By: Julie Christie
In this picture, we see a showjumper clearing an impressive fence with style and tact. Showjumping is an exciting sport where the horse and rider have to clear 8-20 jumps without knocking any poles over or having any refusals or run outs. The event is timed and horses who jump a clear round within the allowed time usually move on to a jump-off round. They are not judged on style, form, or turnout. However- for the purposes of this article, we are going to discuss their form and turnout.
The rider’s form:
This rider is clearly very experienced and polished. She has just the right balance point over the middle of the horse. Although the angle of the picture makes it a little tricky to see, I suspect that her center of balance is over the horse’s center of balance. It appears that she has an appropriate stirrup length and the ball of her foot is well placed over the stirrup. There is no evidence of her pinching with her knee or her lower leg swinging back to far (a common equitation problem).
The highlight of this picture is the rider’s automatic release with her hand. This is the most advanced and desirable action to insure you are not pulling on the horse’s mouth over a jump. It involves the hand reaching forward and downward towards the horse’s mouth (as opposed to a crest release, when the hands go up the neck towards the horse’s ears). Riders who execute these automatic releases usually have good feel and an ability to move in harmony with the horse.
I have very few complaints about the rider but if I were very particular, I would say that her back appears slightly rounded as opposed to being flat. There’s a slight tucking of her tail bone downwards and if we were judging her form, I would like to see her back a little closer to neutral spine.
Unfortunately, the jump standards block some of our view of the horse so we’re unable to see his hind end well. What is evident though, is that the horse is very tight and even with his knees which is excellent form. He also has a great expression over the jump and a rounded back, which suggests that the horse was using his hind end and topline well. There appears to be lots of space between the jump and the horse, implying that the horse is being careful to not knock over jumps- a desirable trait for a showjumper!
Tack, Equipment, and Turnout:
The rider is turned out beautifully with traditional and well-fitting attire. I personally appreciate the classic appointments and prefer not to see sparkles, bling, or loud colors in the hunter/jumper ring (although many of my students adore the shiny sparkly look and threaten to wear them around me just to watch me cringe).
The horse is wearing open front boots that are appropriate for the sport and a 3- ring bit that is common in the jumper ring. This bit (which I have also heard called a dutch gag bit and a bubble bit) has three rings and allows the reins to be adjusted to different amounts of leverage. Technically, in English riding disciplines, if the bit has a leverage option, there should be two sets of reins. One snaffle rein and one curb rein, so that the rider has the option of direct contact if leverage is not needed at the moment. However, many riders opt to use just one set of reins, which is much easier to manage. Make sure to read the rule book if you are showing and using a leverage bit.
Braiding is not usually required in the showjumping arena, which can give an untidy appearance, but remember, nobody judges form or style in this sport.