A photograph of the late Gen. Franklin “Fuddy” Wing Jr. inspired Chronicle columnist George H. Morris for an article in a 2009 issue of the Chronicle.
Needless to say, I couldn’t let this wonderful photo of Franklin Fearing “Fuddy” Wing Jr. and Democrat, nor the excellent article that accompanied the photos, “Democrat Jumped Into History,” (Jan. 2, p. 8), go unnoticed.
Firstly, I knew Gen. Wing very well from the time I was an aspiring team rider in the mid-1950s. “Fuddy,” as he was known, was a really nice guy, the consummate gentleman. He had an amazing bearing, was fit and trim to the end, and was always immaculately turned out. To be perfectly frank, he looked to be a horseman. Fuddy was always one of my favorite people, as a U.S. Equestrian Team man and as a judge.
Luckily, I did get to see Democrat go in 1952 at Madison Square Garden (N.Y.) with Bill Steinkraus. Bill and Democrat won all of the classes they entered that year. I still have all of the old clippings from the New York newspapers, which really covered horse shows in those days. Billy and the veteran Democrat made headlines for eight days running, and I got to share them a little on the weekend having won the ASPCA Maclay and AHSA Medal Finals that year.
Now to get to the photos.
What a wise head Democrat had, like a wise old man. Wide between big, brown limpid eyes along with biggish ears tells it all—brains! Look at his studious expression jumping this fence.
Now, for a horse like this, this 4’3″ solid gate with ample ground line is a “nothing” fence. Democrat is simply loafing over it. Always be suspect of a jumper that jumps an easy fence too well. No, he’s not overly tight in front, and, yes, he is swinging his hind end a bit to the left. This photo tells me just what Bill Steinkraus described in the article: Democrat had lots of bigger gears yet to come.
Now to get to the rider.
Fuddy Wing is “tight as a tick” and in beautiful balance. Yes, to get picky-perfect his stirrup iron could be on the ball of his foot providing for a more supple ankle. Nonetheless, his leg is so stable and so “down” as to be exemplary.
Yes, on the descent his seat is a trifle deep in the saddle a bit early. However, this is preferable to jumping ahead of the saddle, crotch and buttocks too high out of the saddle as so many were doing at last year’s ASPCA Maclay Finals in Syracuse, N.Y.
Look at Gen. Wing’s posture—eyes up and ahead and his back supple yet perfectly flat with a slight concavity of his loins.
The centerpiece of this photo, and something that has gone extinct, are his hands and arms. Look at those arms! The joints of his shoulder, elbows, wrists and fingers are totally relaxed and soft. The rider is maintaining a perfectly straight line [from] elbow to the horse’s mouth along with light contact during the flight of the jump. This allows the balancing gesture of the horse’s head and neck to go unhindered yet gives the rider total control in the air and upon landing. For advanced jumping, as riders and as teachers, this is what we want to work toward.
One needs short stirrups, real security in the saddle, and a practiced balance to be able to emulate what Fuddy Wing is showing us here.
Any, and I mean any, good technique when it becomes exaggerated becomes a DEFECT. As you all know I am a great proponent of the long and the short crest release for elementary and intermediate jumping. However, for advanced work we must look back to the past. The classical way is this way—jumping “out of hand” with a following arm: The Automatic Release.
Try it, practice it, perfect it.
George H. Morris
George H. Morris, a former Olympian and top international rider, is one of most revered trainers in the world. He served as chef d’equipe for the U.S. show jumping team, which won the team gold and individual bronze medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong. He has helped a long list of successful riders, trainers and horses compete at the highest levels. He began contributing to Between Rounds in 1989.