers. Her pos­ture is good, though you can see in the re­gion of her shoul­ders that she has a slight roach. On the flat, she could make sure her shoul­ders are back, but I also would not want her to get too stiff and posed. Her eyes are up and she is very con­cen­trated on the next fence. She doesn’t have a straight line from her el­bow to the horse’s mouth, but she’s get­ting close—she just needs to drop her hand an­other inch or two to have an au­to­matic re­lease.

This horse has a beau­ti­ful eye and ear. He also has a very good front end. His knees are up, his fore­arm is par­al­lel to the ground and he’s very sym­met­ri­cal. He could be a lit­tle tighter in front and he’s not very round from his poll to the dock of his tail—he’s al­most step­ping over this fence in a big can­ter stride—but he’s a very pleas­ant horse.

He is beau­ti­fully cared for and beau­ti­fully turned out. His coat is gleam­ing from good groom­ing and nutri­tion. He’s wear­ing boots so they’re in an eq­ui­tation class. I’m not crazy about the sheep­skin girth but it’s OK be­cause it’s horse-friendly. Ev­ery­thing in this photo—the horse, the rider, the tack—is very clean, and that’s what horse­keep­ing is all about.

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...

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