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View Full Version : Why Do Jockeys Ride with short stirrups and another question about bits



psidio
Jul. 14, 2008, 10:50 PM
I was wondering if somebody could tell me why jockies sit so high on the horse when they are racing? What is the physics behind this if any? Or is it just tradition? (I heard that in 1880 something there was a hot jockey who started the trend of riding with short stirrups).

Also does anybody know of horses that have raced or do race now without a bit and use a hackamore instead?

Thanks

Paul N. Sidio
Spokane MO

Glimmerglass
Jul. 14, 2008, 11:08 PM
The perching position is largely assumed for balance. A jock needs that balance to cope with any potential changes of momentum and the ability to dismount if there is a spill.

Acertainsmile
Jul. 14, 2008, 11:25 PM
Leverage also plays a role... it's much easier to pull a horse up with your irons jacked up... the quarter horse jocks take it to an even "higher" level. Not to mention the thrust you can get with your entire body when pushing a horse on... with your weight in the balls of your feet.

As far as the bitless bridles... they were tried briefly here in Maryland in the a.m. only... after two horses ran through the outside fence they were banned.

gubbyz
Jul. 20, 2008, 02:14 AM
They seem to ride longer in Europe, any reason?

Drvmb1ggl3
Jul. 20, 2008, 02:37 AM
The reason for short stirrups is effectiveness. It takes weight of the horse's back and allows better freedom of motion in the horse's body and allows for a more aero dynamic ride.
Tod Sloan is generally credited with being the progenitor of the style in the late 1800's. He was very successful, and others adopted his style of riding. He moved to England to ride for a few years and was initially ridiculed for his tyle of riding, the newspapers of the day referred to him as "a monkey on a stick". He of course had the last laugh as won all before him and English jockeys adopted his style of riding.

Most Euro jockeys these days ride just as short as their US counterparts. If some ride a hole or two longer it's because they are galloping up and down hills on cambered courses and often over longer distances where the pace means they need to be more upright in the early part of the race.

psidio
Jul. 20, 2008, 11:20 AM
RE: "The reason for short stirrups is effectiveness. It takes weight of the horse's back and allows better freedom of motion in the horse's body and allows for a more aero dynamic ride."

I do ride (endurance 50 and 100 mile rides), which is what made me wonder about this. My experience from owning TB's in the past is that much is done at the track... because that is how they have done it for years.

From a balance standpoint and an aerodynamic standpoit it doesn't seem to make sense to perch up so high. You might try this experiment.. ( Disclosure!! This experiment should be tried 100% at your own risk.) Get on a motorcycle. Ride a lap around the block normally with your feet down low on the foot pegs. Now try another lap while standing up with your feet on top of the seat and crouching as low as you can over the handlebars. How did it go? Better aerodynamics? Better balance? Faster or slower? Traffic ticket? (If you crashed, don't call me)

To me the higher center of gravity would make a horse tend to drift wide in a turn and cause more stress in the turns on ankles and knees. Take your child or grandchild, or borrow a neighbors kid. Run around an oval in the front yard with the kid sitting piggy back on your shoulders with their legs hanging down. Then do a lap (again at your own risk;-) with the kid standing with their feet on your shoulders and them bending forward and low hanging on to your head for balance. Did you feel the difference in your kness? As an experienced Father and Grandpa with many years and miles of piggyback experience, my thoughts are that this makes a huge difference. It is about center of gravity. It is why Indy and NASCAR vehicles are built low to the ground intead of being raised up like monster trucks.

While jockies are probably the best atheletes on the planet, it looks they often have to help keep their balance by pulling on the reins. This seems like it would alter the horses natural rhthym and action. Kind of like trying to run with your arms taped to your sides and your head in a neck brace.

I would love to see a wind tunnel test of somebody riding perched high and also lower. It might be interesting.

Paul N. Sidio
Spokane MO

monicabee
Jul. 20, 2008, 11:42 AM
The center of gravity on a galloping horse is further forward than on a horse trotting along or even cantering.

by shortening the stirrups, the jockey is able to be further forward over the horse's shoulder, moving their center of gravity closer to the horse's center of gravity. Their seat is not banging up and down on the horse's back - their weight is in the stirrups, staying more consistent on the horse's back through the weight transferred to the tree of the saddle. When they tuck down, they reduce wind drag. They loose their leg as much of an aid - that is why the whip is so important when a horse starts to lug out.

Exercise riders, who are often heavier than the jocks, do not use such an extreme position. Some ride with quite long stirrups, particularly if they are on a young, green horse who might add some extracurricular moves.

Eventers ride with quite a short stirrup, but not so extreme - they want to keep their seat out of the saddle while galloping over what may be as much as ten minutes, but they need their legs too.

Forget the motorcycle, get out on an eventing course at a good gallop, and you will soon find out why.

I wouldn't ride endurance with a short stirrup unless you have bionic knees, though!

Drvmb1ggl3
Jul. 20, 2008, 07:10 PM
RE: "The reason for short stirrups is effectiveness. It takes weight of the horse's back and allows better freedom of motion in the horse's body and allows for a more aero dynamic ride."

I do ride (endurance 50 and 100 mile rides), which is what made me wonder about this. My experience from owning TB's in the past is that much is done at the track... because that is how they have done it for years.

From a balance standpoint and an aerodynamic standpoit it doesn't seem to make sense to perch up so high. You might try this experiment.. ( Disclosure!! This experiment should be tried 100% at your own risk.) Get on a motorcycle. Ride a lap around the block normally with your feet down low on the foot pegs. Now try another lap while standing up with your feet on top of the seat and crouching as low as you can over the handlebars. How did it go? Better aerodynamics? Better balance? Faster or slower? Traffic ticket? (If you crashed, don't call me)

To me the higher center of gravity would make a horse tend to drift wide in a turn and cause more stress in the turns on ankles and knees. Take your child or grandchild, or borrow a neighbors kid. Run around an oval in the front yard with the kid sitting piggy back on your shoulders with their legs hanging down. Then do a lap (again at your own risk;-) with the kid standing with their feet on your shoulders and them bending forward and low hanging on to your head for balance. Did you feel the difference in your kness? As an experienced Father and Grandpa with many years and miles of piggyback experience, my thoughts are that this makes a huge difference. It is about center of gravity. It is why Indy and NASCAR vehicles are built low to the ground intead of being raised up like monster trucks.

While jockies are probably the best atheletes on the planet, it looks they often have to help keep their balance by pulling on the reins. This seems like it would alter the horses natural rhthym and action. Kind of like trying to run with your arms taped to your sides and your head in a neck brace.

I would love to see a wind tunnel test of somebody riding perched high and also lower. It might be interesting.

Paul N. Sidio
Spokane MO

Forget the motorbike.
Here's a simple experiment for you. Get a racehorse. Hop on it. Gallop it flat out (and I mean flat out) with stirrups at varying lengths.
See for yourself.

The modern breed of Jump Jockeys ride with super short stirrups also, not because "that is how they have done it for years" (they have traditionally ridden with long stirrups), but because they find it a more effective way to ride.

Hunter's Rest
Jul. 21, 2008, 07:38 AM
Uh, the riders are not 'balancing' on the reins. They are balancing themselves with, sometimnes (sometimes not) a direct contact of varying strength depending on the situation. Even if hte lines 'look' straight, even if a rider is standing up skiing, there might be, literally, just a pound or less of 'pressure' to the bit. Or, of course, they could be waterskiing using all their weight and might to keep said horse straight or controlled, but just as often the riders merely use hte upright galloping position (when exercising) to rest. They are not (typically) balancing on the mouth. Obviously some riders are not as good, and they do hang on the reins, but not all.
Which is why not many (any?) use those bitless bridles, even on a soft mouthed horse. Not enough control for the ocassional big time situation that requires absolute control. You see those things so rarely. I once galloped a horse in one (the trainer insisted) and I would never, ever, ever use one again. Total lack of control. To someone who has never galloped a racehorse, esp. on the racetrack, they just don't understand the gravity of the situation.
Far better to get an educated rider with good hands if being soft on your horses mouth is the intent.

Equibrit
Jul. 21, 2008, 03:51 PM
It is about center of gravity. It is why Indy and NASCAR vehicles are built low to the ground intead of being raised up like monster trucks.

Somewhat off the mark.
Horses do not have boundary layers and ground effects - nor the speed to sustain them!

Barnfairy
Jul. 21, 2008, 03:58 PM
The center of gravity on a galloping horse is further forward than on a horse trotting along or even cantering.

by shortening the stirrups, the jockey is able to be further forward over the horse's shoulder, moving their center of gravity closer to the horse's center of gravity.Spot on correct.

Horses aren't built like motorcycles or cars nor do they move like them; comparing them is an apple/orange situation.

Glimmerglass
Jul. 21, 2008, 04:26 PM
I would love to see a wind tunnel test of somebody riding perched high and also lower. It might be interesting.

I'll admit it would be interesting to see what the drag is for a horse and rider. Not that you would want a real horse for the test but a stand in model that simulates the movement, etc.

Who knows, perhaps some minor equipment adjustments could glean some advantages with slicing the wind if a horse prefers to go to the lead.

Coral
Jul. 21, 2008, 05:26 PM
I'll admit it would be interesting to see what the drag is for a horse and rider. Not that you would want a real horse for the test but a stand in model that simulates the movement, etc.

Who knows, perhaps some minor equipment adjustments could glean some advantages with slicing the wind if a horse prefers to go to the lead.

Ok, the only think I could think of when I read this was jockeys with finned helmets. :lol: I thought I'd share the hilarious image.

Barnfairy
Jul. 21, 2008, 05:47 PM
Ok, the only think I could think of when I read this was jockeys with finned helmets. :lol: I thought I'd share the hilarious image.Yay! Thanks for sharing!

Not quite as hilarious, but I was thinking of those weird cycling time trial helmets (http://farm1.static.flickr.com/54/116156533_6f9d2f643c.jpg?v=0).

Glimmerglass
Jul. 21, 2008, 06:38 PM
Well someone already beat us to the punch of sorts :D

United States Patent 4575996 (http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4575996.html) "Horse wind and mud deflector"


A wind and mud deflector mounts by a strap arrangement to the chest and shoulder area of a race horse to render the chest area more aerodynamic and to deflect mud or debris from the chest and shoulder areas. The deflector is formed of a relatively thin flexible sheet material including a wedge or pointed forward section leading to side panels positionable on opposite sides of the horse. The panels include a neck recess and shoulder recesses for loosely receiving the neck and forward shoulder areas of the horse. The strap assembly is used to secure the deflector to the horse and hold the deflector such that the neck and shoulder recesses remain properly positioned. A pad is provided about peripheral edges of the deflector to avoid chafing.

I'm thinking he was aerodynamic but a wee bit slow (http://static.flickr.com/40/123375028_35e0650d5b.jpg) ...

Barnfairy
Jul. 21, 2008, 06:48 PM
Well someone already beat us to the punch of sorts :D

United States Patent 4575996 (http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4575996.html) "Horse wind and mud deflector"



I'm thinking he was aerodynamic but a wee bit slow (http://static.flickr.com/40/123375028_35e0650d5b.jpg)...On the plus side, though, he's ready for battle (http://members.optusnet.com.au/karen.lee/medieval/images/horse1.jpg)!

sm
Jul. 21, 2008, 08:17 PM
OP can always ask the NA Racing Academy, but don't mention the motorcycle example posted earlier. Here's one class:

Racehorse Riding Skills I
Presents and requires daily practice of proper rider position at walk, trot, canter, on turn and in straights. Includes discussion and applications of center of gravity of horse, center of gravity of rider and center of gravity of the combination of horse and rider. http://nara.kctcs.edu/programDisplay_section_3.cfm


Chris McCarron, Chairman & Executive Director, started this academy and he'll probably help you out. Info on how to contact: http://nara.kctcs.edu/contactDisplay.cfm

Paul, on Chris McCarron (really, don't bring up the motorcycle) : he won two Kentucky Derbys with Alysheba and Go for Gin; five Breeders' Cup Classics; two Preakness Stakes; was the nation's leading jockey on six occasions; won two Eclipse Awards among other awards. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1989 and retired in 2002.

BaroquePony
Jul. 21, 2008, 09:56 PM
United States Patent 4575996 "Horse wind and mud deflector"

:lol:

Bluey
Jul. 21, 2008, 10:10 PM
At the track, we called the hold on the reins at times a fifth foot.

You were not only rating a horse but also helping it with it's balance at the end of the strides.
Didn't take much hold, just the right hold at the right time, a little bit of a feel like picking a horse up that is stumbling, but much, much subtler.

Don't know if they still call that aid that.

Barnfairy
Jul. 21, 2008, 11:27 PM
"Horse wind and mud deflector"Taken out of context without the patent description, now that sounds like something the a driver of a harness horse might appreciate, being in the firing line of horse wind and all.

psidio
Jul. 23, 2008, 08:45 PM
I appreciate the responses you folks have made. There have been some interesting points, but I'm still not convinced as to there being any good, logical scientific reason for jockies to ride perched up so high.

For instance. Balance and center of gravity: When the riders weight is put in the stirrups, the position of the stirrups, from front to back on the horse, decides where the riders center of gravity is. The only way to change that is if the rider puts weight someplace else, for instance leaning an arm on the horses neck. To demonstrate this stand on a bathroom scale. Stand straight and tall and check your weight. Now bend down and put your body in that s-shaped jockey position., Re-check your weight. Any change? (If losing weight was that easy, I would be doing infomercials.) Or stand on a stool. Stand straight up and then lower and bend to the jockey position. Any change in the front to rear center of gravity?

Look at the jockey when riding. See how much of their body weight is behind the stirrups and how much in front. Looks about equal doesn't it? So the weight/center of gravity from front to rear in not affected by rider position once their butt is out of the saddle. As for the higher position getting the weight off the horses back, once you have gotten that booty off the saddle seat, the stirrup weight will remain the same, no matter how high you post. You are not affecting the front to rear weight ratio at all by posting taller. Shortening or lengthening the stirrups should have zero effect on front to rear center of gravity

Now when you get taller, your lateral (side to side) center of gravity is affected. It only makes sense. When the center of gravity is higher, then centrifigal force during turns will matter more. Barrel Racers ride low around the turns for a reason. Logic would tell us that having weight higher up on a horse would cause it to not corner as well as if the weight were lower. Logic would also tell us that this would cause more stress on ankle and knee joints. Do TB's ever drift wide on turns or have ankle or knee problems?

You folks didn't like my motorcycle analogy. So let's try my Grandpas piggy back rides analogy again. Go borrow a kid and run circles in the front yard with the kid sitting on your shouldes and then with the kid standing on your shoulders using your head for balance. See which position hurts your knees and ankles the most. See which position allows the tightest circles at the highest speed.

In addition, I would like to see some study done as to how much pull on the horses mouth most jockies actually use during races. While a good jockey can ride with soft hands, my thoughts are that most are pulling quiet a bit more than is generally thought. A measured and controlled study might answer that.

I asked about hackamores and had several responses about bitless bridles. Bitless Bridles (there is a patented brand by that name) are somewhat simular to a sidepull. Hackamores are a totally different type of equipment. Hackamore can be extremely severe or mild. I use a little S arabian size on my endurance horses and have excellent control without causing pain and distress. My thinking is that getting the bit out of the mouth could help relax the horse, and they would rate with less pull. Watch a loose horse run and study the whole head/neck/chest and leg movements. To me, it seems that anything that interferes with that natural flow and rhythm should be avoided. The more a riders weight pulls back the reins on the head, the more effect on the rhythm there would be. Any thoughts on that?

I've seen Chris MCcarron and Bill Shoemaker, Laffite Pincay, Pat Day, Alex Solis, Pat Valenzuela and lots of other great jockies ride. I've also seen some riders that were terrible. When I was younger and more bulletproof, I had TB's on my farm. When we had company over I would grab some of my ex-racehorses for me to ride so my company could use our regular riding horses. I had a stallion, King's General (GB) who still holds the track record at Belmont Park for two miles on the turf, that I rode. He ran fast enough to make my eyes water. We also rode some stakes mares and a Perrault 4 year filly off the track. Being bullet proof, we rode fast on trails through the woods and up and down hills. I never felt the need to be higher off the horse to make them go faster.

After over 20 years away from racehorses, I have just gotten a three year old Cactus Ridge filly off the track. We are training her more european and endurance style and plan to take her back to the track late this fall or next spring. Given my endurance experiences, I have decided to look at everything related to this sport with a fresh view. That is why I have been asking about this. I would love to find a rider who would experiment with different stirrup lengths but I know the chances of that at the track are slim.

I didn't have to ask about toe grabs. The first thing we did was pull off her shoes with 6MM toe grabs all the way around and reshod her in flat shoes with less toe and more heel. She is moving so much better now.

I also do not accept whipping a horse as being a good motivator. I enjoyed this years G-1 Acorn on the Belmont undercard where the favorite was upset by Zaftig. The favorite was Indian Blessing, last years 2 year old Filly champion . Zaftigs jockey, Johnny Velasquez lost his whip at the top of the stretch. They won by 4 1/2 lengths. My thinking is that if a horse wants to run it will. If it doesn't want to run, then all the whipping or electric shocks in the world won't make it run well. The trick would be to make it want to run. We are working on that here too.

Thanks for the responses

Paul N. Sidio
Spokane MO

Acertainsmile
Jul. 23, 2008, 09:50 PM
I'm not in the mood to get into all of the dynamics, although you make some interesting points also... I will speak from experience here having galloped thousands of horses and ridden races...

I've worked horses with longer stirrups, and what you get is "Ned the Coachmen" style riding... with your hind end rising up and down, and have seen some riders with there butts hitting the saddle every stride... that cant be comfortable for man or horse...

Jockeys riding with shorter stirrups keep the weight in the balls of their feet, they are able to perch above the horse, while still keeping low and steady (I'm talking bout talented riders, not monkeys doing something naughty with a football).... They also use their knees for balance, they can close them on the narrowest part of the horses body (the withers verses the barrell).

As far as using the reins to hang on, it would really only come into play if the horse were to stumble, or make a sharp unexpected turn... and really, any rider, regardless of stirrup length is going to grab rein in those circumstances.

Bitless Bridles are just not worth the risk, maybe if they were used during the breaking proccess they might have a better reputation...usually they are tried on horses that already have a steering problem, or a training issue and the outcomes that I have seen personally have not been good.

I have to disagree with the whip not being a good motivater... it may not make a slow horse run fast, or a fast horse that does not want to run on a particular day run, but used properly it can be an excellent signal to send to a horse that "now is the time to run".

Coral
Jul. 24, 2008, 02:29 PM
You folks didn't like my motorcycle analogy. So let's try my Grandpas piggy back rides analogy again. Go borrow a kid and run circles in the front yard with the kid sitting on your shouldes and then with the kid standing on your shoulders using your head for balance. See which position hurts your knees and ankles the most. See which position allows the tightest circles at the highest speed.


A biped's balance and a quadruped's balance are entire different issues. You can't really compare a piggy back ride in any way with a horse and rider, they physics of it just don't match up. I do applaud your attempts to think outside the box and I think the industry could use a lot more of it, but I think the jockey position issue is one of your weaker points.

Chiniko
Jul. 24, 2008, 02:31 PM
Some people ride wat too short in the am. Ride long, live long. But for Jocks, riding short allows them leverage and puts them in the center of the horse more naturally. Short allows you to use all of your weight as an anchor if the horse is "running off" on the head end or running up heals. BUT that said there are some very tough horses that really relax with longer pedals.
I only ride short on horses that are going to split me in half pulling or have steering issues that require a little more strength. But lets be real I am jock sized and "strength" has more to do with finesse as far as race horses go
Some people train in bosals or sidepulls on horses that have sore mouths due to bits or teeth, but as for the afternoon a bit is required.