By: Julie Christie and Jonathon Holland
This image below is of an RCTC Equine Science Student, Colin. Colin is riding his German Sport horse, Hugo in an equitation over fences class. ‘Equitation’ implies that the rider is being judged more so than the horse. The judge is looking for a biomechanically correct rider who is effective with their aids and presents their horse fairly to the jumps. Let’s talk about what we can see from the picture.
Colin is jumping over a 3’6 jump with rather good form. Just like in any other picture, we start by imagining that the horse were to disappear from underneath the rider. In this case, Colin would land on his feet, which is desirable and shows good balance. Colin has a nice flat back which is neither too round nor too hollow. We do wonder if Colin was holding his breath while jumping. The rider’s neck position (which is short in the back of the neck) makes us think that there might be a little tightness, which is usually related to breathing.
The picture is taken during the take-off phase of the jump. We get the impression that Colin is standing in his stirrups ever so slightly. This is quite fussy because he still has a good bend in the knee and hip but is just a little too far out of the saddle with his pelvis. We would like to see his seat stay a little closer to the middle of the saddle.
We like the stirrup placement on Colin’s foot. It is under the ball of the foot rather than too close to the heel, which would be the most common fault. Colin’s lower leg is making really nice contact with the horses side, giving his position a lot of security. We would like to see him sink a little bit more weight into his heel. The heel should be lower than the toe while jumping, and although his heel is certainly not up, I bet it could sink even lower.
The release is very important when jumping – it is what you do with your hands so that you aren’t putting the brakes on (pulling back) as your horse jumps. There are several types of release and Colin is demonstrating a short crest release. You can tell that he is not pulling on the horse’s mouth because you would see the bit and lips pulled back if he was. I wouldn’t mind seeing a slightly longer crest release, or even an automatic release. The automatic release is the more advanced of the release types, and knowing Colin, he is certainly advanced enough to work on. The automatic release is where you follow with your hands towards the horse’s mouth, making a straight line from the bit to the rider’s elbow.
This is clearly a talented horse which excellent jumping form. He has a great expression of confidence and a terrific bascule. The bascule is the arc of the horse’s back as it jumps- where the neck is stretched forward and down, rounding the back and showing correct use of the hind legs.
Also noted is the great front end of the horse. Both front legs are nicely bent at the knee and are equal as they pull up towards the neck. The horse is pushing off with the hind legs with power as well.
This pair are nicely groomed and definitely have some poise in the show ring. This is a very tall rider – tall riders struggle to find properly fitting riding clothes and we suspect that Colin falls into this category. His boots are a little short (they don’t quite get all the way to his knee) and his jacket arms should extend all the way to his wrists. In addition, it does look as though the boots could use a little more polish. The breeches and coat are of a conservative and appropriate color and we appreciate the gloves. There appears to be two saddle pads and we would like to see a slightly larger bottom pad. The biggest thing that they could do to make an impression would be to braid the mane of the horse and whiten the socks on the hind legs.
About the Authors
Julie and Jonathon are both faculty in the equine science program at Rochester Community and Technical College. RCTC offers one and two year degrees in Riding & Training, Horse Husbandry, and Equine Studies. Julie is an FEI dressage rider and trainer, and Jonathon has been a competitive western rider and trainer for many years. Check out their website: www.rctc.edu/program/eqsc .