Jumping Clinic With George Morris
Three irons that are too far ‘home’
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...