Jumping Clinic With George Morris
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.