Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Small ad­just­ments make a big dif­fer­ence.

Practical Horseman - - Contents - 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 of

1

Our first rider’s stir­rup iron is ex­actly cor­rect: She is touch­ing the out­side branch with her lit­tle toe and the iron is twisted so that branch leads the in­side, mak­ing the iron per­pen­dic­u­lar to the girth. This al­lows for a sup­ple leg. The rider’s lower leg has slipped back be­cause she has too much grip in her knee. As a con­se­quence, her knee is act­ing like a pivot, send­ing her lower leg back. This is a bad habit that she can fix by rid­ing on the flat and over small fences with­out stir­rups, which nat­u­rally puts a rider’s leg in the cor­rect po­si­tion. She will be able to put more weight in her heel once she ad­justs her lower leg.

Most riders who pinch with their knees and let their legs slip back then tip for­ward with their up­per bod­ies. But this rider is not do­ing that—her seat is out of the saddle just enough—and her pos­ture is nat­u­ral and re­laxed. She ap­pears to be turn­ing to the right with a nice co­or­di­na­tion of aids to in­di­cate that di­rec­tion to her horse. She is look­ing with her eyes and her left rein is act­ing as a neck rein, press­ing against the neck. I sus­pect her right rein is open­ing a lit­tle to help lead her horse to the right. This is a proper short crest re­lease, but this rider looks ad­vanced enough to try an au­to­matic re­lease. To do this, she must lower her hands a few inches to cre­ate a straight line from her el­bow to the horse’s mouth and fol­low his mouth.

This is a very cute horse whose knees are up and even. He’s got a flat bas­cule—if you set a ruler from his poll to his withers to the dock of his tail, it would be al­most a straight line.

The turnout is rough and ragged. The horse’s coat doesn’t have a bloom, which re­quires el­bow grease. He looks like his fet­locks could be trimmed bet­ter and his mane pulled. His boots look dusty and I’m not a fan of the gray saddle pad.

2

This rider has a good old-fash­ioned Army leg that she could mod­ern­ize with a few tweaks that would give her an even more sta­ble po­si­tion. Her heel is far down and turned out to the max­i­mum ac­cept­able 45 de­grees. This al­lows for a vise­like grip, which I do not crit­i­cize, but some might judge it as not mod­ern enough. The an­gle be­hind her knee is 130–140 de­grees and it should be closer to 110 de­grees. That is one of the rea­sons I think she should shorten her stir­rup a hole.

An­other rea­son is that too-long stir­rups of­ten en­cour­age a rider to jump ahead, which this rider is do­ing a lit­tle—her but­tocks are too far out of the saddle. Riders also of­ten jump ahead be­cause they ride with their seats and not their legs. This rider needs to make sure that as she ap­proaches a jump, she rides for­ward with her leg if nec­es­sary and not drive with her seat. If she rides from her seat, she may feel that she must throw her body for­ward to catch up on take­off. As she closes her legs, she can re­lax her hands to let her horse jump, mak­ing no ef­fort with her up­per body. This is eas­ier said than done. Her pos­ture has a lit­tle roach, but it’s OK. She has one of the best hand po­si­tions we’ve had in a while. She has dropped them down her horse’s neck, work­ing to­ward an au­to­matic re­lease.

This is a nice horse with a good ex­pres­sion in his eyes and ears. He’s not ter­ri­bly re­fined—he has a big head and short neck. But he has a text­book front end over this nat­u­ral brush. He’s got a rounder bas­cule than the pre­vi­ous horse. This is a horse I’d like to jump.

He also has some bloom in his coat, which is trace­clipped, and he is in a nice weight. I’m not a fan of the blue saddle pad or the girth cover be­cause they dis­tract from the horse’s beauty. His boots could be cleaner as could hers.

3

Our third rider has a very good po­si­tion, though her leg is back a lit­tle too far. Her heel is down, her an­kle is flexed, her toes are turned out as her con­for­ma­tion al­lows—any­where be­tween 15 and 45 de­grees is ac­cept­able. The iron is per­fectly placed—it’s not too far back on her foot and her lit­tle toe is touch­ing the out­side branch. Her lower leg is quite far be­hind the girth, but I’m not sure if that’s be­cause her leg has slipped. It may be be­cause of the way the girth at­taches to the saddle. I sug­gest she ride on the flat and over low fences with­out stir­rups. It’s very dif­fi­cult to ride with­out stir­rups and not have your leg fall into the cor­rect place.

Her seat is about right. The thrust of the horse has thrown her out of the saddle just enough. She has a good nat­u­ral pos­ture with a slight con­cav­ity in the loins. Her eyes are look­ing up and ahead. I like her hand be­cause it’s be­low the crest, show­ing that she’s work­ing to­ward an au­to­matic re­lease. While the line from her el­bow to the horse’s mouth is not straight, it’s close. The rein is soft, not taut, and she has a light con­tact with the horse’s mouth.

I love this horse’s ex­pres­sion. It’s very con­tent with his ears up and eyes soft and look­ing ahead. I like that he’s stretch­ing to­ward the bit, show­ing some bas­cule. His knees are up and sym­met­ri­cal, but he’s loose be­low them. I’m a lit­tle sus­pi­cious that he could hang a leg over a big­ger ver­ti­cal or fixed fence. But his loose lower leg also could be be­cause he’s ba­si­cally just tak­ing one big can­ter stride over this low fence; if the fence were big­ger, he might put in more of an ef­fort.

He’s in good weight and clean. His tail is braided, though his mane looks as if it could be pulled. I don’t love col­ors, but at least the saddle pad, his boots and her vest co­or­di­nate and they aren’t too loud.

4

I like that this rider’s heel is so far down, but it looks stiff to me. She could make it sup­pler by twist­ing the iron so that the out­side branch leads the in­side and the iron is at a right an­gle to the girth. She also could move it for­ward so that about a quar­ter of her foot is in it.

Her crotch and seat are high out of the saddle and over the pom­mel. This of­ten hap­pens when a per­son rides be­hind the horse’s mo­tion to a fence. When the rider gets to the take­off, she throws her body for­ward to catch up. Olympic gold medal­ist Con­rad Hom­feld rode be­hind the mo­tion, but he still could wait on take­off to let the horse’s thrust catch him up. This rider needs to have a spur and a stick to help her en­cour­age the horse for­ward. As she ap­proaches a low cav­al­letti, she needs to close her legs and re­lax her hands un­til she learns that she doesn’t have to jump for her horse. Her eyes are up and look­ing ahead and her pos­ture is very good with a hol­low loin. This is a great ex­am­ple of a short re­lease. Her hands are a few inches up from the withers, press­ing into the crest for sup­port, and the rein is slack.

The horse has a bit of a sullen ex­pres­sion, mak­ing me think he’s not very gen­er­ous or a lit­tle sour. He has a big­gish head and his front legs are quite un­even— his left knee points down a lit­tle. How­ever, with his long back, he looks as if he has the scope to jump a big­ger, wider fence. Some­times horses with a lot of scope can jump high with their bod­ies so even with a medi­ocre front end, they still do OK, though they can have rails in a jump-off.

The horse looks a lit­tle thin and while I like that he’s clipped, he needs more grooming to make his coat shine. His hooves could be cleaner as could the rider’s boots. Though the red shirt is bright and dis­tracts from the horse, it is neat and fits well.

Do you want Ge­orge Mor­ris to cri­tique your rid­ing? If so, send in a color photograph, at least 3 x 5 inches, taken from the side, in which your po­si­tion is not cov­ered by a stan­dard. Mail it to Jump­ing Clinic, Prac­ti­cal Horse­man, 178 Thomas John­son Dr., Suite 204L, Fred­er­ick, MD 21702 or email a high-res­o­lu­tion (300 dpi) copy to prac­ti­cal. horse­man@equinet­work.com. Please in­di­cate photographer’s name/con­tact in­for­ma­tion if pro­fes­sion­ally taken. Sub­mit­ted pho­tos also ap­pear on Prac­ti­cal Horse­man’s web­site and may be dis­played on Face­book.

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