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boosma47
Nov. 11, 2011, 07:35 PM
Spent the day at Equine Affaire, attending both of Anne Kursinski's clinics. I cliniced with her years ago, and have audited her clinics, so I was not surprised she had her riders holding reins in driving position, spreading hands wide and following without support from the horses' necks.

What did surprise me, however, was how some riders seemed to have never done this exercise before. They all eventually 'got it', and the way their horses improved was marked.

I know this subject has been raised here on COTH in the past, and my observations are not so much that riders are not taught this most effective release nowadays.

BUT, what are the origins of this exercise? Back in the late 50s and early 60s, I was taught it, and we actually dropped our following hands towards the horses' shoulders as they jumped. The effect of Anne's exercise today was the same. It makes for so much a smoother ride, softer riders and relaxed, consistent horses. The feeling of jumping out of hand is uncomparable. How much today's riders are missing!

Anyone know where this started? Did Gordon Wright use it? I learned it from an instructor from NJ. Anne grew up in CA. Did she learn it there with Jimmy?

Just a ponder at the end of an inspiring day.....

Credosporthorses
Nov. 11, 2011, 07:46 PM
Coming from a rider that grew up in the 90's I was never taught an automatic release. It wasn't until attending a GM clinic that its use and benefits were even brought to my attention. It is now the go to release I use. I love it for my new greenie! He is a very round jumper a crest release would lay me on his neck. I suppose it really depends what your trainer specializes in if they teach it on not.

Lexus
Nov. 11, 2011, 08:47 PM
I can't answer your questions but I watched the morning clinic and my dd rode her horse in it. I was so impressed with Anne throughout. She really covered quite a bit in an easy to understand format. The difference in that grey mare Anne got on was astounding...and in only 5 minutes or so!!!

What a treat!

Kealit
Nov. 11, 2011, 09:13 PM
I was taught by jumping lines with my eyes closed (very honest horse!) and thinking of releasing down the neck instead of along the top of the neck.

luchiamae
Nov. 11, 2011, 09:36 PM
I was taught that I had to drop my hands down the shoulders but get a feeling that your almost getting left behind, there is a light tug (very light!) as the horse leaves the ground and jumps INTO the hand.
As my waiting ability for the horse improved, we lifted the hands until they are now where they should be :)

M. O'Connor
Nov. 12, 2011, 06:59 AM
The origins of the automatic release are rooted in classical riding tenets that specify a straight line from the rider's elbow to the horse's mouth at all times, including in the air over a jump, so the answer to your question is that the automatic release dates back to the beginnings of the forward seat itself.

Click here for brief description of Caprilli's theory (http://www.imh.org/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=items&cid=226:the-horse-in-19th-century-american-sport&id=1714:caprillis-forward-seat-revolutionizes-equitation&Itemid=411)

Here's a very decent overview of the evolution of different styles of riding that developed in the wake of the adoption of Caprilli's theme by various national riding schools, mid-20th century and on, as the sport of show jumping began to evolve:

http://ushorsemanship.com/?p=473

Problem is that an entire generation of US riding instructors have come of age and entered the profession without acquiring much knowledge of this history or the techniques and process through which to develop a following hand in a rider.

It's really not that difficult.

But the reason most don't or won't bother with it is that it's not necessary to WINNING in most of our divisions until a fairly high level. Most of the horses jumping these days even at the lower levels have scope to spare, so aren't one bit bothered by the lack of finesse in a crest release...the hunter riders have learned to toss the reins away and the better ones aren't interfering with their horse's jumping effort, regardless of what position they assume (at times even purposefully over-dramatizing this effect, in order to create an impression that the horse's jump is "so" extreme they cant' 'stay with' it...as if the evidence isn't preserved in the many photos of Kathy Kusner or Bill Steinkraus, or Beezie Madden, or Laura Kraut or....or....or...just keep going there are so many...). No wonder that so many of these performers have a large following, and are imitated by those who want to earn similar success.

Yes, you need good balance to use a nice following hand. But it's achievable for many more riders than you might assume from watching the majority of riders at horse shows who have not been taught how, and worse yet, have been encouraged to believe, for example, that "the judges want a crest release" in equitation classes, and that "it doesn't matter anyway," in hunter classes. That's why you will be more likely to see it being taught and used in the jumper ring, where the 'edge' it gives in terms of precision and balance has a tangible payoff for those who master it.

Hauwse
Nov. 12, 2011, 08:13 AM
The origins of the automatic release are rooted in classical riding tenets that specify a straight line from the rider's elbow to the horse's mouth at all times, including in the air over a jump, so the answer to your question is that the automatic release dates back to the beginnings of the forward seat itself.

Click here for brief description of Caprilli's theory (http://www.imh.org/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=items&cid=226:the-horse-in-19th-century-american-sport&id=1714:caprillis-forward-seat-revolutionizes-equitation&Itemid=411)

Here's a very decent overview of the evolution of different styles of riding that developed in the wake of the adoption of Caprilli's theme by various national riding schools, mid-20th century and on, as the sport of show jumping began to evolve:

http://ushorsemanship.com/?p=473

Problem is that an entire generation of US riding instructors have come of age and entered the profession without acquiring much knowledge of this history or the techniques and process through which to develop a following hand in a rider.

It's really not that difficult.

But the reason most don't or won't bother with it is that it's not necessary to WINNING in most of our divisions until a fairly high level. Most of the horses jumping these days even at the lower levels have scope to spare, so aren't one bit bothered by the lack of finesse in a crest release...the hunter riders have learned to toss the reins away and the better ones aren't interfering with their horse's jumping effort, regardless of what position they assume (at times even purposefully over-dramatizing this effect, in order to create an impression that the horse's jump is "so" extreme they cant' 'stay with' it...as if the evidence isn't preserved in the many photos of Kathy Kusner or Bill Steinkraus, or Beezie Madden, or Laura Kraut or....or....or...just keep going there are so many...). No wonder that so many of these performers have a large following, and are imitated by those who want to earn similar success.

Yes, you need good balance to use a nice following hand. But it's achievable for many more riders than you might assume from watching the majority of riders at horse shows who have not been taught how, and worse yet, have been encouraged to believe, for example, that "the judges want a crest release" in equitation classes, and that "it doesn't matter anyway," in hunter classes. That's why you will be more likely to see it being taught and used in the jumper ring, where the 'edge' it gives in terms of precision and balance has a tangible payoff for those who master it.

Thanks for posting this, an excellent post.

This thread comes up time and time again, and it is nice to hear from someone who understands the origin of our classic riding style and credits Caprilli's research and development.

It would seem to me, perhaps I am wrong because it is the way I learned to ride, that not using an auto release goes against pretty much everything you are taught, or should be taught before you begin jumping. We are taught to find balance at the w/t/c, to maintain light consistent contact with the horse at all times. We are not taught to balance on the horses mouth, neck, withers, etc., so why then when it comes to jumping do we suddenly deem this not only acceptable, but correct?

GM takes a lot of the blame for the development of the transitional crest releases, but like many good idea's this rider development aid was taken too far by others, and he cannot be held responsible for the actions of others, "a little bit of knowledge......"

I recently went to look at a very talented young TB. Excellent jumper, incredible scope, great mind, etc. However the horse had a problem, he jumped everything regardless of height over the standards. Nice problem to have, right, not so much, a horse only has so many jumps in him, and the last place you want them is left in the training ring. This over jumping issue, all began and ended with the crest release. Both the owner and trainer rode the same way, and they both had him jumping into their hands, or better explanation is that he was a sensitive horse, and it was the lack of a light sensitive hand that was causing him to jump to a height they were arbitrarily setting via hand contact. Problem solved in 5 minutes, long term impact unknown, but this is something I have seen more than a few times, and should not be so, and would not be so if riders had the auto-release.

This accepted style of the modern hunter, I believe has a lot to do with this as well. Old school hunters were fluid and lofty in their jumps, many of today's top hunters jump in segments, and fall out of the air, and this has little to do with course design, ring size, or way of going, breed, etc. it is limited to the jump itself . You will never see a GP horse jump this way, and if you do they won't be winning, nor will they be around long.

Long and short of it is that Caprilli studied the way horses naturally jumped, and developed a method for the rider to facilitate that jump, or more appropriately not to inhibit that jump, and the various versions of the crest-release are not a natural evolution of Caprilli's method they are almost in direct contradiction to it.

supershorty628
Nov. 12, 2011, 09:28 AM
I'm going to be the lone naysayer, I guess, in that I know how to do an automatic release and choose not to. I think it's a little overrated (plus my mare can't stand having contact on her mouth in the air - at all - she'll reflect it in how she jumps). Even if you have to do a very tight turn after a fence, you can make that happen with an opening rein, leg, and looking.

You can have the same balance and control with a properly executed crest release. A VBNR explained to me a few years ago that he also preferred the crest release to the automatic release. I'm not going to bother with saying who it was because the last time I did, no one believed me.

The auto release has its place, and I think it should be taught, but I don't think it is the be-all, end-all release that people make it out to be. Zipping up my flame suit.

TBrescue
Nov. 12, 2011, 10:31 AM
I saw the clinic you are referring to and the improvement in all the horses was noteworthy.
As a child riding in a H/J and eventing barn I did learn the automatic release, but that was a long, long time ago. We were taught many things that would probably make people go :eek::eek::eek: today!!! My instructors were very strict and "Old School" BHS trained and there were no "natural" horsemanship techniques used.

Lord Helpus
Nov. 12, 2011, 10:34 AM
Part of the premise of this thread asks a question that can't be answered.

In the old days, we were not taught an "automatic" release. We were taught how to jump, and stay out of the horse's way so he could do his job. Since there was no such thing as a crest release, there was no such thing as an auto release. There was just a "release".


If I can remember back to the 1950's when I leaned how to jump (actually I can. What I just had for breakfast? Not so much. ;)), I remember Artie Hawkins telling me over and over to "give the horse his head", "don't hit the horse in the mouth".


There was little/no instruction about how I should look as I was riding. It was all about how to let the horse go the best he could.


Because we had to stay out of the horse's way in the air (the worst sin in the world was to hit your horse in the mouth in the air), yet still have contact on landing, the only way to do that was to develop a strong base of support.


The whole concept of riding back then was truly one of "form follows function". There was no such thing as "posing". We rode the way we did because it was best for the horse.

This old thread is in the Reference section of COTH. I created it many years ago. Sadly, I left out a picture of me at age 14 when I had perfected the auto release.

But you can see that, in the first picture, at age 6, when I did not have any kind of a base of support, I instinctively went to some kind of a crest type release (to stay on). As I got older and better, I was able to perfect an auto release, until the 80's when I was a working atty, with not much saddle time, so I was taught the crest release. (DAMN!).

http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=26977

The crest release is a crutch. It exists to help people not have to develop an independent base of support.

Bottom line: You do not "learn" the auto release. You strengthen your base until you do not need the crest release, then you just follow the horse's mouth.

The first part is the hard part. The second part is easy.:winkgrin:

Lucassb
Nov. 12, 2011, 10:48 AM
I'm going to be the lone naysayer, I guess, in that I know how to do an automatic release and choose not to. I think it's a little overrated (plus my mare can't stand having contact on her mouth in the air - at all - she'll reflect it in how she jumps). Even if you have to do a very tight turn after a fence, you can make that happen with an opening rein, leg, and looking.

You can have the same balance and control with a properly executed crest release. A VBNR explained to me a few years ago that he also preferred the crest release to the automatic release. I'm not going to bother with saying who it was because the last time I did, no one believed me.

The auto release has its place, and I think it should be taught, but I don't think it is the be-all, end-all release that people make it out to be. Zipping up my flame suit.

Nope, not the lone voice... there are at least two of us ;)

Somewhere I have a couple of pictures from Ox Ridge that show me over the same oxer in two different classes. In photo number one, I am using a pretty good auto release and my horse is jumping, well, like an eq horse. I am by no means stiffing him, but you can see that even the very light contact is causing him to be a little stiff through his front end. It was the first jump of a long-ish combination off a very short turn and I remember thinking, oops, need to do that a little better next time.

In photo number two, from the next class, I am using much more release - kind of the classic hunter pose. My horse is jumping sooooooo much better, soft and round and his entire expression is enthusiastic.

As Shorty notes, even where you need to execute a tight turn, the auto release is not the only, or sometimes even the best option available. It is a tool that should be available in every rider's toolkit, but it's not the only answer.

findeight
Nov. 12, 2011, 10:59 AM
It's alot more involved then asking "why don't they use xxx" about any particular single thing as a sort of be all end all measurement.

I was taught the following hand (I so prefer that term to "automatic"). Within the past 15 years. By 3 different trainers reinforced by 4 different clinicians and assorted guest instructors or fill ins. I was also taught all 3 crest releases and when to use them. Correctly-no perching or posing on the hands with elbows a flying and leg back with toes down. When taught correctly, the crest releases actually lead directly to the rider just riding and not thinking about definitions...so the following hand actually happens ALL BY ITSELF. But that only happens with strong basics, good teaching and alot of practice.

Overall, I was never that good over fences and my horses were average. But I found when I jumped into a line hot? My hands followed the horse and maintained contact-an "auto" release for the adjutment needed on landing. Same thing in a Handy or Eq class with a roll back or halt. If everything was going well, I was nice and forward showing off my good Hunter mare who clipped right along with a loop in the reins? Correct crest releases-hands 2 inches below the crest. I never thought about it or made any conscious choice, I just rode the horse. As I was taught.

Some-actually alot- of the problem is not turning out trainer/instructors who have any experience at all over fences big enough with technical enough questions to have ever needed much of a "toolbox". They are only capable of regurgitating what they do know-which is not so much. That is a problem. These people don't even teach a CORRECT crest release and lack the guts to step in and stop advancing students just because they want to. They cannot instill a desire to master each step.

Part of the problem is clients and their offspring who never, ever learn proper base of support and cannot stay off the horses back or out of their mouths without supporting themselves on their hands. Clients who don't practice enough, don't do anything else to get and stay strong-but they want to go somewhere where they can win.

Part of the problem is you can win alot of stuff and never have to be any good due to the dummy down/something for everybody classes and shows discussed at length elsewhere.

The problems go alot deeper then a textbook release.

doublesstable
Nov. 12, 2011, 11:46 AM
I'm going to be the lone naysayer, I guess, in that I know how to do an automatic release and choose not to. I think it's a little overrated (plus my mare can't stand having contact on her mouth in the air - at all - she'll reflect it in how she jumps). Even if you have to do a very tight turn after a fence, you can make that happen with an opening rein, leg, and looking.

You can have the same balance and control with a properly executed crest release. A VBNR explained to me a few years ago that he also preferred the crest release to the automatic release. I'm not going to bother with saying who it was because the last time I did, no one believed me.

The auto release has its place, and I think it should be taught, but I don't think it is the be-all, end-all release that people make it out to be. Zipping up my flame suit.


I agree with this too.... and noticed Anne definitely loves to work riders on the auto and it's probably a good tool to have in the tool box...

But at my level of riding if I do an auto my trainer will say (don't give so much of a release) he he..... and in the equitation a nice crest release is the norm... I also think you can execute a crest release with a following hand... so I think there are different types of crest releases. If you watch someone keep their hand at the crest and follow the mouth... this is what I prefer.. but I have seen crest releases where the hand is set into the neck and no following hand... but maybe that works for that horse and rider that may not have a solid base... ? I know there are jumps I need to set my hand and I say sorry to my horse at that moment but I'm working on a better base :)

Sorry I didn't answer the OP question just participating in the discussion..

Kristy-nnn
Nov. 12, 2011, 12:04 PM
I'm going to be the lone naysayer, I guess, in that I know how to do an automatic release and choose not to. I think it's a little overrated (plus my mare can't stand having contact on her mouth in the air - at all - she'll reflect it in how she jumps). Even if you have to do a very tight turn after a fence, you can make that happen with an opening rein, leg, and looking.

You can have the same balance and control with a properly executed crest release. A VBNR explained to me a few years ago that he also preferred the crest release to the automatic release. I'm not going to bother with saying who it was because the last time I did, no one believed me.

The auto release has its place, and I think it should be taught, but I don't think it is the be-all, end-all release that people make it out to be. Zipping up my flame suit.

McLain Ward? I do remember reading an article where McLain specifically said he found that horses jumped with better form and style when given a crest release. This article was written when Ward, and a few other top riders coached the GM clinic for the top eq riders, instead of GM for whatever reason.

PNWjumper
Nov. 12, 2011, 12:42 PM
Brilliant post from M. O'Connor.

I was taught (growing up in the 80s) to use whatever release was appropriate for a given jump and a given horse. I use an automatic release (primarily) on some and a crest release (primarily) on others. But even when doing a crest release, I'm still maintaining contact through most of the jump and not relying on the horse's neck to support my upper body. I'm not sure how the crest release got such a bad rap and turned into the "all that's wrong with the riders of today."

It's always interesting to me that when this subject comes up it seems that there's an attitude that good riders "always" use an automatic release. Watch the best of the best show jumpers and you'll see a variety of releases over different fences. There's absolutely a use for the crest release (and top show jumpers use it without using the hands to actually support themselves).

Like Supershorty, I have a mare that I almost always use a crest release (http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2068991050094686761MdWPbx) on. Her conformation and jump are such that there's no need to maintain much contact over the jump, and doing so irritates her rather than helping her jump better. My OTTB, on the other hand, is one that I often ride like this (http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2030618720094686761cFJyYc) as more of a leading hand or with a typical following hand (http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2270848470094686761AAqKls). I also use crest releases on him varying from "connected (http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2629206000094686761CuJPmd)" to no contact. (http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2614546300094686761UsIkkQ)

My feelings are that all releases have their place. I think that a kid who learns to ride without learning the different types is missing a piece of the jumping puzzle. I also think that anyone who relies on the neck has a big hole in their riding. But most of the medal/eq kids that I know who use the crest release (only) in the ring, also know how to do it a variety of other ways. But M. O'Connor is right....there's certainly no encouragement or reward for jumping out of hand in the hunter/eq ring.

boosma47
Nov. 12, 2011, 02:19 PM
I can't answer your questions but I watched the morning clinic and my dd rode her horse in it. I was so impressed with Anne throughout. She really covered quite a bit in an easy to understand format. The difference in that grey mare Anne got on was astounding...and in only 5 minutes or so!!!

What a treat!

Which was your dd? Loved this clinic...usually do at EA, when it is someone like Anne or GM. What an experience for those chosen to ride! Your daughter must have gotten so much out of it!

Grey mare seen as if she finally understood what she was supposed to do!

Starhouse
Nov. 12, 2011, 02:49 PM
I was there and watched her first clinic, too. I learned a lot and thought the exercises were really well-designed. I am curious if the people riding were just off in la la land or if they didn't understand her directions because despite her saying repeatedly to everyone to get in their two point when trotting at one of the fences, everyone posted right to the base of the jump...repeatedly! Then the riders kept forgetting to drop their stirrups after fences even though they had been asked to do it since the beginning of the exercises. Kind of funny.

There were some really nice riders and some really nice horses. The grey mare she worked with was like a different horse once Anne worked with her with a soft hand.

I took some video in case anyone wants to see what the riders were doing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lczodf4uJlM

boosma47
Nov. 12, 2011, 02:57 PM
Interesting discussion. Thanks for the excellent and thorough replies. Of course it is Caprilli - duh! I forgot that in my dotage.

The way I see riding, saddle time, instruction, experience, from an instructor's POV, is that learning is a process, that a horseperson learns tools, techniques, and methods that allows him/her to effectively communicate with her/his horse to the deepest levels. A language, yes, becoming fluent in speaking to any horse.

Jumping out of hand is a technique to be added to the other releases.

IMO, one's education is incomplete without this technique. Regardless of what pins in a show, until a rider can demonstrate the correct timing and useage of the release, perhaps they do not deserve to win in the big eq classes?

Another possible reason so many do not use the AR is lack of core strength and/or a solid understanding of biomechanics. I am amazed that so few trainers seem to teach to why correct rider's position is so important, why core strength is essential to a balanced and secure ride. The mechanics of the AR help teach this - staying out of the horse's way, being soft, following, not balancing on the hands, neck, etc.

The AR, basically, is the best way to build that magical element of teamwork between rider and horse.

This is what I saw happening in Anne's clinic yesterday. Riders finding they could let go, that they could trust their mounts after quite a bit of hesitation.

Exciting stuff to watch.

boosma47
Nov. 12, 2011, 03:12 PM
Thanks, Starhouse. Hope you don't mind I posted your vid to my facebook friends with thanks!

Lexus
Nov. 12, 2011, 04:00 PM
Which was your dd? Loved this clinic...usually do at EA, when it is someone like Anne or GM. What an experience for those chosen to ride! Your daughter must have gotten so much out of it!

Grey mare seen as if she finally understood what she was supposed to do!

My dd was in the morning session on the black horse, she was wearing a blue sweater. She loved the clinic and had a really good time.

For what it's worth, our trainer teaches the automatic release and discusses when to use it and when to use a crest release. It doesn't have to be one or the other but I do love how much quieter and softer the riders body tends to be when they use an auto release. Maybe that's a generalization but it seems to hold true pretty often.

quietann
Nov. 12, 2011, 04:41 PM
I can't answer your questions but I watched the morning clinic and my dd rode her horse in it. I was so impressed with Anne throughout. She really covered quite a bit in an easy to understand format. The difference in that grey mare Anne got on was astounding...and in only 5 minutes or so!!!

What a treat!

Big mostly flea-bitten grey mare but with a few dapples left, possibly named "Dove" or "Pavlova"? If so, she's at the barn where I board my horse. (My horse is across the aisle from her and they do not like each other :lol:

boosma47
Nov. 12, 2011, 05:26 PM
My dd was in the morning session on the black horse, she was wearing a blue sweater. She loved the clinic and had a really good time.

For what it's worth, our trainer teaches the automatic release and discusses when to use it and when to use a crest release. It doesn't have to be one or the other but I do love how much quieter and softer the riders body tends to be when they use an auto release. Maybe that's a generalization but it seems to hold true pretty often.

Your dd stood out for her poise, smoothness and focus. A lovely rider...and I love her horse ;P

You have every right to be very proud of her! She is on Starhouse's youtube vid, btw.

Lexus
Nov. 12, 2011, 05:39 PM
Your dd stood out for her poise, smoothness and focus. A lovely rider...and I love her horse ;P

You have every right to be very proud of her! She is on Starhouse's youtube vid, btw.


I'll have to look for the video.

We bought her horse about 6 months ago and he's been great at everything we've asked him to do so far. He's really taken to the equitation horse job which is what my daughter wants to focus on now.

Thank you for the compliments. I hope I can find the video :).

Edited to add..I found it!

Starhouse
Nov. 12, 2011, 07:18 PM
I'll have to look for the video.

We bought her horse about 6 months ago and he's been great at everything we've asked him to do so far. He's really taken to the equitation horse job which is what my daughter wants to focus on now.

Thank you for the compliments. I hope I can find the video :).

Edited to add..I found it!

I also got a nice photo of her: http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc480/unionjack044/Horses/IMG_9830small.jpg

She was such a lovely rider and her horse is really gorgeous. The pair of them seemed to breeze through the whole thing :) I also liked the chestnut gelding.

Jumphigh83
Nov. 12, 2011, 07:28 PM
Another possible reason so many do not use the AR is lack of core strength and/or a solid understanding of biomechanics. I am amazed that so few trainers seem to teach to why correct rider's position is so important, why core strength is essential to a balanced and secure ride. The mechanics of the AR help teach this - staying out of the horse's way, being soft, following, not balancing on the hands, neck, etc.



Exciting stuff to watch.

This. Plus nearly every rider is taught to "go forward" over a jump.In reality, you assume what I call the "neutral" position and the horse jumps UP to YOU. Many things that start to unravel later on, are due to the weaknesses that the kids are taught early on. Most are in way too big a hurry to get the clients to a show to do the "pre-beginner division. In our day, that meant, stay home until you are more stable in the saddle and can go, stop, turn, speed up and slow down without hammering on you horses mouth or back. Poor horses don't have that luxury now a days!

vineyridge
Nov. 12, 2011, 08:44 PM
In many cases, isn't it simply a question of balance? And the strength to maintain that balance? One tenet that was preached over and over and over again and is still occasionally heard is that at all times the rider should aim to be in such balance over the horse that if the horse suddenly disappeared the rider would be able to land on the ground and stay upright. That's not possible with the riding that you see in today's hunter and equitation rings.

Shoulders were supposed to be over knees 95% of the time. I think that's why stirrups are shortened so much for jumping. To help with that balance.But given the current state American hunter (and most equitation riding) where the rider is (IMO) out of balance; using the neck as a prop is necessary to keep that extreme forwardness.

I should mention that the following hand is MUCH more common in eventing today. Today's show hunter/equitation style is completely dysfunctional outside a ring; it wouldn't work over anything bigger than speed bumps XC or hunting.

Edited to add the italics.

PonyPenny
Nov. 12, 2011, 10:19 PM
My daughter took a clinic with Anne. She was in the 4' section and what she remembered about holding the reins upside down and having your hands wide and low was how much her stomach muscles hurt the next day. This was from a pretty fit kid. You really had to use your core muscles to hold your position.

alterhorse
Nov. 12, 2011, 10:23 PM
The origins of the automatic release are rooted in classical riding tenets..... et seq.



In the old days, we were not taught an "automatic" release. We were taught how to jump, and stay out of the horse's way so he could do his job...... et seq.



I was taught the following hand ...... et seq.


I'm still maintaining contact through most of the jump and not relying on the horse's neck to support my upper body...... et seq.


A language, yes, becoming fluent in speaking to any horse...... et seq.


In many cases, isn't it simply a question of balance?...... et seq.

Awesome posts!!!!

These really are foundational concepts, and a prerequisite to riding with feeling.

It amazes me as to how underconsepstualized these ideas are in the minds of many riders.

Renn/aissance
Nov. 13, 2011, 09:20 AM
I was not "taught" the following hand until this year. I'd been using it on some horses for quite a few years prior. Like Supershorty's horse, mine prefers that I let him jump into a loop in the rein and does not like it when contact is maintained. I agree that keeping a following hand over fences is a function of balance.

My mother, who hasn't seriously ridden in- well, she'd prefer I not say how many years- occasionally gets on my guy and bounces him around. She is not riding fit, but her memory of where her body goes is so good that she goes around with a soft following hand.

M. O'Connor
Nov. 13, 2011, 09:46 AM
Anyone with access to Jane Marshal Dillon's book, School for Young Riders, can refer to releases illustrated on pages 24-25 to see examples of (beginner level) grabbing mane, and resting their hands on the horse's neck (intermediate), then turn the page for a lovely example of a following hand on page 26.

The year was 1958...crest releases have been around for a LONG time.

There is nothing wrong with them, and they are highly functional. You can reach a very high level of success while using a crest release (see photos of McLain, MMB, and Margie Engle). In the case of the these riders, however, they all have good balance, and a superior base of support and are not using the crest as a crutch.

But the point of discussion is not whether the crest release is or isn't ok, nor is the point whether positions used by most riders in the hunter ring could be endorsed as being correct or worthy of imitation. The point of discussion is the automatic release.

This is the release seen in countless photos of other top riders: Beezie, Katie Prudent, Joe Fargis, Anne Kursinski, and all the USET riders of yesteryear).

Take home message is: It is a useful advanced technique, very correct, not so hard to teach or learn, and isn't something that need be off limits indefinitely or neglected simply because it isn't always critically necessary.

Hauwse
Nov. 13, 2011, 10:10 AM
I think that, often when we speak of the AR or Following hand, what ever you want to call it, we tend to isolate the hands from the rest of the body.

If you consider the riders jumping position over a fence it should be relative only to the horses jumping position. The riders position should not change, the horses position, rise and fall, and the associated angles are what change, to a small degree, and give the illusion, to a larger degree, of the riders position changing.

A rider in balance with the horse should pivot around the horses jump on the axis's of the center of balance.

If the above is true, then the AR is a logical the logical answer to where your hands should be. We do not ride between the fences with our hands in any of the positions attributed to the different types of crest releases. If we did we would be completely out of balance with the horse. Nothing should change over the fence, this is when we are supposed to get out of the way and let the horse do it's job, and the best way to do this is to maintain balance, and light contact.

I read a few posts indicating that horses jump better with a crest release fences, or no contact over a fence. I have had horses that really enjoy their freedom over a fence and in my experience the only way to give that to them is to either throw the reins away, which is just silly, or to use an AR. The AR frees your hands through your shoulders, and allows the horse to take as much of that freedom as is desired, this is dictated by the horse, not the rider, and thus the following hand. All the crest releases inherently inhibit free movement of your hands through your shoulder, and the only way to eliminate that is to move your shoulder forward to free your hands through your elbow, which then puts you out of balance.

I also think it is important to remember that all the crest releases are simply modified versions of the AR, designed to help riders who lack the ability to completely balance themselves over a fence. They are all positions common to the AR with the added element of using the horse to balance off of, and are all practical and effective. Where we see the problem is when we go from 2'6"-3' to more and horses have to try then the CR's become insufficient, and without an AR riders have to compensate with their body to allow the horse the freedom required to do it's job.

*Liz*
Nov. 13, 2011, 11:08 AM
I just wanted to chime in that it is still being taught by some trainers today. I was taught how to use an auto release when I was moving into the Children's jumper division in about 2003 or 2004. I almost fell a bunch of times and ended up 'hugging' the underside of my horse's neck a number of times when my core wasn't quite up to supporting me. I made it though, and am a much better rider because of it.

boosma47
Nov. 13, 2011, 12:10 PM
Another thought here. When Anne has her riders hold their reins in the driving position, it prevents the forearm bones from locking. They will lock with any twist or cocking in the wrists, stiffening the whole upper body. The crest release tends to promote this locking, as does any balance discrepancy between horse and rider.

Unlocked forearms, following hands create harmony. I always teach my students that their forearms and hands belong to the horse.

Love this stuff. Your replies have been terrific :)

boosma47
Nov. 13, 2011, 12:16 PM
In many cases, isn't it simply a question of balance? And the strength to maintain that balance? One tenet that was preached over and over and over again and is still occasionally heard is that at all times the rider should aim to be in such balance over the horse that if the horse suddenly disappeared the rider would be able to land on the ground and stay upright. That's not possible with the riding that you see in today's hunter and equitation rings.

Shoulders were supposed to be over knees 95% of the time. I think that's why stirrups are shortened so much for jumping. To help with that balance.But given the current state American hunter (and most equitation riding) where the rider is (IMO) out of balance; using the neck as a prop is necessary to keep that extreme forwardness.

I should mention that the following hand is MUCH more common in eventing today. Today's show hunter/equitation style is completely dysfunctional outside a ring; it wouldn't work over anything bigger than speed bumps XC or hunting.

Edited to add the italics.

The balance thing is the key. Taking the horse away will tell the story every time. I often use downhill skiing as an illustration.

Along with balance is the allowing of gravity to work for you, rather than fighting it. To fight it creates tension in the rider's and horse's body. Locked ankles, knees, hips, wrists, shoulders...all joints, in fact, are created by resisting and using gravity to an advantage.

Brooke
Nov. 13, 2011, 01:35 PM
When I learned to jump (in the 50's) I began by grabbing mane with both hands. (we didn't call it anything fancy, like 'crest release' - it was just saving my beginning butt - and the horse's mouth) Then to one hand grabbing mane, the other was a 'following' hand. (Didn't call it any kind of release - just follow the horse's mouth) When balance and base of support were strong enough, you let go of the mane completely and there you had it. (I admit I continued to use that one-hand-release - one-hand-save-my-butt release in the big jumper classes for a very long time.) And I have also gone to using the 'crest release' quite a lot because I don't ride as much as I used to and am not as strong as I used to be - but I see no real reason for young, strong, or professional riders to have to continue to use it; other than the 'auto release' is impossible if you follow the fashion of climbing up the horse's neck and staying there through the landing.

doublesstable
Nov. 13, 2011, 01:55 PM
When I learned to jump (in the 50's) I began by grabbing mane with both hands. (we didn't call it anything fancy, like 'crest release' - it was just saving my beginning butt - and the horse's mouth) Then to one hand grabbing mane, the other was a 'following' hand. (Didn't call it any kind of release - just follow the horse's mouth) When balance and base of support were strong enough, you let go of the mane completely and there you had it. (I admit I continued to use that one-hand-release - one-hand-save-my-butt release in the big jumper classes for a very long time.) And I have also gone to using the 'crest release' quite a lot because I don't ride as much as I used to and am not as strong as I used to be - but I see no real reason for young, strong, or professional riders to have to continue to use it; other than the 'auto release' is impossible if you follow the fashion of climbing up the horse's neck and staying there through the landing.


^ :) Cute!!

I watched the 2011 ASPCA Maclay and Sarah Milliren's work off... I liked how she didn't drop her chest to the horses neck.. that really stuck out as a positive to me. I know she's not using a AR but she easily could because of her strong base and upper body position.

I find when I do use an AR the other side of the jump comes really quickly :lol: it's definitly something one should work on when ready... Ann must do this in her clinics on the riders that need to use it... Also I went to a George Morris Clinic which he had the jumper riders working on the AR too. Some had a difficult time completing it...

chai
Nov. 13, 2011, 03:04 PM
My daughter and I were just talking about this yesterday. She was taught the crest release but I grew up in the 70s and we were taught the following release. From the Way Back Machine:
http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y97/eastmeadowfarm/MyopiaJr.jpg

I think both have merit and it was interesting to see Ann Kursinski using the following release so effectively at the Equine Affair Clinics on Thursday.

Her commentary was very informative and the riders all did a super job under challenging conditions including a jet buzzing the arena, a lady with a crazy flashing hat who kept walking back and forth along the rail and lots of people coming and going. There was a big bay in the first clinic that I just fell in love with but they were all lovely.

Linny
Nov. 13, 2011, 09:38 PM
This. Plus nearly every rider is taught to "go forward" over a jump.In reality, you assume what I call the "neutral" position and the horse jumps UP to YOU. Many things that start to unravel later on, are due to the weaknesses that the kids are taught early on. Most are in way too big a hurry to get the clients to a show to do the "pre-beginner division. In our day, that meant, stay home until you are more stable in the saddle and can go, stop, turn, speed up and slow down without hammering on you horses mouth or back. Poor horses don't have that luxury now a days!

So now, schoolies get pounded over X's and 2' fences under riders who cannot ride a 1/2 seat for a circuit of the arena without leaning on the neck.
Back in the day you only jumped when certain flat goals were met and a solid seat was paramount. Then when you started to jump, you did grids and grids and similar exercises with no reins, hands on head, hands out to the side (and in Jumphigh's case, hands flipping off the trainer!:lol:) That was how I learned to have an independent hand, back in the early 70's. Now to avoid jumping grids which tax the hind legs they horses hop over little jumps with unbalanced riders hanging on their mouths and necks and thumping on their backs. It's a devil of a compromise.
At Jumphigh83's we did grids and such alot in winter and had solid basics for when the snow finally melted.
It's good to see trainers working the AR back into the repetoir. Looking at the pages of the Chronicle I usually only see an AR on the eventing pages where horses are jumping big fences from a gallop. The AR turns up on the jumper pages from time to time but never in the EQ or hunter sections.
It's not hard to learn the AR but you do need a strong leg and seat first so you are not dependant on the neck. I'm almost 50 and ride once a week and yet my instructor even today hollers at me if my hands hit the neck during extended periods at the 1/2 seat at the trot and I appreciate it. If I can find a new horse to lease I want her to help me get back to using the AR.

Personal Champ
Nov. 14, 2011, 08:29 AM
Timely thread as I had a discussion about this in my Saturday lesson.

I was never "taught" a release - like another poster above, if horse is smoothly going along, crest release. If horse is going like a bat out of hell and I need control, "auto".

Mare is green and getting the hang of fences. I am a bit out of shape as I had babies the last few years and didn't do much jumping. We were working on an exercise and trainer said to try to use more of an auto release - bam! mare jumped better... slower in the air, more balanced on landing.

It is something I really struggle with as my background is in OTTBs that were naturally balanced, athletic and light. I was just staying out of their way and not pissing them off!! This mare (WB) is athletic, but not as naturally balanced and does much better with some "packaging" help - more leg, more hand to support her.

Every rider should know all options, but one option is nearly never the one for all horses.

M. O'Connor
Nov. 14, 2011, 08:50 AM
Back in the day you only jumped when certain flat goals were met and a solid seat was paramount. Then when you started to jump, you did grids and grids and similar exercises with no reins, hands on head, hands out to the side (and in Jumphigh's case, hands flipping off the trainer!) That was how I learned to have an independent hand, back in the early 70's. Now to avoid jumping grids which tax the hind legs they horses hop over little jumps with unbalanced riders hanging on their mouths and necks and thumping on their backs. It's a devil of a compromise.
At Jumphigh83's we did grids and such alot in winter and had solid basics for when the snow finally melted.

This!

I want to add too, that with the cycle of flat/kneerolls/flat/kneerolls we have been stuck in a "knee-roll" phase for many years now that seems unlikely to abate.

IME, these saddles have to fit a rider's leg very precisely in order to allow for good balance, and this doesn't happen consistently in the case of many riders who are in the learning stages today. A flat flap allows for more leeway in this regard, and allows the beginner rider to more quickly establish correct balance, and an intermediate rider to find and keep balance as they begin to change their stirrup length to jump.

Finding and maintaining that good base of support is critical to developing an independent hand and arm--no matter what level the rider, so it's very important to pay attention to this.

I don't object to comfort, nor to free enterprise, but saddles these days are 'oversold,' and their basic suitability to purpose has, IMO, not kept pace with sales.

Dewey
Nov. 14, 2011, 08:51 AM
Back in the day you only jumped when certain flat goals were met and a solid seat was paramount. Then when you started to jump, you did grids and grids and similar exercises with no reins, hands on head, hands out to the side...That was how I learned to have an independent hand, back in the early 70's.

Me, too. I learned to ride in Pony Club, and this is how we were taught to achieve an independent hand, good balance, and a strong base of support. Anyone want to comment on how length of stirrup plays a role? Back in the day, we were taught to raise our stirrups several holes for jumping and even more for cross-country. I think a too-long stirrup encourages lying forward on the neck and leaning on the hands.

Hauwse
Nov. 14, 2011, 09:11 AM
My daughter and I were just talking about this yesterday. She was taught the crest release but I grew up in the 70s and we were taught the following release. From the Way Back Machine:
http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y97/eastmeadowfarm/MyopiaJr.jpg

I think both have merit and it was interesting to see Ann Kursinski using the following release so effectively at the Equine Affair Clinics on Thursday.

Her commentary was very informative and the riders all did a super job under challenging conditions including a jet buzzing the arena, a lady with a crazy flashing hat who kept walking back and forth along the rail and lots of people coming and going. There was a big bay in the first clinic that I just fell in love with but they were all lovely.

This picture puts a lot of the discussion to bed.

The riders center, and the horses center are in perfect balance over this fence.

Look at that leg.... it looks like she has not moved from the canter position one inch. There a re very few riders you see today that maintain balance like that over a fence; Beezie, Merideth....

vineyridge
Nov. 14, 2011, 12:19 PM
As to stirrup length, I speculate that it has a great deal to do with placing the shoulders over the knees in galloping position or half seat or two point. I'd say that you would want to shorten to a length that would achieve the shoulders over knees goal.