Jumping Clinic: Fixing a Floating Release

Beezie Madden explains how a rider can press her hands into the horse’s neck for better balance.

Overall: This rider, with very good basics, just needs to fix her floating release. The horse looks perfect for this level. 

What you’ll see in the video: In the video, you can see the results of a floating release. At some fences, her release pops off the neck, and her upper body pops back. This happens more at the verticals. At the oxers, she gives a better release and holds it longer. I’d like to see her consistently pressing her hands into the neck in the air. Then her body won’t pop back in the air. 

However, what I’d really like people to notice is how well the rider tries to make the time allowed after the fence by keeping her pace. Then she uses the half-halts on the approach to the next jump. In almost every line and around the ends of the ring, she makes a nice half-halt to balance the horse and prepare him for the next jump. She does this by putting her shoulders behind her hips and raising her hand a little. As she does this, you can see the horse’s balance come up. This is a good tool to have because riders need to use this skill all the time, even at the higher levels. Finally, this rider all has very good timing to the fences, and the horse looks super sweet. 

floating release
© Andrew Ryback Photography 

Leg: Unfortunately, I can’t see her foot in the stirrup because it’s blocked by the standard. But it looks like she has good angles in her heel and knee. She also has consistent contact in her calf and a little contact in her knee and thigh, which I like. 

Seat: Her seat is just slightly out of the saddle, the correct amount at this fence height. Her hip angle is very good.  

Release: The one thing I would criticize is her release. It’s a short crest release, which is good, but her hands are floating above the horse’s neck. Her balance would be more secure if she were pressing her hands into the neck. Also, her elbows are sticking out. If she used a slightly longer crest release, her elbows would be in, her horse would have more freedom with his head and neck and her hands could be pressed into the neck more. 

Upper body: Her back is flat but not stiff. Her eyes are looking up and ahead to the next fence. 

Horse: The horse has a beautiful expression. He seems to be looking for the next fence, which I like. He has a classic front end: His front legs are even, and his forearms are parallel to the ground. He’s not using his bascule a lot, meaning his back is a hollow as opposed to round. For a horse jumping big fences, I want to feel his withers come up when he leaves the ground, which helps him to round his back. You can improve this a little with training, but it’s really just a horse’s natural jumping style. Also, when a horse “cracks” his back with this type of bascule, it can make it harder for a rider to stay with her horse. For this fence height, though, this horse is a beautiful jumper.  

Turnout: The turnout is excellent. The horse has a shiny coat. The tack fits beautifully and is clean. The saddle pad is white and clean. The rider’s boots are shiny, and her shirt is tucked in. 

About Beezie Madden

Beezie Madden captured Olympic show-jumping team gold medals in 2004 as well as 2008, where she also earned the individual bronze medal, all riding Authentic. She won the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in 2013 with Simon and in 2018 with Breitling LS. Other accolades include an Olympic team silver medal in 2016 riding Cortes ‘C’, with whom she also took World Equestrian Games team and individual bronze medals. S Most recently, she won the prestigious CP ‘International’ at CSIO Spruce Meadows in September. he and her husband, John, are based out of John Madden Sales in Cazenovia, New York.

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

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