Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Three irons that are too far ‘home’

Practical Horseman - - Special Eventing Issue - Take a trip back in time to read some of Ge­orge’s clas­sic Jump­ing Clinic cri­tiques at www.Prac­ti­calHorse­manMag.com.


This is a very tight, se­cure rider with a beau­ti­ful re­lease. Her heel is down and her an­kle is flexed. Her toes are turned out, close to the ac­cept­able max­i­mum 45 de­grees. This al­lows for a vise­like grip in the calf, but more re­cently we’ve mod­i­fied the leg for more sup­ple­ness. Also, her stir­rup iron is more in the mid­dle of the ball of her foot, in­stead of the more typ­i­cal one-third of her toe in the iron, though this is ac­cept­able on cross coun­try.

She is drop­ping back with her but­tocks a lit­tle close to the sad­dle. Her seat should be slightly more out of the sad­dle so that she can main­tain her bal­ance through­out the arc of the horse’s jump. Her pos­ture is beau­ti­ful, and we can see a slight hol­low in her loin, which makes it firm and strong. She has a straight line from her horse’s mouth to her el­bow, ad­her­ing to the term my trainer Gor­don Wright phrased so bril­liantly— the au­to­matic re­lease. The phi­los­o­phy be­hind this re­lease is “what the horse takes with his head and neck, you give”—not more (the throwaway re­lease seen in the hunter ring these days) and not less (plant­ing the hands in the withers). This fol­low­ing arm gives the horse the freedom to use his topline, but the dropped-back seat mars this freedom by slightly in­ter­fer­ing with his back.

This is a nice jumper, with a beau­ti­ful eye and ear, who looks scopey. His front end is sat­is­fac­tory, though his right knee is a lit­tle lower than his left and he is a lit­tle loose below his knees. But he’s not a hanger. It looks as if he throws his hind legs over to the right a lit­tle.

My first im­pres­sion of his ap­pear­ance is that his coat is not in good shape. First, the rider needs to check to see if he has worms. If that is OK, then she should have his teeth checked and re-eval­u­ate his feed­ing pro­gram. If his poor coat qual­ity is not due to in­ter­nal is­sues, then she needs to up her groom­ing pro­gram.


Our sec­ond rider looks ath­letic and gutsy. She also has more of her foot in the stir­rup iron than is ideal. If there was only about one-third of her foot in the iron, she could sink more weight into her heel. Though hav­ing the iron “home” like this is ac­cept­able when rid­ing cross coun­try, I don’t think it’s ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. When I see pho­tos of elite riders in dres­sage, cross coun­try and show jump­ing, their foot po­si­tion in the iron doesn’t change from phase to phase. Though this rider has nice con­tact with her leg, she could shorten her leather a hole be­cause she’s reach­ing a bit for the iron, com­pro­mis­ing her sta­bil­ity.

Her base of sup­port is ex­cel­lent. She is not jump­ing ahead or drop­ping back and her but­tocks are out of the sad­dle just enough to al­low the horse to use his back. Her pos­ture is good and she is look­ing to the right and ap­ply­ing pres­sure on the right rein for what I as­sume is a right turn. This is good use of the eyes. She is rid­ing with an ac­cept­able bro­ken line above the horse’s mouth, where there is one line from her el­bow to her hand and an­other line from her hand to his mouth.

This beau­ti­ful gray is a pow­er­ful, scopey jumper. Yes, he could be tighter below his knees, but they are up by his chin and they’re sym­met­ri­cal. He wants to use him­self and be round in his bas­cule. He looks like his mouth is open just a lit­tle, which could make him a lit­tle stiff in his con­tact. I sug­gest try­ing a flash nose­band or fig­ure eight to help keep his mouth closed without re­strict­ing his breath­ing. The rider also could do lots of tran­si­tions to help make him sup­pler.

This horse is well cared for. He’s very clean, which is chal­leng­ing with a gray horse, his tail has been pulled and banged and he’s been trimmed around his pasterns, his muz­zle and his ears. The tack is clean as are her breeches and boots.


A coura­geous ath­lete is how I would de­scribe this rider. She has a good leg but her stir­rup is too far back. The dis­ad­van­tage is that this makes it hard for most riders to get their heels down for sta­bil­ity. She could pos­si­bly shorten her stir­rup leather a half hole or hole be­cause it looks like the an­gle be­hind her knee is a lit­tle too open, caus­ing her to reach for her iron. When I sug­gest this, though, the rider has to try it out and see if it helps her rid­ing.

Her base of sup­port is very good with her seat clear­ing the sad­dle just enough. She is not jump­ing ahead or drop­ping back, but her hip an­gle is open­ing up a lit­tle too much in the air, which can pun­ish the horse for us­ing him­self be­hind. I’d like to see her up­per body more par­al­lel to the horse’s up­per body. Her pos­ture is good and she is look­ing up and ahead. She is us­ing a long crest re­lease and tak­ing a piece of mane. This is al­ways good to know how to do so you can get out of your horse’s way if needed and not pun­ish him in the mouth by pulling on it.

This looks like a young horse and he’s adorable. He has a won­der­ful ex­pres­sion with a good eye and ear. I can’t com­ment on his front end be­cause he’s land­ing, but I sus­pect it’s all right. It’s hard to say if he jumps round be­cause he’s just tak­ing a big gal­lop­ing step over this jump.

He’s a cute horse who needs to be dressed up. It would start with a body clip and train­ing his mane to lie flat. I think horses who are rid­den should be clipped and blan­keted. If a horse has a long coat and he sweats, he could get sick. Then he needs to be groomed to make his coat gleam. He just looks dirty and un­kempt—from his legs and boots to his muz­zle to his miss­ing bell boot. The tack also looks dirty and the black sad­dle pad doesn’t do any­thing for his looks.


Our last rider has an old-fash­ioned leg po­si­tion with the foot touch­ing the in­side branch and the toe cocked out. This al­lows for a vise­like grip, though some­times it can make the leg too strong. I’d like her to ad­just the iron so that her lit­tle toe is touch­ing the out­side branch and the out­side branch leads the in­side branch. A stir­rup iron in this po­si­tion will help make the rider’s leg sup­pler and al­low her to push even more weight down into the heel. Her stir­rup length looks cor­rect.

Her seat needs to be a lit­tle far­ther out of the sad­dle at this point in her horse’s jump­ing arc so that she doesn’t in­ter­fere with it, which could cause him to hol­low. Her eyes are look­ing up and a lit­tle to the left. Her pos­ture is good, too. She’s demon­strat­ing a nice short crest re­lease by mov­ing her hands a few inches in front of the withers and press­ing them down into her horse’s neck; the rein is slack. This type of re­lease sup­ports the rider’s up­per body while giv­ing the horse some freedom.

The horse ap­pears to be a nice fel­low. I can’t tell his ex­pres­sion, but he’s very good with his front end: His knees are up high and they’re very sym­met­ri­cal. He’s not the round­est jumper.

He looks well-groomed and his mane has been pulled. He’s been clipped and trimmed. The sad­dle and tack all look clean and the sad­dle pad fits well and is white. That’s all man­age­ment is: clean. I don’t like the stir­rup irons and I think they can be dan­ger­ous. I pre­fer heavy stain­less-steel irons so if you lose an iron, you can eas­ily find it again and it doesn’t swing around like some of the newer, lighter ones. I’m not a fan of col­ors in rider turnout, but at least these match.

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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