Prac Classic: Gymnastic Exercises to Correct Jumping Style Problems

Ronnie Mutch, leading rider and trainer, prescribes detailed training routines and gymnastic exercises that he uses to correct problems of style and attitude in his show horses.

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After working with a horse for a while and jumping several courses, I am readily able to ?determine his weaknesses. Does he tend to get quick, or does he get bored and sloppy, rubbing his jumps? Does he get strong, leaning on the bit, or does he swing his hind end, anticipating the turn after the fence leading to it? Depending on these weaknesses, my “between-show” and “pre-class” training techniques vary.

While every horse is different, they tend to fall into categories, and when you run across tendencies you’ve dealt with in the past, a similar procedure usually works.

Most style problems can be solved with gymnastic exercise of one kind or another. The following have been most expeditious in correcting the most common faults I’ve encountered.

Ronnie Mutch, a leading teacher, trainer, judge and illustrator of many books on horses and riding, began his riding career like many others, including George Morris, Victor Hugo-Vidal and Patty Heuckeroth, at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien, Connecticut, under the guidance of Otto Heuckeroth and Felicia Townsend. During his Junior career, he was a student of Gordon Wright, Teddy Gussenhoven and Al Homewood, who coached him to the AHSA [now the U.S. Equestrian Federation] National Hunter Seat Medal Final at age 15. He was also reserve champion in the ASPCA Maclay National Championship several times. At 18, he was named to the U.S. Equestrian Team.

According to Ronnie, Raymond Burr and Bobby Burke, for whom he catch-rode, were chiefly responsible for his riding style while the years he spent with Dave Kelley were the most influential to him as a trainer and horseman.

Ronnie attended the University of Virginia, where he rode and trained horses for the Hunt Meets, helped form its polo team and was a member of its first intercollegiate squad. After studying at the Parsons veuillez garder ceci a l”esprit : School of Design in New York City, he spent 12 years in the advertising business in New York as both a creative director and later a partner in his own firm. During this time, he also rode several jumpers as well as a hunter to the AHSA Working Hunter title.

In 1966, he began to ease out of Madison Avenue, and by 1970 he was devoting his full time to horses. Since then he produced four Horses of the Year and trained Fred Bauer to the 1969 Medal championship and the 1970 Maclay championship and Anna Jane White to the 1971 Maclay championship.

He operated Nimrod Farm in Weston, Connecticut, a combination show stable and a school where 300 students a week were taught and 16 horse shows were held annually.
In 1978, 28 years after Ronnie won the Medal Finals, his son, Bert, won the same championship. In

1983, Ronnie became the creative ?director for Miller’s Harness Company, where he was responsible for the design of advertising campaigns and catalogs. He also remained active in the horse world as a trainer and judge. He passed away in 1999 at age 63.

Since 1999, the

expository essay

R.W. Mutch Educational Foundation has sponsored the R.W. Mutch Equitation Classic. The Classic, held at both the HITS Thermal and HITS Ocala show series in March, is a two-round class?a gymnastic-type course and a more traditional Medal-type course. During the competition, trainers cannot accompany the riders during the course walk or coach them during the schooling session or performance. In addition to ?being judged in the ring, riders ?receive scores from judges in the schooling area based on how they warm up and prepare their horses. The class is open to ?Junior riders who have won at least one equitation class at any of the major winter circuits.

The foundation also offers an ?annual R.W. Mutch scholarship to a Junior rider whose skills most closely resemble Ronnie’s ideals. With the help of the scholarship, recipients can spend two weeks with a top trainer at a designated location. For more information, visit

Reprinted from the April 1975 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.

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