Monday, April 14, 2008

Jumping Critique - By Bex

Hello readers,

I am thrilled to announce that one of my favorite bloggers Bex who is a Show Jumper From New Zeland, and Blog Author of I Will Jump Sweet Jumps has agreed to a guest post and will be doing the following critique of Gabrielle and her gelding Jesse in a Hunter Hack class at BRVHA (


Hey all, I would like to start out by thanking Deanna for asking me to do this guest blog and to say I hope I can offer some good advice.


There are several things that I see in this picture that I really like, but there are also several faults that tend to be inter-related. The first thing that jumps out at me is that for jumping her stirrups are very long. As the horse jumps you want to be able to clear your butt out of the saddle, and the easiest way to do this is by having your stirrups relatively short. I ride one hole shorter for showjumping and another hole shorter again for cross country. However, it needs to be noted that I ride my flatwork in a very short stirrup as I do all my flatwork in a jumping saddle. I think that Gabrielle could easily shorten her stirrups 2-3 holes.

The knock on effect of having stirrups that are too long is that instead of a fold over the fence from the hips, she has stood up in the stirrups. She has still managed to keep her heel level but looking at this picture I can see that there is a lot of weight in the ball of her foot causing her lower leg to swing back, and unbalancing her upper body. With shorter stirrup, her base of support- her heel- will be closer to her body making her more stable. She also needs to think about heels down over the fence as this will keep her leg stable and her toe level with the girth.

Again because of the long stirrups, and the standing rather than folding, her crotch is ahead of the pommel of the saddle, and her butt is high out of the saddle. This puts her in a very vulnerable position should the horse stumble or stop. So with the shorter stirrups, when jumping she needs to think of folding from the hips, and almost pushing her butt back so that she stays close to her saddle, you want to hover just above the saddle in the air. This keeps your weight over your lower leg, which again adds stability.

The final point I want to make is that while her reins are loose enough to ensure that she will not prevent the horse from using his head and neck over the fence, she is not offering a genuine release. Because her lower leg is unstable she has compensated by balancing on her hands at the base of his neck. Ideally, you would want to maintain a very light contact, or only have a little slack in the rein over a fence as this makes it easier to collect the horse on landing, or balance the horse should he stumble. I would like to see a much shorter rein with the hand half way up the neck. I think she should continue with the crest release at this stage as it means she can press her hands into her horse’s neck to help with her balance as she learns.

I like the line of her back which is straight, and that her eyes are up and ahead without being tense in the jaw and chin. Often, I see images of American riders, mainly at the lower levels, and they appear posed over the fences and tense, I like that Gabrielle looks relaxed and soft in her position. I can’t emphasise enough how important looking up is, and she obviously has this part of jumping down.

The solution

First and fore most, shorten the stirrups when you are jumping, it will make a world of difference to your stability. As the horse takes off you want to think of folding from the hips, hips close to the horse, keeping your weight in your heel, and keeping those eyes up. The hands need to slide up the crest of his neck to about half way. This should put you in an excellent position.

The other thing is to strengthen your base of support. That means work with no stirrups. Every time you ride. Start with ten minutes walking and trotting, try to increase your time without stirrups and add the canter. When working without stirrups you need to maintain a heels down position, and to stay tall in the upper body. You will be amazed at the strength and stability you gain from this sort of work. It hurts yes, but the rewards are worth it. It will deepen your sit, and keep you more in sync with your horse. Ultimately, you should be able to jump a small course of jumps without stirrups as easily as with stirrups.

And smile! Surely it’s not that bad?? ☺

The Horse

The first thing that jumps out at me about this horse is his expression. He really doesn’t seem to be that impressed with the whole affair, with his ears pinned like that. I can’t decide whether he is angry or worried, maybe someone could enlighten me?? Also is he an older horse?? It looks to me like he has cantered (trotted??) in, probably half-heartedly, because he is either making a half-hearted effort over the fence, or he is stiff. I like that both forelegs are even, but he has made very little effort to lift the shoulder and bring his forearms to the horizontal.
When a horse makes a minimal effort over a fence of this size, it is very hard to get a correct position, as you rely on the power of the jump to help to fold your upper body.

If you look at the shape of the whole horse you can see that he is round from the haunches to the poll, jumping off of his hocks, and is using his head and neck nicely for a jump of this size. The best way to improve his half-heartedness while jumping is to improve and create a canter with more suspension, or more jump. The quality of the jump is related to the quality of the canter. Improve the canter, improve the jump.

While he may never make a super jumper because he doesn’t appear to have the technique in the front end, he is certainly more than capable of this level, and beyond.

The Solution

Improve the canter and you improve the jump, you want him to be forward, in front of the leg, rythymical, and bouncy. Get that canter and the jumping will improve. Also lots of gymnastics and grids will improve the way he uses his front end. Things like 3-5 small bounces in a row- about 3m between the jumps for bounces, to get him thinking and quicker in front. Gymnastics also offer an excellent opportunity for you to work on your position while riding, without having to worry about striding and canter to the fence.

If you have a jumping lane or trust your horse not to run out, extend your hands out either side at shoulder length like you are a plane, keeping the horse straight while jumping own the grid. This is an excellent exercise for learning to balance of your legs, and not on your hands.

For more of Bex and to check out her Blog, I will Jump Sweet Jumps click HERE.
What an awesome critique and a huge thanks to Bex, Gabrielle, and Jesse!


LN- Nickers and Ink said...

Great practical pointers!

The Mane Point


Gabby said...

Awesome blog! Definantly learned a lot that I will apply to my riding!
He isn't too old, he's only 11 this year. He did do a canter into the
jump but he gets bored with these kind of jumps becuase he really
likes the higher stuff and he really likes flowers when we're jumping so
that really explains the reason why his ears are pinned.

Rising Rainbow said...

I figured out my problem with my legs in the hunt saddle. I had my irons too high and that pushed my legs forward to accommodate their length. It's amazing what a couple of holes will do. lol

Deanna said...

Oh I'm so glad you got it sorted out!