Jumping Clinic: Maintain a Light Seat

Beezie Madden reviews a video of a horse and rider and explains that a light seat allows the rider to stay with the horse's motion.

Overall: This is a pleasing picture. The horse and rider are in good form, and the horse looks like an enthusiastic jumper.  

Leg: The placement of the rider’s foot in the stirrup is excellent. The outside bar of the iron is slightly ahead of the inside bar, and it’s on the ball of her foot. Her leg has slid too far behind the girth, but only slightly. Otherwise, I like the contact with her ankle and her calf. And while her knee is resting against the saddle, it’s not pinching. The angles at her ankle and knee are good. 

Hip angle/Upper body: Her hip angle is excellent, too, and her back is flat but not stiff. For the size of the jump and the effort the horse is making, she’s just allowed the horse’s jump to close her hip angle naturally. I like how her eyes are looking ahead to the next fence. 

Release: My biggest criticism is her release. It is restricting her horse’s head and neck too much. Her hand is below the crest, so that indicates she’s trying to use an automatic release. But she’s not following the horse’s mouth for that. She needs to lower her hands, creating a straight line from her elbow to her horse’s mouth. This would give him more freedom. If she is intending to use the crest release, her hands need to be a little farther up the horse’s neck, pressing into it, to give him more freedom with his head and neck, especially when the jumps get bigger.  

Horse: The horse is a good jumper. His knees are up by his chin, and he’s very generous over the fence. His hind end is pushing off nicely from the takeoff, and it looks like he’s going to follow through with it. He looks like he’s capable of jumping bigger. His expression is excellent with his ears pricked, and he appears to be enjoying his job. 

Turnout: The turnout is excellent. The horse is very clean and white. The tack fits nicely and is clean, and the rider’s boots and breeches are all impeccable. I prefer the collar to be buttoned even without a jacket. A closed collar looks nicer, and if someone is wearing a necklace, the necklace could get caught in the stick with an open collar. 

light seat
© GRC Photo LLC

What you’ll see in the video: I like the rhythm and pace with the horse in front of the rider’s leg. Over many of the fences in the video, you can see she’s quick coming back with her body in the air. I’d like to see her stay over her horse longer by reaching farther up his neck with her hands. 

At some of the fences, she’s a little heavy with her seat. I’d like to see it lighter, especially when the horse is carrying her so nicely around the turns. At the last fence, she almost got left because of this heavy seat. If she’d been lighter in her seat around the turn, she would have stayed with her horse’s motion and been able to hold her release and her upper body over her horse without coming back too soon. 

In general, the rider has good timing to the fences. Her partner looks like a very nice, forward-going horse that is well suited for the job.  

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Practical Horseman.

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