using oneself

I’ve always wondered what to think about horses that don’t use themselves “properly” over fences.  I’m sure this has nothing to do with having a chronic knee hanger.


All silliness aside, in jumping literature there’s a pretty consistent definition of how a horse should be jumping, and a general consensus that it is desirable for a horse to jump that way.  And I get it — biomechanics and physics all say it’s best — but what I’m really wondering is, what do you think of a horse that isn’t using himself as best he can over fences?

Ignore rider interference — if you can.  What does it make you think when you see a horse jumping a 2’6″ fence with perfect bascule and tightly tucked knees vs. hanging knees and a flat profile?  How important really is it that a horse uses his body to this level of perfection over all sizes of fence?  Are you impressed with a horse you see using with a textbook perfect bascule over 2’6″, or does it not matter to you until 3′ or higher?  Is this related to your discipline?

stitch 2Not intended to be a “bad” example, merely eye candy filler.

I’ll go first.

I will admit to not being particularly impressed with a horse who consistently busts out his best moves under 3′.  Lots of caveats exist for this, of course — young horses, green horses, tiny horses, scary fences, show environment, etc. — but in general, I don’t think it’s really necessary for horses to pull out their best moves up to 3′.  I can jump 2’6″ and I’m not cracking my back over it.  I don’t mean to say that I prefer to see sloppy jumping, but a horse that is relaxed and at ease at the lower heights, and who doesn’t look like he’s making a big effort over them suggests to me that he can jump bigger.

Even above 3′, if a horse is relaxed and easily clearing a fence, I’m not really concerned with his shape or bascule.  There doesn’t seem to be a need to reach and stretch over a 3’6″ oxer the way there is over a Grand Prix one, though I’ve obviously never ridden either level myself.  Of course, a perfect jump makes for a nicer picture, but does it really make for a nicer jumper?  I’m just not sure.

IMG_3837 IMG_3844Same horse, same jump, different shapes (same knees, though)

free jump 1Same horse, no rider, better knees, better shape?

This probably has a lot to do with eventing — so little is the George Morrisian ideal in our world, and there are lots of good examples of horses beautifully clearing big fences without perfect form.  So I’m probably much more lax regarding form than others.

Am I way off base here?  Is this totally wrong?  Is there way more nuance I am missing?  I would love to hear your thoughts — be brutally honest.  I can take it 😉