Jump­ing Clinic With Ge­orge Mor­ris

Practical Horseman - - Contents -

Four good re­leases


Great rid­ers fol­low the horse, like one part­ner fol­lows in danc­ing, and our first com­peti­tor is such a fol­low­ing rider. This is in part be­cause her ba­sics are so cor­rect—she has a very good leg po­si­tion and she is show­ing a beau­ti­ful short crest re­lease.

Start­ing at the all-im­por­tant stir­rup po­si­tion, about a quar­ter of her foot is cor­rectly in the iron, which is at a right an­gle to the girth. This puts the out­side branch slightly ahead of the in­side, cre­at­ing a sup­ple leg.

This is how a base of sup­port should look—she is not jump­ing ahead or drop­ping back. You might say her seat is a lit­tle high out of the sad­dle, but it’s over an oxer and her horse is re­ally us­ing his back. Her eyes are look­ing up and ahead. This is a beau­ti­ful ex­am­ple of a short crest re­lease. To be text­book per­fect, she could lower her hands about 4 inches to cre­ate a straight line from her el­bow to his mouth. This takes prac­tice be­cause with this au­to­matic re­lease, you are not able to use the horse’s neck for sup­port.

This horse does not have a great front end—his knees are point­ing slightly down and he’s loose—but he’s jump­ing up and his legs are very sym­met­ri­cal. Olympic gold medal­ist Touch of Class did not have a good front end but she was scopey and a trier.

The horse is well cared for—his coat looks good and he’s clean. I like a full-cheek twisted snaf­fle for jump­ing. She needs to slide the cen­ter piece of the nose­band up about one-quar­ter of an inch; it’s just a lit­tle low on the horse’s nose, which could re­strict his breath­ing. I don’t care for what looks like hinged irons—the an­kle needs to flex, not the iron. And I don’t like the elas­tic breast plate—I saw a horse al­most choke when the sad­dle slipped back af­ter a round. I also think the horse would be more dressed up with a white sad­dle pad and if his hooves were pol­ished.


This horse and rider are beau­ti­fully turned out, which should be the stan­dard for all rid­ers re­gard­less of dis­ci­pline. Her leg needs some work, but she’s one of the few rid­ers demon­strat­ing a text­book au­to­matic re­lease.

She is pinch­ing with her knee, and as a con­se­quence, her leg has slipped back. I think this is just a bad habit with her be­cause her stir­rup is the cor­rect length and the iron is cor­rectly po­si­tioned on her foot. She needs to prac­tice keep­ing her heel down and dis­tribut­ing the weight evenly among her thigh, in­ner knee bone and calf. To do this, she can prac­tice rid­ing with­out stir­rups, first on the flat and then over low fences.

Her base of sup­port is a lit­tle high—I’d like her seat closer to the sad­dle. This fault is called jump­ing ahead. Her back is im­pec­ca­ble, nei­ther too stiff nor too round. Her eyes are look­ing up and ahead. She has a per­fectly straight line from her el­bow to the horse’s mouth and she is not re­ly­ing on the horse’s neck for her bal­ance, which takes prac­tice. In my day show­ing at the Na­tional Horse Show in Madi­son Square Gar­den, you didn’t get a rib­bon if you didn’t use the au­to­matic re­lease, a hall­mark of which is main­te­nance of a light, fol­low­ing con­tact.

This horse is a dream of an eq­ui­tation mount. He has a cute head and ex­pres­sion and his front end is very good with his knees up and very sym­met­ri­cal. He jumps flat, which is what you want in an eq­ui­tation horse so the rider has an eas­ier time main­tain­ing po­si­tion. From his poll to the withers to the dock of his tail is a straight line.

He is im­pec­ca­bly turned out. He’s clean and in good weight. I love the well-fit­ting white sad­dle pad. The whole pic­ture is clean and very sim­ple and el­e­gant, so the at­ten­tion is on the beauty of the horse.


Right off the bat, I can tell you this rider’s stir­rup is too long be­cause the an­gle be­hind her knee is too big. It should be be­tween 100 and 110 de­grees at this point in the jump. The con­se­quence is this rider’s leg is loose and slipped back. She needs to shorten it by at least a hole and then twist the iron so the out­side branch leads the in­side and her lit­tle toe touches the out­side. These changes would help to sta­bi­lize her leg. Then she needs to do a lot of work in two-point po­si­tion and jump­ing with­out stir­rups to tighten up her leg. Pluses are that her heel is well down, her an­kle is flexed and her toes are turned out.

The slipped-back leg has caused her seat to be too high and her crotch is in front of the sad­dle. Her pos­ture is very good and her eyes are up and ahead. This rider’s re­lease is ap­proach­ing the au­to­matic re­lease. If she low­ered her hands 2 inches, it would be text­book, but I ad­mire that she’s at­tempt­ing to grad­u­ate from re­ly­ing on the horse’s neck for bal­ance. That and her fo­cus tell me that she’s a con­sci­en­tious stu­dent.

This is a very cute horse with a great ex­pres­sion with his ears and in his eyes. I can’t see his front end too well—I can see that his fore­arms and knees are up but not whether he’s tight or not. He’s 2 feet over this jump, show­ing a lot of thrust. He looks like he could jump a big fence. He wants to be round—he’s drop­ping his head and neck—which helps his jump­ing ef­fort.

He looks poorly cared for to me. His coat is dull, so the rider might need to check his de­worm­ing sched­ule and his feed pro­gram. It’s ir­ri­tat­ing when a rider’s po­si­tion is good and her clothes are beau­ti­ful but the horse doesn’t look well. I’d pre­fer a more fit­ted sad­dle pad and a girth with­out a cover if the horse doesn’t need it.


This rider’s leg is slipped back, but I think it’s more from habit than from be­ing too loose or grip­ping with the knee. The an­gle be­hind her knee is too open; she needs to shorten the stir­rup leather a hole so when she jumps, the an­gle be­hind her knee is 100–110 de­grees. For a more sup­ple and sta­ble leg, I would like her to twist the iron so that the out­side branch leads the in­side and her lit­tle toe touches the out­side branch. She then can work in two-point, jump­ing cross­rails and keep her heels down to form a new habit.

She’s jump­ing ahead but not too badly—her seat is too high out of the sad­dle, which of­ten comes from a too-long stir­rup. She’s stand­ing in her irons a lit­tle. She has very good pos­ture and her eyes are look­ing up and ahead. She’s moved her hands a cou­ple of inches for­ward and is press­ing them into the horse’s neck in a good short re­lease. The rein is a lit­tle slack with a bro­ken line above the mouth, which are also hall­marks of a short re­lease. A bro­ken line be­low the mouth is un­ac­cept­able be­cause it hits the horse in the sen­si­tive bars of his mouth. There are dif­fer­ent re­leases for dif­fer­ent lev­els of rid­ers and horses.

This horse has a very loose front end. His knees are up and his fore­arms are par­al­lel to the ground, but he’s pretty ca­sual be­low them, which will cost him points in the hunter ring. A jump like this for­gives a horse who does not have a good front end be­cause there is such a stepped ground line on both sides of the fence. It doesn’t sep­a­rate a so-so horse from a re­ally good one, like Touch the Sun from the 1970s.

I think this horse could use more time in the groom­ing stall be­ing cur­ried and brushed. I like that his mane is braided and he has a well-fit­ting sad­dle pad. But the rider’s boots could use more clean­ing and pol­ish­ing—be­fore she goes into the ring, a friend could wipe them off.

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 the Show Jump­ing Hall of Fame.

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