Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Happy with rid­ing, un­happy with care

Practical Horseman - - Contents -


Our first rider is good in terms of tech­ni­cal skill—I’d give her a score in the high 80s—but she needs help with turnout. She has a great leg, where the iron is cor­rectly an­gled across the ball of her foot so the out­side branch is ahead of the in­side and her lit­tle toe is touch­ing the out­side. This al­lows for a sup­ple an­kle. Her toes are turned out and she has her calf on her horse. The an­gle be­hind her knee is a lit­tle open—it should be be­tween 100 and 110 de­grees—in­di­cat­ing that her stirrup leather is too long by at least a hole.

Her but­tocks are too far out of the sad­dle be­cause she is stand­ing in her stir­rups. Ap­proach­ing the fence, she must use her legs if nec­es­sary to main­tain for­ward mo­men­tum and then wait for her horse’s jump­ing thrust to push her seat out of the sad­dle just a lit­tle. Her pos­ture is ex­cel­lent. Her crest re­lease is float­ing above the horse’s neck. She needs to lower her hands so they’re on ei­ther side of the horse’s crest and press them into the neck to sup­port her up­per body.

The horse is very cute with an alert ex­pres­sion. His knees are way up and he is very sym­met­ri­cal from his el­bow to the point of his toe. He jumps a lit­tle flat, which horses with good front ends tend to do.

While the rider’s tech­ni­cal skill is very good, her horse man­age­ment needs more ef­fort. There is dried sweat on the horse’s neck, which tells me he ei­ther needs groom­ing or a body clip. Not only does a long coat look unat­trac­tive, it’s un­healthy. As he cools down, he could catch a chill and get sick. His mane needs to be pulled, and the tack needs to be cleaner. I don’t like elas­tic breast­plates be­cause I saw a horse whose sad­dle had slipped back. The elas­tic didn’t break and he choked. The sad­dle pad takes my at­ten­tion away from the horse. The rider’s boots are un­pol­ished and her hair is fly­ing out all over the place.


This rider has a nice fol­low­ing re­lease, but her leg has slipped back and her hip an­gle has opened up too much, giv­ing the im­pres­sion that she’s rid­ing a lit­tle de­fen­sively. In ad­di­tion to the slipped-back leg, her heel has come up. This is partly be­cause her iron is too far back on her foot. I’d like to see it a lit­tle closer to her toe—which should be about one-quar­ter of the way in the iron—to give her a sup­pler leg and al­low her to drop more weight in her iron. Her leg will be­come more sta­ble so she’ll be able to keep it closer to the girth.

Her seat is a lit­tle too deep in the sad­dle. She needs to close her hip an­gle a bit more so she can fol­low her horse bet­ter with her body. It seems she’s lack­ing con­fi­dence and rather than rid­ing for­ward to the fence, she’s doubt­ing her­self. She shouldn’t doubt her horse be­cause he’s great. This rider’s best fea­ture is her arm. Though she seems ten­ta­tive with her body, she’s fol­low­ing her horse’s mouth, al­low­ing him to drop his head and neck. There is al­most a straight line from her el­bow to the bit and she’s main­tain­ing con­tact and sup­port, but she’s not stiff­ing her horse in the mouth.

This is a very cute horse with a beau­ti­ful, qual­ity head and ex­pres­sive ears and eyes. He also has a great front end with his knees up and very sym­met­ri­cal. He jumps a lit­tle flat across his back in the air, but that’s OK. I’d rather have a horse with a won­der­ful front end and less bas­cule than the op­po­site.

Again, I have a prob­lem with this rider’s turnout. The horse’s coat is dull—I’d like to see her use more el­bow grease to bring more bloom to it. His mane needs to be pulled so that it’s not wider than a hand’s width and trained to lie flat by be­ing loosely braided with rub­ber bands His fet­locks need to be trimmed and her boots need to be cleaned and pol­ished.


Our third rider has an ex­cel­lent leg with her toes turned out in ac­cor­dance with her con­for­ma­tion, her heels down and her an­kles flexed. Her stirrup-iron place­ment is help­ing with that flex­ion be­cause her lit­tle toe is touch­ing the out­side branch and the iron is cross­ing the ball of her foot at an an­gle so the out­side branch leads the in­side. The an­gle be­hind her knee is just right, be­tween 100 and 110 de­grees at this point of the jump.

She waited for her horse’s thrust to push her seat out of the sad­dle just enough so that he can lift his back to jump yet she’s not in dan­ger of fall­ing off if he props or stops. Her pos­ture with a flat back is beau­ti­ful. She’s at­tempt­ing a crest re­lease, but her hands are float­ing above the horse’s neck as were our first rider’s. The point of such a re­lease is so the rider can rest her hands on ei­ther side of the neck to sup­port the up­per body. Ex­cept for that, she has a very good po­si­tion.

This pony has a good, alert at­ti­tude and nice ear and eye. He is just tak­ing one big can­ter step over this fence. He’s split his legs so the left one is down and the right one is up. This is not dan­ger­ous like hang­ing, but it’s not at­trac­tive and may in­di­cate that he’s bored. But he’s safe for a young rider, which is im­por­tant, and hope­fully giv­ing her con­fi­dence in her rid­ing. He’s not drop­ping his head or neck and is hol­low in his back.

I like that the pony is clipped and braided, but his coat is dull. Even with clip­ping, you have to groom them to bring bloom to a coat. I also think the rider’s boots could be cleaned and pol­ished. Read­ers should study pho­tos of the turnouts of Olympians McLain Ward and Beezie Mad­den and try to em­u­late them.


This horse is jump­ing so high that his rider is be­ing jumped loose, but she’s do­ing a good job stay­ing with him. Her toes are turned out the max­i­mum 45 de­grees and her heels are down. The an­gle be­hind her knee is about 100 de­grees, in­di­cat­ing that her stirrup length is cor­rect. But her lower leg has slipped back. She’s got a bit of a rounder thigh, like McLain Ward, and peo­ple with this con­for­ma­tion have to work harder to have a sta­ble leg. She can ride with­out stir­rups to get her leg stronger so she can stay with her pow­er­ful jumper.

Her base of sup­port is fine. Her but­tocks are a lit­tle too far out of the sad­dle, but it’s bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive of get­ting left be­hind when her horse has made such an ef­fort. There’s a lit­tle roach in her back and her eyes are look­ing up and ahead. This is a proper short crest re­lease, where her hands have moved up an inch or two and are rest­ing along­side the crest of the neck. She could try the next level of re­lease—the au­to­matic re­lease—by drop­ping her hands straight down the neck about 4 inches to cre­ate a straight line from her el­bow to the bit and main­tain­ing a fol­low­ing con­tact.

Her horse is 2 feet higher than the jump, which says he’s care­ful and scopey. His knees are al­most sym­met­ri­cal. He’s flat across his topline, but when a horse over­jumps like this, the bas­cule doesn’t mat­ter as much.

He ap­pears healthy with some shine to his clean coat. His mane is fly­ing all over the place, which is sort of the fash­ion these days, but I think it looks sloppy. The tack looks all right as does her at­tire. I’d like her hair con­tained in a bun. If she doesn’t want her hair un­der the hel­met, then it should be tucked in a bun at the base of hel­met. When hair is not con­tained, it could get caught on some­thing, so it’s a safety is­sue as well as an aes­thet­ics is­sue. But ev­ery­thing looks clean, which is a pri­or­ity.

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...

Take a trip back in time to read some of Ge­orge’s clas­sic Jump­ing Clinic cri­tiques at www.Prac­ti­calHorse­manMag.com.

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