The dis­tinc­tion be­tween hun­ters and jumpers is im­por­tant. Top jumpers–judged by the size of ob­sta­cles and the speed of their rounds– are of­ten se­lected be­cause their necks are set high on the with­ers, with head po­si­tion pro­por­tion­ately higher.

EQUUS - - Conversati­ons -

plea­sure, depth per­cep­tion is not so crit­i­cal. But con­sider cut­ting, bar­rel rac­ing or jump­ing. The horse needs to know how far away rel­e­vant ob­jects are and the speed with which those dis­tances are chang­ing as she moves. A horse can im­prove depth per­cep­tion slightly by rais­ing her head or lift­ing her nose, but this of­ten com­pli­cates her task. In cut­ting, for in­stance, the horse needs to keep her eyes down on the cow and her head low to make quick turns. In jump­ing, she needs im­pul­sion from her hindquar­ters to power off the ground and ab­dom­i­nal tuck to lift her legs. The physics of such move­ments re­quire that the horse main­tains a round back for core strength, which of­ten pre­cludes the high-headed po­si­tion that aids depth per­cep­tion.

The dis­tinc­tion be­tween hun­ters and jumpers is also im­por­tant. Top jumpers ---judged by the size of ob­sta­cles and the speed of their rounds---are of­ten se­lected be­cause their necks are set high on the with­ers, with head po­si­tion pro­por­tion­ately higher. Those with­out that con­for­ma­tion are of­ten trained to ap­proach jumps with their heads raised. If you watch a jumper ap­proach­ing a fence, you will see her head lift in the last stride or two. This nat­u­ral form pro­vides both eyes with a brief view of the jump, so that the equine brain can de­ter­mine its height and width. But the view is fleet­ing---frac­tions of a se­cond--and it’s late.

Depth per­cep­tion is eas­ier for hun­ters. Th­ese horses are judged on the quiet beauty of their jump­ing form and are taught to main­tain a long frame with hindquar­ters en­gaged, necks arched long, heads low and faces near ver­ti­cal to form a strong topline. This po­si­tion can be pre­served over fences be­cause hun­ters are given a long ap­proach with which to see jumps with­out rais­ing their heads much. Good hunter rid­ers en­cour­age horses to look at a fence while round­ing a dis­tant cor­ner. This sup­plies the horse with a bet­ter side view, a longer front view and more time for the brain to com­pute dis­tance to the jump.

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