Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Practical Horseman - - Special Sporthorse Health Issue -

Three who could move to au­to­matic re­leases


This rider has a su­perb leg and im­pec­ca­ble base of sup­port. She has the right stir­rup length with a 110-de­gree an­gle be­hind her knee. Her heel is down, her an­kle is flexed and her toes are turned out, which al­lows her calf to be in con­tact with her horse.

Her seat has been tossed out of the sad­dle just enough—she has made no at­tempt to jump ahead. Her pos­ture is text­book per­fect with a flat back and slight hol­low in her loins. She has a lot of con­tact with the curb rein, which tells me the horse is strong. She might have to have this much con­tact, but it in­vites the horse to jump hol­low and flat. Other than this, she is show­ing an ac­cept­able short crest re­lease with her hands 2 inches up his neck. She could drop her hands straight down the neck 3–4 inches and cre­ate a straight line from her el­bow to the horse’s mouth to achieve an au­to­matic re­lease. This type of re­lease re­quires the rider to be bal­anced so that her hands can be in­de­pen­dent enough to fol­low the horse’s head and neck for­ward and down.

The horse looks like a sweet soul. His fore­arm is par­al­lel to the ground and his knees are up, but he’s loose and un­even be­low them. He’s not dan­ger­ous, but he’s just step­ping over the jump. He’s hol­low from his poll to the dock of his tail to the point where he’s al­most up­side down. He’s a prime can­di­date for eq­ui­tation be­cause his flat jump­ing helps a rider main­tain po­si­tion.

I’d give the turnout a C. The horse is ad­e­quately groomed and the tack is ad­e­quately clean. The sad­dle pad fits well and the rider’s clothes are con­ser­va­tive and well-fit­ting. But the horse’s and rider’s boots could be cleaner and the horse’s mane is fly­ing all over the place. While I like that the sad­dle looks good for jump­ing—light and not bulky—it looks like it could be bet­ter cleaned and oiled, too.


This short-legged rider with her ex­cel­lent seat looks to be ef­fec­tive, though she’s mak­ing a mis­take typ­i­cal of some­one her stature by rid­ing with a too-long stir­rup. The an­gle be­hind her knee looks about 140 de­grees in­stead of 110 de­grees, so she needs to shorten the leather one or two holes. She needs to re­po­si­tion the iron so the out­side branch leads the in­side, which will cre­ate a sup­pler leg. But her lit­tle toe is touch­ing the out­side branch and her heel is down, her an­kle is flexed and her toes are turned out. She has an even dis­tri­bu­tion of con­tact be­tween her thigh, in­ner knee bone and calf.

Her seat is be­ing tossed slightly out of the sad­dle with no signs of jump­ing ahead. Her pos­ture is beau­ti­ful and her eyes are look­ing to the right for a turn. She is show­ing a short crest re­lease, though her hands are float­ing above the neck. I’d rather see them rest­ing against the neck to sup­port her up­per body. To be text­book per­fect, she needs to drop her hands straight down about 3–4 inches and main­tain a light con­tact in the air. But very few peo­ple to­day prac­tice the au­to­matic re­lease—we’ve lost the abil­ity to ride in bal­ance.

This horse has a soft ex­pres­sion with a beau­ti­ful eye and ear and qual­ity head. When a horse has qual­ity, he has Thor­ough­bred blood—and the more, the bet­ter. His left leg is lower than his right. It wor­ries me that he could hang that left if he came in deep to a ver­ti­cal. So I’d like his front end to be more even. The horse drops his head and neck and wants to be round.

This girl and her horse are turned out in a sim­ple way, which I ad­mire. Ev­ery­thing is spot­lessly clean— the horse, the tack, the breeches. The horse has been clipped but he has great bloom and he’s in good weight. The braid job is beau­ti­ful and the tack is sim­ple, con­ser­va­tive and flat. The stir­rup irons gleam.


This is an ath­letic rider with good con­for­ma­tion whose rid­ing would im­prove with a few ad­just­ments. She has long legs and she’s rid­ing a nar­row horse. The an­gle be­hind her knee is about 150 de­grees—from the point of her hip to the point of her heel is prac­ti­cally straight. All of these things in­di­cate that she needs to shorten her stir­rup. This will al­low her to have more con­tact with her calf. She also will have a sup­pler leg if she ad­justs her iron so that the out­side branch leads the in­side and her lit­tle toe touches the out­side branch. And she needs to move the iron so that only one quar­ter of her foot is in it.

Be­cause her knee is act­ing like a pivot, send­ing the lower leg back, her up­per body is too far for­ward and she is jump­ing ahead. Her pos­ture is good, her back is flat and her eyes are look­ing up and ahead. She is demon­strat­ing a short crest re­lease and her hands are just along­side the crest, press­ing into it. Once she ad­justs her stir­rup length and prac­tices keep­ing her leg un­der­neath her, she could try an au­to­matic re­lease by low­er­ing her hands down 4–5 inches to main­tain a straight line from her el­bow to her horse’s mouth.

This is an earnest lit­tle horse with a very alert, con­sci­en­tious ex­pres­sion. He has a plain, big head and short, thick neck. Though he doesn’t have much bas­cule, he has a beau­ti­ful front end with his knees up and legs so sym­met­ri­cal they prac­ti­cally look like one. He looks like he’s a care­ful, fast jumper.

Their turnout would get a C-plus. I’m not say­ing her horse is not cared for, but I’d like to see more spit and pol­ish. His mane could be pulled and trained to lie flat. It’s a lit­tle hard to tell be­cause of the shadow, but his coat could prob­a­bly use more el­bow grease to bring out a bloom. It looks like his fet­locks could be trimmed more.


With her heel up, leg slipped to the rear and her seat al­most ahead of the pom­mel, this rider has to work on the ba­sics. She is grip­ping with her up­per thigh and her heel has come up so she is un­in­ten­tion­ally ask­ing her horse to go for­ward. First, she needs to move the iron closer to her toes so that about one quar­ter of her foot is through it for more flex­ion in the an­kle. Then she needs to drop the weight into her heel and stretch her leg down so she has an equal dis­tri­bu­tion of con­tact among her thigh, in­ner knee bone and calf. She must prac­tice this leg po­si­tion at the walk, trot and can­ter. Once her leg is sta­ble on the flat, she can work to main­tain it over cross­rails.

Her knee is act­ing like a pivot so that as her lower leg goes back, her up­per body goes for­ward too much and she is jump­ing ahead. This is a safety is­sue be­cause, along with her un­sta­ble leg, if the horse props or stops, she could tum­ble over his neck. She is re­leas­ing her horse, but her hands seem to be float­ing above the neck a lit­tle. I want to see them pressed into the horse’s mane so they sup­port her up­per body. Her eyes are look­ing up and ahead and her pos­ture is OK.

This is a big, hand­some horse, but un­for­tu­nately, he’s got a poor front end. His right knee is point­ing down over an oxer, mak­ing me think it could be worse over a ver­ti­cal with no ground line. He wants to be round, though I don’t sense he’s very care­ful. I dis­like any curb or gag bit that has only one rein. With these bits, you should al­ways have a snaf­fle rein and that should be the pri­mary rein. Us­ing the curb rein will even­tu­ally make a horse jump flat be­cause he can’t bend in the poll.

This pair’s turnout gets a C-mi­nus grade. The tack and their boots do not look very clean. What­ever equip­ment you have can­not be too clean all the time.

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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