Glenshee's First Online Riding Clinic, Part I
One of our readers has very generously agreed to participate in a virtual clinic here on the blog. Reesie found GEC through a previous post on releases over fences. She was good enough to submit some of her own photos for review. In this post, I will critique some of them, which I hope will be helpful. Please feel free to comment on the critiques or let me know if you think there is anything I've missed or I haven't explained well.
While this pic is blurry, it's easy to see a positive effort here. I really like to see the low/following release and well balanced, centered position. Her lower leg has slid back a bit, but her angles are well closed and her weight is in her heel, giving the impression of confidence and security. That her horse looks positive over a solid xc fence is further proof.
As anyone who has ridden xc knows, a crest release just doesn't cut it in the field over solid jumps. This is a good example of correct basics in conjunction with what appears to be a good low release in which the hand is in line with the mouth but rests gently in front of the shoulder on the neck. It is a compromise between the support of a crest release and the balance and give of a full following release. There is slight tension on the left rein, but I am assuming that is for straightening or steering purposes. If a rein aid needs to be given in mid air, tI would prefer to see an opening or direct rein used, rather than the direct rein of opposition, but in this case it does not appear to be having a negative effect. There is some slack in the right rein, but this actually makes sense when giving directional aids in mid air, so as to make them very clear to the horse without having to be overly strong.
I like her closed angles and weight in her heels, though her lower leg appears to have slipped back a little more than is ideal, which leads me to believe there is either too much weight on the stirrup or too much grip in the knee. In a 2-point, the base of support should be divided between some grip with the knee - allowed first to come forward and down - and a firm placement of the lower leg against the barrel just behind the girth, with only a small percentage of weight on the actual stirrup. More specifically, the part of the leg involved in this base is the back inside portion just below the bulge of the calf muscle and above the ankle. I have found this is most effective when it takes advantage of the natural curve of the horse's barrel for support, which also helps to keep the base close to the horse's own center of gravity, making it easier to stay with the motion, especially over jumps.
The same is true of this photo. Another nice effort, with good low/following release, seat shifted back toward the cantle and angles closed for balance. I am a fan of short stirrups for jumping, and this length might work well, but again her lower leg has slipped back a little further than I'd like to see. It may be partly due to the short leathers, though there are probably other forces at work as well. I should make clear that, in this case, it is not a major fault because she remains well positioned and balanced otherwise. I still feel confident in her security, but as the jumps get bigger, recovering on the landing side will become more of a challenge with the lower leg moving back so far in mid air. I would recommend working on maintaining the same basic form while keeping the lower leg more to the front of the bulge of the barrel. On a separate note, how often do you see a horse, even off of a short distance like this, jumping in such confident, relaxed form and allowed to use its head and neck forward and down normally? I wish more horses in all disciplines looked like this. And the secret? Good, balanced riding and a correct release. Well done :-)
Here is a great example of the correct position of a following or "automatic" release. Note the perfect straight line from bit, through hand to elbow, as well as the consistent contact on both reins. Her basic position looks correct and secure. Her slightly roached lower back will not likely win any equitation prizes, but in this case is more about function than form, as it is very difficult to give a proper following release and arch the back at the same time. In fact, doing so is very artificial and risks the rider getting overly stiff and posed. A straight back would be ideal, but I don't actually mind the slight rounding in this case because the rider has remained secure, her eyes are up and, more importantly, she has given her horse a good release. My only suggestion for improvement in this photo is possibly shortening the stirrup leathers a hole or two.
It is very common to see riders who, in conformity with the fashion of the day, ride with longer leathers over fences and begin to stand in their stirrups and often become unbalanced over fences (which is also one of the reasons for the popularity of the crest release....) That has not happened here, but I worry about the tendency in riders who have habitually long stirrups to stand up over fences. Just something to watch for.
Over a small fence like this, a longer stirrup is not a big deal, but I'd like to see her knee angle closed a tiny bit more, which would allow her knee to come more forward and down, strengthening the support possible between ankle and calf. But this position is sufficient for this height; her weight is in her heels, her seat has remained over the back of her saddle, and she has closed her hip angle rather than standing in her stirrups and laying on the neck as is the fashion today. Very refreshing to see!
What can I say? Jumping bareback, heels down, angles closed, eyes up and a nice, CORRECT crest release! It looks as if this cute horse may have gotten deep to the fence and jumped it a little big, but she's stayed balanced and secure. I'm impressed :-)
Although the standard is blocking most of her leg, what can be seen of her position presents a very correct picture. This is a good demonstration of the correct way to use a crest release. Although there is still some tension in the rein, the amount is not significant and the horse is jumping in good form (he's a cute little horse, too!) But, more critically, the rider has not sacrificed her position to serve the crest release or used it as an excuse to use the neck for support of her upper body. Instead she has, correctly, shifted her seat back in the saddle toward the cantle and closed all of her angles (knee and hip,) which allows her to balance her center of gravity over the strongest part of her base of support - her leg - eliminating the need to balance on the hand. My only small concern is that, without being able to see her lower leg position, and no toe visible near the girth, I wonder if her foot may have slid too far back... But either way, I'd call this effort a success. If you must use a crest release, this is the way to do it. Nice job!