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  1. #1
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    Default George Morris Jumping Form Question

    Hi all,

    I'm not a hunter rider but I have always had this burning question, since I've read Practical Horseman for years. If this has been covered, please direct me to the thread and I apologize in advance.

    GM always nails riders in his PH column for having long stirrups, hands floating above the crest rather than an automatic release, jumping ahead, etc. I've been reading this for years.

    And yet, clearly this style seems to win in the hunter arena, especially with the juniors. I read COTH and see this style in the ads more often than not. So top trainers must be training this, and judges must be rewarding this. I assume.

    What is the deal between the disparity of what is popular in the hunter ring and what is acceptable by GM? Why is the current form so popular if a top person in the field has been harping against it so vehemently for YEARS? I've considered writing this question in the form of an editorial to PH but thought I'd start here.

    J.



  2. #2
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    Hunters is judged on the horse. You can be bouncing around like a sack of potatoes up there, but if your horse deals with it and is really cute and you don't screw up the distances, you can still win a class.

    Of course, you probably won't because overall style is important. The issue you're referring to comes from the fact that technically to really showcase a horse to its true potential, you should have proper eq, a route that many hunter riders sadly do not take.

    I am a hunter rider myself (tho I do some equitation, too) and I by no means have perfect eq, but I am consciously TRYING to fix it. Some hunter riders just accept lousy equitation because they've gotten away with it for so long. To each is own.



  3. #3
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    I think you would find that GM's frustration with the entire scope of the hunter ring seems to be largely ignored by those showing in it! As much as they pay lip service to the "great one" (so to speak), they ride the way that works best for their horses.

    And as to the courses! Well, that's an entirely different thread!

    I do know that in those PH articles, he always makes a point to encourage the proper release that is appropriate to the rider's skill. Not all who send in photos (or indeed those which are chosen for review) are capable of an automatic release--and he says so, time and again.



  4. #4
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    I so, so want to get the auto release down. I did it in college, completely by accident, while doing the jumpers (I just didn't know that was what I was doing) and I really want to try to master that. I love the look and the function of it.

    I think using it and doing it properly keeps you off your horse's neck -- I just cannot stand that 'laying on the neck of the horse' look or the throwing your leg all the way back behind you thing that goes with that.

    Someone on this board once called that the 'praying mantis' look. That has just stuck in my mind ever since. I really want to stand out from the crowd when I compete and I think practicing correct equitation is the best way to do it because the majority clearly don't seem to care about it.

    "If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it." by me



  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anyplace Farm View Post
    I so, so want to get the auto release down. I did it in college, completely by accident, while doing the jumpers (I just didn't know that was what I was doing) and I really want to try to master that. I love the look and the function of it.

    I think using it and doing it properly keeps you off your horse's neck -- I just cannot stand that 'laying on the neck of the horse' look or the throwing your leg all the way back behind you thing that goes with that.

    Someone on this board once called that the 'praying mantis' look. That has just stuck in my mind ever since. I really want to stand out from the crowd when I compete and I think practicing correct equitation is the best way to do it because the majority clearly don't seem to care about it.
    I agree with this completely--I love those riders who, even in the jumper ring, have perfect equitation and a lovely position over the fences--Cannot STAND the praying mantis style (great term!).



  6. #6
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    Actually, George Morris often bemoans the fact that many years ago, he was a big part of the movement that encouraged the short and long crest release in certain situations... unfortunately it became the norm and incredibly exaggerated. It was originally meant to save the horse and give novice riders a tool, and he's spent many years since trying to squash its takeover. The thing is, it's easier. I think its popularity is spread by a generation of riders who would rather look pretty, pose, and have a standard release for every situation, than to really learn to ride and develop a toolbox of techniques for different jumps and different horses. Granted, for many riders it is appropriate. The problem is that it has become the norm and is usually seen in its exaggerated form, so the teaching of the automatic has declined, and the very capable riders and trainers who should be doing the automatic now do a lot of crest releases. Many don't even know how to do an automatic release! At the last couple barns I taught at, I was shocked when I started teaching to realize that the students literally didn't know the names of the short and long crest releases, nor what an automatic release was. They didn't realize that it's not just a matter of putting your hands on the neck over every jump, or sometimes moving them up the neck to give the horse a little more room. They had no idea there were different, recognized releases for different purposes. These kids weren't complete novices either -- they were successfully doing between 2'6 and 3' at the A level. There are absolutely times when a short or long crest release is appropriate for every level of rider, but they can't be the only tools in the toolbox! Actually, I would say the advanced rider will need a short crest release, long crest release, automatic, and about 20 combinations of the three for those bizarre jumps that don't go as planned!!

    The other thing is, a lot of our horses tolerate these releases in the ring, because our jumps and courses (particularly in the hunter ring) usually don't ask more complicated questions. Send these kids out on a jumper course, or even better, cross country, and they will quickly learn that you can't drop your horse in front of the jump and be okay with not getting contact back for a stride or two after the fence. You need that constant contact. Unfortunately they're not riding in the types of situations that require them to learn these skills.

    Students of the very top trainers don't jump ahead, have long stirrups, floaty hands, etc. I'd say it's the in-between whose students primarily display these traits. Excellent equitation isn't just form -- it's functional. What is NOT functional and is a perfect example of form for form's sake is the "praying mantis" look. It's form that is being replicated simply for the sake of a look, and becoming increasingly grotesque and exaggerated. Heels down, proper angles, upper body control, the appropriate release: these are the things that will help you to be an efficient rider that gets the job done with style and as safely as possible. That's not to say there aren't moments where things go a little bit to hell (I know that my equitation isn't as good after spending the past couple years on a lot of greenies and not focusing on my equitation as much as I should), but that isn't to say that it's something we shouldn't constantly be trying to improve. I was appalled to see in photos that my heels are consistently coming up to stirrup level over jumps. Not because I care what other people think, but because they should be down and anchoring me in case something doesn't go as planned! They used to be deep, and I need to work on getting them back down. Efficiency is another thing that I don't think people focus on as much as they should. Being an efficient rider means moving no more than you have to. Good equitation helps you to be the most effective without having to swing yourself all over the place. I think Bill Steinkraus writes a lot about efficiency in Reflections on Riding and Jumping (GREAT book!), but I can't remember what he says exactly.

    If you really want to understand this phenomona better, I would read George Morris' Every Round Counts, which is a compilation of his 50 (I think?) best articles for COTH. It's probably one of the most insightful books I've ever read, especially in his explanation of form through the ages, different countries, different disciplines, etc.
    Last edited by veebug22; Jun. 25, 2008 at 10:25 AM.
    Gentleman J - "Junior" - My been-there, done-that jumper

    Send Your Love - "Serena" - Aug 10th 2009, Rest in Peace



  7. #7
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    Also keep in mind that judges judge what is before them in that class, that show, that day. Riders who put in accurate rounds will rise to the top; then among those, the best eq wins. So if a praying mantis puts in an accurate round, she'll pin over the auto-releaser who had a tight distance or two. And if the class contains praying manti exclusively, then the judge has no choice but to pin them high.



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by veebug22 View Post
    Actually, George Morris often bemoans the fact that many years ago, he was a big part of the movement that encouraged the short and long crest release in certain situations... unfortunately it became the norm and incredibly exaggerated. It was originally meant to save the horse and give novice riders a tool, and he's spent many years since trying to squash its takeover. The thing is, it's easier. I think its popularity is spread by a generation of riders who would rather look pretty, pose, and have a standard release for every situation, than to really learn to ride and develop a toolbox of techniques for different jumps and different horses. Granted, for many riders it is appropriate. The problem is that it has become the norm and is usually seen in its exaggerated form, so the teaching of the automatic has declined, and the very capable riders and trainers who should be doing the automatic now do a lot of crest releases. Many don't even know how to do an automatic release! At the last couple barns I taught at, I was shocked when I started teaching to realize that the students literally didn't know the names of the short and long crest releases, nor what an automatic release was. They didn't realize that it's not just a matter of putting your hands on the neck over every jump, or sometimes moving them up the neck to give the horse a little more room. They had no idea there were different, recognized releases for different purposes. These kids weren't complete novices either -- they were successfully doing between 2'6 and 3' at the A level. There are absolutely times when a short or long crest release is appropriate for every level of rider, but they can't be the only tools in the toolbox! Actually, I would say the advanced rider will need a short crest release, long crest release, automatic, and about 20 combinations of the three for those bizarre jumps that don't go as planned!!

    The other thing is, a lot of our horses tolerate these releases in the ring, because our jumps and courses (particularly in the hunter ring) usually don't ask more complicated questions. Send these kids out on a jumper course, or even better, cross country, and they will quickly learn that you can't drop your horse in front of the jump and be okay with not getting contact back for a stride or two after the fence. You need that constant contact. Unfortunately they're not riding in the types of situations that require them to learn these skills.

    Students of the very top trainers don't jump ahead, have long stirrups, floaty hands, etc. I'd say it's the in-between whose students primarily display these traits. Excellent equitation isn't just form -- it's functional. What is NOT functional and is a perfect example of form for form's sake is the "praying mantis" look. It's form that is being replicated simply for the sake of a look, and becoming increasingly grotesque and exaggerated. Heels down, proper angles, upper body control, the appropriate release: these are the things that will help you to be an efficient rider that gets the job done with style and as safely as possible. That's not to say there aren't moments where things go a little bit to hell (I know that my equitation isn't as good after spending the past couple years on a lot of greenies and not focusing on my equitation as much as I should), but that isn't to say that it's something we shouldn't constantly be trying to improve. I was appalled to see in photos that my heels are consistently coming up to stirrup level over jumps. Not because I care what other people think, but because they should be down and anchoring me in case something doesn't go as planned! They used to be deep, and I need to work on getting them back down. Efficiency is another thing that I don't think people focus on as much as they should. Being an efficient rider means moving no more than you have to. Good equitation helps you to be the most effective without having to swing yourself all over the place. I think Bill Steinkraus writes a lot about efficiency in Reflections on Riding and Jumping (GREAT book!), but I can't remember what he says exactly.

    If you really want to understand this phenomona better, I would read George Morris' Every Round Counts, which is a compilation of his 50 (I think?) best articles for COTH. It's probably one of the most insightful books I've ever read, especially in his explanation of form through the ages, different countries, different disciplines, etc.
    Yes, what veebug22 said! I'd like to reiternate one point....many of today's courses and jumps do not warrant the need for an automatic release and the equit courses at the intermediate and amateur level don't always either. Growing up showing ponies on the A circuit in the 70s, we often were asked to ride hunt courses in open fields where you had to gallop at times and even jump out of the ring or ride down a hill to a jump. The fences were much more solid and it was important for riders to have correct position to prevent landing on the ground! I was using the automatic release regularly in children's equitation at the age of 10 and 11. Everyone did.

    Another factor is that many of today's younger riders do not live in the saddle as we did then. Between the 18 other activities they are enrolled in or the cost, I see a lot of kids only riding 2 maybe 3 times a week. In my humble opinion, it's very difficult to gain the type of seat and position needed for advanced riding with such limited time in the saddle.



  9. #9
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    Can someone explain to me the "floating hands" or show a picture of a rider who has them?



  10. #10
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    "Floating hands" refers to an improperly executed crest release, where instead of resting the hands on the horse's neck, the hands actually stick up above the horse's crest, "floating" in the air above the horse's neck. Since the hands aren't supporting the rider's upper body, the upper body is usually WAY too forward and falling down toward the horse's neck. Since the purpose of a crest release (supporting the upper body) is lost, the pose is just a mannerism reflecting an ignorant rider placing form before function. Someone better at posting photos will probably offer an example.



  11. #11
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    Because all hunter riders suck. Can't ride our way out of a paper bag as a matter of fact. Not like those amazing eventing/dressage/western pleasure/whatever riders who always exhibit perfect equitation. Damn if only we could be more like them...
    "Are you yawning? You don't ride well enough to yawn. I can yawn, because I ride better than you. Meredith Michael Beerbaum can yawn. But you? Not so much..."
    -George Morris



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by shmeg<33 View Post
    Can someone explain to me the "floating hands" or show a picture of a rider who has them?
    Here are my hands "floating"
    http://pets.webshots.com/photo/22949...01815813OAilvz



  13. #13
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    I gots me a pair o' floaters here too, but ah don't thank itz cuz ahm iggernant:
    http://www.equineactionphotography.e...se_0621-027947

    "If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it." by me



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaturdayNightLive View Post
    Because all hunter riders suck. Can't ride our way out of a paper bag as a matter of fact. Not like those amazing eventing/dressage/western pleasure/whatever riders who always exhibit perfect equitation. Damn if only we could be more like them...
    I don't think anyone is slamming hunters here... no need to be bitter! Most of us have probably done hunters extensively or currently do them! Someone is just trying to understand the issue better and we're just explaining how it's evolved, why it's not a good thing, and how it could be improved. It's never a bad thing to look critically at a discipline and consider current trends and improvement. Just look at the eventing forum! I think it's great that people are banding together, talking, and thinking of what could change and the effect of those changes, good or bad.
    Gentleman J - "Junior" - My been-there, done-that jumper

    Send Your Love - "Serena" - Aug 10th 2009, Rest in Peace



  15. #15
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    George is very un-involved with the hunters. He hasn't had a hunter in his barn for probably 20 years, nor judged the hunters for as long as I can remember.
    His advice is absolutely important to anyone of any discipline, but needs to be tailored to the needs of the discipline in execution. Right now the auto release, while a useful skill, particularly if you show in both rings, is both unneeded and unstylish in the hunter ring.



  16. #16
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    Well, this is probably going to get me in a lot of trouble then... I'm an old jumper rider just coming back into showing a hunter (and way off the A circuit) but really don't care if it's not stylish. I prefer an auto release because I like to keep contact with my horse's mouth. I know hunters are not supposed to need a great deal of adjusting, but if you are proficient enough to use an auto release correctly you have an extra little bit of safety should something totally unforeseen and bizarre go wrong and they sometimes still do. Jumping is still jumping and first do no harm, but as you ride better, anything you can do to help your horse, do it, for land's sake. Not picking any kind of fight here, just saying I'll never be turned by what's fashionable over my sense of what I owe my horse. I find thinking like that preposterous, as I do the divorcement of the show ring from the field. This is just totally my opinion, but I think everything that happens in the ring should have a strong solid equation to the field - and I can hear the "bawhaha's" from here! But, it's ok, it's just the way I look at it.



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBoylen View Post
    George is very un-involved with the hunters. He hasn't had a hunter in his barn for probably 20 years, nor judged the hunters for as long as I can remember.
    His advice is absolutely important to anyone of any discipline, but needs to be tailored to the needs of the discipline in execution. Right now the auto release, while a useful skill, particularly if you show in both rings, is both unneeded and unstylish in the hunter ring.
    And this is why the hunter classes are dying off.

    This is also why they are trying the Hunter Derbies to bring back the real hunters.

    The hunter ring of now is very much like what happened to the AQHA hunter classes..they have become a parody of what was once expected....a joke.

    Inside, outside, inside, outside...a 5 to a 4 to a 2 to a 3.

    This is exactly why I quit showing. It became too mechanical and very unhunterlike

    I wonder if someone executing an automatic release that didn't "interfere" with their horses jump would be counted down for being unstylish?

    Yeah, I am just an old fart who misses the elegance and style that the hunters used to bring, esp in the Open and Corinthian classes. Where a horse with a bit of play in him wasn't counted down but was actually said to have some brilliance to them.

    It's no wonder everyone is running to the Jumper divisions.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaturdayNightLive View Post
    Because all hunter riders suck. Can't ride our way out of a paper bag as a matter of fact. Not like those amazing eventing/dressage/western pleasure/whatever riders who always exhibit perfect equitation. Damn if only we could be more like them...
    I love the sarcasm (at least I hope it was sarcasm?).

    All I can say is that in my opinion, many riders today, no matter what the discipline, are trying to win the most ribbons with the least amount of actual work. And this "praying mantis" look seems to be the result in the hunter ring.

    Not to mention there are people out there who will barely listen to their trainer, never mind GM. Because they always know whats best... even if they are a totally incapable rider!



  19. #19
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    Everyone has the tendancy to jump ahead sometimes. Sometimes I think the slow predictable hunter course sort of bring this out.
    But yeah, Its not like not jumping ahead is unfavorable.



  20. #20
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    What would a Corinthian class be like?
    Timothy, stop lurking



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