Let’s talk about the release we give our horses over the jumps! I am pretty opinionated about this subject, but I would love to know your thoughts as well – so comment and tell me what your view on the release is.
I have ridden for over fifteen years now, almost exclusively in the hunter ring so this is the discipline I am speaking on. I have never been very competitive in equitation, or the jumper ring, so I cannot speak for those disciplines. I have always been a big believer in giving the horse his or her face over the jumps! I like a good release – not to the ears big, but my hands usually travel about halfway up the neck. It also depends on the horse, and how the horse is traveling. If I am on a hot horse, I will often give a little less. If a horse really takes me to the jump (when I asked them to wait), I give less. If the horse is flowing nicely though, I give a good release. I typically grab mane too, if he or she isn’t braided.
I have seen video after video of riders giving no release over jumps (even high jumps), and hardly breaking over. But then you see pictures of riders in the 60s and 70s, giving big releases and getting really low over grand prix jumps. There is debate that a big release causes the horse to land too heavy on the fore-hand. However, if a horse is trained properly through the bridle (i.e. not over-bitted, or over-worked in draw reigns), he or she will not land too heavy. So many people take training shortcuts these days to get the horse to work into the bridle, which makes them crazy heavy! They learn to lean, instead of connect with our hands. So, it’s really no surprise that they land heavy after the jumps. A horse learns to work through the bridle with time, not crazy bits and gadgets. Also, if we keep our hips back over the saddle in the air and stay in our heels – rather than jumping up the neck – they will land balanced and happy that they were given their heads! In the above photo, my hips are a bit too far forward – which would cause me to be less secure had I been jumping a higher jump – but you get the idea! You can see that my horse has his head, and is focused forward. The freedom I gave him also made for a pretty cute jump!
Again, this is my own personal opinion based on my experiences and training. I would love to know your thoughts on releasing over fences! We all have our own methods and riding styles, after all, and I think that is wonderful so long as we do not go to extremes. 🙂
2 thoughts on “The Release”
I think this is a really interesting topic, and my trainer and I love to discuss it! I’m a big believer in having a couple different releases in my tool box- not that I’ve mastered all of them yet, but that’s the goal. If I’m galloping up to a bigger fence on a long approach and don’t have an immediate turn, I’ll give a really generous release so that Frankie can jump up and across out of stride. More often though in the jumper ring, we’ll have to land turning, so a shorter release is necessary to keep the contact and communicate over the fence. Eventually the goal is to get truly independent hands and master that classic George Morris automatic release! I think that’s the perfect balance of contact and softness, and applies to any discipline.
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I completely agree! We have to be a little flexible! The approach always makes a difference, as does the next turn! And then some horses are different than others. I also think that their behavior makes a difference. If I’m on one that is super wild, I won’t give them as much freedom. But in the Hunter ring, they get a nicer jump when they have their head. We don’t often have sharp turns though 😉
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