Jumping Clinic: The Power of the Crest Release

Beezie Madden reviews a video of a horse and rider over fences.

Overall: This rider has nice angles, but he needs to work on a crest release and a two-point position.

Ingrid Fease Photography

Leg/Hip angle: His toe is turned out a little too far, but the stirrup is well-placed on his foot. He has nice angles in his leg, starting with his ankle and to his knee and all the way to his hip. His hip angle is closed the right amount for this size fence.

Release: He’s demonstrating an almost automatic release, where there is a straight line from the bit to his elbow. But I get the feeling that he’s using the horse’s mouth for balance or that the horse is pulling him forward in the air. For this level rider, I’d like to see him use a crest release. In a long crest release, which he can practice over oxers, the hands are about halfway up the horse’s neck and pressed into his crest where the mane comes out. In the short crest release, the hands are a little farther forward from where this rider has them now and are pressed into the crest. These releases will give this rider more of a base of support in the horse’s neck and the ability to grab mane if he feels like he’s getting left. This will help his balance and protect the horse from getting caught in the mouth.

Upper body: The rider’s eyes are looking ahead, and he’s making a very determined face, which I like.

Horse: The horse has a really sweet expression, and he certainly has the scope and capability of jumping this height.

Turnout: The horse’s tack looks good except the girth may be in the last hole on the billets. I’d like to see that buckle under the flap of the saddle to make sure nothing will catch on it, causing it to release. I also don’t like the buckle hanging out because it can interfere with the rider’s leg. The rider’s boots are polished, but I’d like to see his shirt tucked in more neatly, especially since he is not wearing a jacket.

What you’ll see in the video: You can see this rider’s struggle to have his balance with this automatic release. I’d like to see a crest release into the neck so that he’s not using the horse to pull himself forward in the air. Also, between the fences and around the ends of the ring, he’s too far in the back of the saddle—he’s really sitting in the saddle—and his legs are too far forward. That makes him have to jump forward for the horse to make the jump, and he gets jumped ahead and loose. He needs to work more in a two-point position with his seat lighter in the saddle and with his hip angle closed more so he’s with the motion of the horse and in the horse’s center of balance. This will make him more secure, even when a jump is a little bobbly.

Overall, there has got to be a lot of less movement with his body, and the crest release will help—if he puts it right in the middle of the horse’s neck and reaches up and grabs a little mane. Especially when that distance is a little awkward, I think he’s going to a) have a happier horse and b) make some bigger steps forward as far as his balance, staying with the horse and being able to jump bigger fences.

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 Winter 2021 issue of Practical Horseman.

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