Jumping Clinic with George Morris

George Morris critiques a hunter rider.
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#645 Emily West FB JC Andrew Ryback

This rider looks as if she’s copied faults seen with many hunter competitors these days—jumping ahead and throwing the hands up the horses’ necks in an exaggerated manner. This is to make the horses look as if they are jumping up so high that they’re tossing their riders out of the tack. I believe a good hunter will jump his best with a rider who has a classically correct position that is both beautiful and safe.

Starting with this rider’s foundation, her stirrups are too long, so she doesn’t have the support she needs for her leg, which is swinging back. To compensate, she is gripping with her knee. These issues are causing her upper body to pitch too far forward and her seat to be too high out of the saddle. Her eyes are looking up and ahead and her back is hollow, but she is over-releasing and her left hand is too high.

She needs to shorten her stirrup by at least a hole and practice at the walk, trot, canter and over crossrails, sinking the weight into her heel so that the stirrup leather is perpendicular to the ground. As she approaches the fences, if her horse slows down, she needs to use her leg and relax her hand forward. Then she needs to let the horse’s jumping thrust push her seat out of the saddle just a bit.

This is a heavy type of horse with a large head and shoulder, whom, unfortunately, I’d put in the category of a hanger because of the right knee pointing down. I’d be concerned that he wouldn’t be able to bring his knees up safely while riding him up to a sizeable vertical, which could result in a rotational fall. Also, he looks as if he’s in the hunter ring, and while a hunter can be flat, a little hot or cold, low-headed or high-headed, he can’t hang. The horse is beautifully cared for as is his tack and his mane and tail are braided to perfection. Horse and rider turnouts are wonderful.

This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Practical Horseman. 

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