Monday, February 20, 2012

Wait. Wait. Wait!

Turns out I had a really great lesson on Saturday. We started out with lots of transitions for our warm-up. It was walk-trot-walk-trot-halt-trot-canter-trot-canter-walk-halt-canter-walk... well, you get the idea. The reason for doing this was first and foremost to get Mocha thinking and jumping off my leg. We didn't quite ever make it to the jumping off my leg part but he did become way more responsive and being a school pony with a slight attitude I guess that is pretty good. Next we set up a cross rail and trotted it with a halt about five strides before the jump. We did the same thing at canter and at this point Mocha was really listening ten times better than he ever had before.

Finally we set the jump up to a vertical and instead of halting my instructor had me sit up and just "think" about halting. I have to admit I was pretty excited by the results. I can't say that every single jump was perfect but it was a huge improvement. We ended working on a couple of 2'6" vertical combinations on a bending line. The first time over the bigger jump I realized how much better Mocha was listening to my leg as I got a little enthusiastic right before the jump and he ended up taking a pretty long spot. My instructor put a pole down to help me see my spot better and we had two or three excellent rounds. Over all I was pretty happy and my instructor also reminded me that things like learning not to lean take time. I'm not going to get it 100% of the time at first but as I start to see my spot better and learn to wait I will get better.

On another note did you see this article on COTH? I was looking through the photos and I find myself feeling very surprised. It seems like in the vast majority of the jumping photos the riders all have the same faults. At least I think of them as faults but with so many different riders riding the same way I can't help but wonder if they are being trained to ride this way on purpose. What struck me the most was the location of a lot of these riders' feet, way, way behind the girth and the extreme duck in their posture as if they are just laying on their horse. The very first photo of Way Cool I can't help but wonder what is that rider doing up there? And John French on Good Humor seriously looks like he is about to hit the ground head first. Now, don't get me wrong here. I know I have lots and lots to work on in my own form so I'm not trying to "look down my nose" and say I'm better or anything like that but I'm just genuinely surprised. The article makes it seem as though these are some of the top riders so I would just expect them to look, I don't know more like this, I guess:
to borrow from one of my previous trainers again
 I know that they are only judging the horse and not the rider so it doesn't really matter as far as the competition goes but when I look at a lot of those photos I find myself going "eek! that looks a little scary!" Is it just me?

This is not intended to be offensive to hunter riders out there. But I am genuinely curious since I really don't know much about the hunter world. Is this the norm? Or did the photographer just happen to catch these riders at bad moments or have I simply lost touch with what hunt seat equitation is supposed to look like?


  1. So I just spent some time reading a few threads on COTH. Apparently this whole hunter equitation thing is a topic that has been overdone and a lot of folks seem to get very worked up about it. I'm not sure how I feel about it but I guess it doesn't really matter either way anyways!

  2. They are competing in Hunters.. not Hunt Seat Equitation, totally different classes, judged on different criteria. A lot of people in the Hunters, especially 1st, 2nd or Performance classes where the fences are 3'6", 3'9", 4' jump like this to over emphasize the horses power at the jump, like a "man I can't keep my leg or seat because this horse jumps so round!"

  3. So it is a kind of showmanship. That makes sense when you see rider after rider looking the same way. Thanks for answering my question!

  4. No problem, its easy to confuse because they come from the same tradition of fox hunting and have diluted into something a fox hunter might gasp at. In Hunters everything is about the horse, how well the horse travels down the line, how well the horse moves around the arena, the horse needs good manners, no pinning over the fences and taking off in the corner, and really the horse needs to look like it could go around with a doll strapped to the saddle. In Hunt Seat Eq (HSE) its all about the rider's ability, the rider's ability to answer the questions presented in a course, the rider's ability to have a good quiet seat when needed, being able to help but not hinder the horse moving around the course but being able to dictate and negotiate tricky turns and bends etc. Watch Victoria Colvin ride in an Equitation class like the Maclay vs how she rode Way Cool in the WCHR Hunter Spectacular. She is a very capable rider, she just is able to adjust how she rides to whats being asked of her.

  5. I have no doubt that these riders are quite capable! In my opinion riding a hunter course is much more difficult than any other kind of jumping course because of the attention to detail it requires. Getting your strides just right and your corners, etc. That's why it was so surprising to see these riders' positions in the photographs but now it does make sense. They still make me hold my breath a little bit when I look at them b/c you can easily imagine a horse ducking just a bit and splat but really I guess that is kind of the point. These horses are such good hunters that they would never do something like that. Still, I don't know if I could ever intentionally throw myself on my horse's neck over a jump like that. I guess I have had one too many bad falls!