Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Practical Horseman - - News -

Three float­ing re­leases

1 This is a good rider with a solid leg, but she has an in­cor­rect float­ing re­lease that gives her horse a crutch be­cause she is lift­ing him over the fence. Even so, he’s a spec­tac­u­lar jumper whom I’d love to ride.

The iron is per­fectly placed with a quar­ter of her foot in it and she’s feel­ing the stir­rup’s out­side branch with her lit­tle toe. Her heel is down and the an­gle be­hind her knee is about 100 de­grees, let­ting me know that the stir­rup is the ap­pro­pri­ate length. She has an even dis­tri­bu­tion of con­tact in her thigh, knee and calf, and she is en­velop­ing her horse with this cor­rect leg.

The proper stir­rup length has al­lowed her to be per­fectly poised over her horse’s cen­ter of grav­ity with no jump­ing ahead or fall­ing back. Her pos­ture is beau­ti­ful and her eyes are up and look­ing ahead. My big­gest crit­i­cism is her hands are float­ing above the crest, which is both un­sightly and point­less. In a cor­rect crest re­lease, your hands rest along­side the horse’s crest and sup­port your up­per body. Such a re­lease main­tains your po­si­tion while giv­ing your horse the free­dom to jump.

The horse has a kind eye, and he’s one of the best jumpers we’ve seen in this col­umn. His knees are up by his eye­balls and they’re dead even. He’s sym­met­ri­cal below them and about a foot over the jump. He’s also crack­ing his back with a round bas­cule. This is what I call a hunter.

The turnout is av­er­age. I’m re-read­ing a book by Brig. Gen. Harry D. Cham­ber­lin, who says, “A good groom­ing is the same as good feed.” I’m re­minded of this be­cause the horse’s coat is a lit­tle long, in­di­cat­ing that he needs to be clipped or bet­ter groomed. The rider’s clothes are clean but her boots aren’t pol­ished to the A level. The rider is not wear­ing an ASTM-SEI-ap­proved hel­met, mak­ing me think this photo was taken be­fore rules re­quir­ing such gear went into ef­fect. 2 Though the wing is cov­er­ing this rider’s lower leg, I can tell her heels prob­a­bly are not as far down as they could be and she’s reach­ing for her stir­rup iron. The an­gle be­hind her knee is about 150 de­grees and it should be about 100–110 de­grees. It would be im­pos­si­ble for any­one to get her heel down with that long a stir­rup. She needs to shorten the leather two holes and drive her heels down. The rider’s heel is her se­cu­rity, her an­chor.

Be­cause the rider is reach­ing for her stir­rup, she is a poster girl for jump­ing ahead. Her crotch is ahead of the pom­mel, which is dan­ger­ous: If the horse props or stops, she could fall off. She has a nat­u­rally good back with a con­cave loin and her eyes are up and look­ing ahead. Her re­lease is in the cat­e­gory of float­ing above the horse’s neck, es­pe­cially her left hand. To do a cor­rect crest re­lease, she needs to make sure both hands are even and rest­ing on each side of the horse’s crest, as if they were rest­ing on a ta­ble. With this hand po­si­tion, her up­per body is sup­ported and the horse has the free­dom to stretch out his head and neck and lift his back, which al­lows for bet­ter jump­ing form.

This big, heavy horse is a bad jumper. His right knee is point­ing down, which makes him a leg-hanger, and that’s over an oxer with a lot of ground lines, which usu­ally helps a horse jump his best. I’d be wor­ried jump­ing him over a solid, fixed ver­ti­cal. If he hung his leg over one of those, it could re­sult in a ro­ta­tional fall, and big horses usu­ally don’t throw you out of the way. He uses his back and is round, but that’s not help­ing his jump­ing tech­nique.

He’s well-groomed and beau­ti­fully braided. The sad­dle pad fits nicely and I like that there isn’t any bling on his tack. The rider is neatly and con­ser­va­tively dressed, which I like, too.

3 I like this rider a lot be­cause she has an im­pec­ca­ble leg, re­sult­ing in a per­fect base of sup­port, but she has home­work to do with her re­lease. It looks as if the stir­rup iron needs to be ad­justed slightly so her lit­tle toe touches the out­side branch to max­i­mize leg sup­ple­ness, but her heels are way down, her toes are out the max­i­mum amount and she has even dis­tri­bu­tion of con­tact in her calf, knee and thigh. Her stir­rup is the cor­rect length as in­di­cated by the 100-de­gree an­gle be­hind her knee.

You can see how ad­van­ta­geous the cor­rect stir­rup length is for the rider’s bal­ance, seat and up­per body. The horse’s thrust has just tossed her out of the sad­dle. There is no hint of her jump­ing ahead of the sad­dle or drop­ping back. She also has good pos­ture and her eyes are up. My big crit­i­cism is that her hands are float­ing above the horse’s neck. In a long crest re­lease, the rid­ers’ hands are about half­way up the horse’s neck. In a short crest re­lease, they are an inch or two up the neck. In both of these, they press into the crest. In an au­to­matic re­lease, you main­tain a straight line from the el­bow to the bit and a light con­tact. There aren’t any other re­lease op­tions if you want to be cor­rect.

This in­ter­est­ing horse has a good front end with a hind end that will kick up be­hind over the fence. He wants to be round and looks scopey. His care seems good. He’s in good weight and his coat is OK, but it looks as if he could be body-clipped or the rider needs to spend a lot of time groom­ing to keep the coat from get­ting too thick. The turnout of both horse and rider is a rough and ready. The sad­dle pad is too big, the girth isn’t the most at­trac­tive and the horse’s boots could be cleaner. The stir­rup iron looks dirty and the rider’s sweat­shirt does noth­ing to dress her up, even for just school­ing. 4 This rider is rid­ing with a too-long stir­rup, which has forced her to catch up with her cen­ter of bal­ance and led to her jump­ing ahead. But she is demon­strat­ing a lovely crest re­lease.

If she short­ened her stir­rup leather a hole, it would al­low her to get more weight in her heels and more flex­ion in her an­kle for more se­cu­rity. Right now, she has to reach for her iron, though it is still well placed with about a quar­ter of her foot in it and she is feel­ing the out­side branch with her lit­tle toe.

Her seat is show­ing the de­struc­tive na­ture of a too­long stir­rup: She is jump­ing ahead of her horse, which I can tell be­cause her seat is al­most over the top of the pom­mel. Her pos­ture is fine, her back is re­laxed and she’s look­ing to the right in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a turn. This is a proper short crest re­lease. She’s moved her hands up the crest a few inches and they are rest­ing along­side it. This gives the horse free­dom and helps her to main­tain her up­per-body po­si­tion. The next step for her would be to lower her hands 4 to 6 inches and she’ll have an au­to­matic re­lease.

This is a big, heavy Euro­pean horse whose front end isn’t bad but his legs aren’t sym­met­ri­cal. He’s round and he looks like he has scope.

I like that he’s braided, but more cur­ry­ing and brush­ing would let his coat de­velop a beau­ti­ful bloom. The dark sad­dle pad is not very at­trac­tive and the bot­tom of the rider’s boots and black irons, which I think are really ugly, are dirty. The rider is us­ing a three-ring bit, which acts like a gag and slows down a horse. With any gag, though, you should al­ways have a top snaf­fle rein. If you only have a bot­tom curb rein and you tug on it, it makes the horse hol­low his back. As for the rider, if I had shears, I’d cut off that braid. It’s an aw­ful look. Over­all, this is a B-game turnout.

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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