Jumping Clinic With George Morris
Acceptable, Not Acceptable or Preferable
This is a great rider demonstrating security and balance, but who has a little homework to advance her release to the next level of difficulty. The hinged stirrup irons are acceptable but not preferable. The joint that is supposed to bend, flex and absorb shock is the ankle joint, not the joint of the stirrup iron. Nevertheless, the rider’s heel is down, the iron is crossing the ball of the foot with the little toe touching the outside branch and there is contact in her calf. The angle behind her knee is 100 to 110 degrees, indicating that she is riding with the correct stirrup length.
Moving up the rider’s body, this is where you want the seat—slightly out of the saddle. Her posture is beautiful with a flat back and her eyes are looking up and ahead. She is demonstrating a well-done long release. It shows a broken line above the mouth. A broken line below the mouth is NOT acceptable. A straight line from the elbow to the horse’s mouth is preferable. To achieve this, the rider needs to lower her hands about 6 inches and maintain a light connection, following her horse’s head and neck. She is a solid rider who is perfectly capable of practicing this optimum contact.
This cute horse has a conscientious expression with his eyes and ears. His knees are up and his forearm is parallel to the ground. He’s giving this low fence a foot to spare, showing me he’s very careful. He doesn’t jump with much bascule—from his poll to the dock of his tail he’s very flat, which may limit his scope over big fences.
They have a B-plus turnout. The horse’s mane could be pulled more and trained to lie flat. I don’t like jumping in rundown polo wraps—if they get wet, they could sag. The tack looks like it could be a bit cleaner and her boots could be polished more. She could have asked a friend to wipe of the bottom of her boots—those are the details that make an average turnout great.
I like this rider, who is demonstrating an almost textbook automatic release. She could improve by shortening her stirrup and keeping her seat a little closer to the saddle.
She is showing with the hinged stirrup iron, which is a shortcut to good habit. This hinged iron is acceptable but a solid, stainless-steel stirrup is preferable. I’d like this rider to twist her iron so the outside branch leads the inside. Also, her little toe needs to touch the outside branch. These adjustments allow for a suppler lower leg. Her toes are out and her heels are flexed, but not enough. Shortening the leathers one, maybe two, holes will help her drop the weight into her heel.
The rider’s seat is very good but just a little high out of the saddle. The horse’s thrust tosses your seat out of the saddle—you make no effort to do that. Her posture in impeccable and she appears to be turning to the right. There is a straight line from her elbow to her horse’s mouth, and she has maintained a connection with her horse’s mouth—a rare release to see today.
The horse has alert eyes and ears focused ahead. He has a good front end with his knees up and symmetrical. He’s not hollow, but he’s also not round. I don’t like gag bits, but when they’re used I prefer to have a snaffle rein as the primary connection. If the gag has only a bottom curb rein, when you take it, the horse’s reaction is to hollow his back. The curb rein is supposed to supplement the snaffle rein.
The horse and rider are acceptably turned out. He’s been body clipped, trimmed and well groomed. Her boots have shine to them. I don’t care for the elastic breastplate or the bling on the browband. I’d like his mane to be a little shorter and trained to lie on its side.
This is a nice rider with a flexible ankle. Her heel is almost too far down, though I hesitate to say that because that fault is better than not enough weight in the heel. Some judges might say she is bracing her heel and leg, and I would have to agree. To fix this, she needs to shorten her leather a hole or two because there is not enough angle behind her knee. She needs to adjust the iron so her little toe is touching the outside iron and move the iron forward on her foot so it’s closer to her toe. Then she needs to ride on the flat and jump without stirrups, which will encourage her to modify the leg so it is not as braced.
Her seat is too far out of the saddle and she’s jumping ahead, but it’s not bad. It looks as if they approached the fence without enough impulsion so the rider threw her upper body forward a bit to create some. Instead, as she approaches the jump, she needs to close her leg and possibly cluck and use spur. Her back is beautiful—natural and soft—and her eyes are looking up and ahead. She’s showing a correct long release where her hands are well placed and pressing on the horse’s crest. The long crest release gives the horse ample freedom of head and neck. This release is acceptable and preferable up through Novice equitation. It’s also acceptable in any hunter competition.
This small horse has a great expression with a kind eye and beautiful ear, but as an athlete, I don’t care for him. He is twisting his front legs to the left and his right knee is lower than the left, almost hanging, over this oxer, which offers the best chance to demonstrate a good front end.
This pair’s turnout is well done. The horse looks well groomed and trimmed. The flat tack looks clean and traditional. The saddle pad fits nicely. She is conservatively dressed and her boots shine.
Improving leg control is this rider’s assignment, which also would help to keep her from jumping ahead. The stirrup iron is not well placed because the outside branch needs to be twisted so it is ahead of the inside. The adjustment would help her have a suppler leg, which would drive her heel down and help with her loose leg. The leg may also have slipped back because she is squeezing with her knee, causing it to act as a pivot, sending the lower leg back and upper body forward.
She needs to work on the flat in two-point and then over crossrails, practicing an even contact through her thigh, knee and calf. When she approaches the fence, she needs to use her lower leg to keep the horse going forward and not be tempted to produce impulsion by leaning ahead with her seat and upper body. Her posture is fine and her eyes are up and ahead. She is demonstrating the long crest release, a good and preferable technique at this stage of her training. Her hands are resting on the horse’s crest, supporting her upper body.
The horse, who has a little bit of a tired, dull expression, has a very poor front end over what looks like a ramp oxer, which should encourage a horse to jump his best. His right knee is lower than his left and he is loose below his knees. I would be worried that he would hang that right leg over a large vertical. This is unfortunate because he is using his head and neck well and has a rounder bascule than we often see.
Horse-and-rider turnout gets an A. The horse is beautifully groomed—his coat is just blooming—and the flat tack is conservative and fits well. He is braided, and the saddle pad is very white. The rider is beautifully and conservatively dressed with polished boots. All of it allows the beauty of the horse to take center stage.
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.