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"Backward Riding": Is it the courses or the horses?

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  • "Backward Riding": Is it the courses or the horses?

    The thread about Ginny Elliot had many people discussing how today's courses encourage "backward riding." I'm not totally sure what is meant by that term--I'm imagining it means sitting more-or-less upright in the saddle and pushing to package the horse into the hands and gain ultimate control to get through complexes and the like. And maybe lots of half-halting (like--who was it Clayton Fredericks or Phillip Dutton?--said at Rolex: that they'd used one or two half-halts too many), resulting in slowing down or bracing back on the horse's part.

    But I guess what I really think of as the essence of backward riding is the upright (rider) approach, (and all that comes with it--including the mindset, maybe?). Is that what others mean?

    If so, then I wonder if it is not the courses but rather the increasingly Euro-bred (in contrast to TB-based) horses not the courses that are causing this. Thinking back over time, I'd say there were a lot of great horses whom you just couldn't approach a jump on from the backseat: the rides they appeared to be looked like you had to find some other way to bring them back and prepare them--while allowing them to continue in the forward way that was the only way they accepted.

    Could it be that because today's WBs are more rideable, they are being "more ridden"? When I think of those still riding TBs and/or the very TB types, I do not think of them riding backwards at all. When I think of Young Riders, yes, THEN I think I see a lot of backward riding. And tons upon tons of it at the lower levels.

    I don't want to drag this on, but I want to point out that what makes me wonder if it's the horses not the courses causing this. I'm thinking this because the very same syndrome seems to be apparent in hunters and jumpers. I'll never forget watching Mark Jungherr win the Gold Cup at Devon on this strung-out-looking chestnut. I know the response will probably be that, at least in jumpers, the courses require more packaging these days. OK, if that's the case, then why is backward riding also seen in pony hunters--but NOT in the professional (three-six to four-foot divisions?

    I think plunking your arse into the saddle and staying securely there--maybe because your base isn't strong enough to package the horse without seat and/or without losing security--is rapidly becoming so necessary and/or so acceptable that other ways to ride are not even being considered any more, much less taught--in any discipline.
    Sportponies Unlimited
    Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

  • #2
    I'm not an expert and don't proclaim to be. But I think there is a real difference between packaging a horse for a technical jump/combination and backwards riding. And sometimes it can be a thin line and it can sometimes be easy to cross.

    A horse that is being ridden backwards is one whose forward momentum is being blocked, sometimes by the failure of the rider to give when the horse has given/softened. So the horse is being pressed on and at the same time told not to press on. It must be very confusing/frustrating for the horse.

    You HAVE to package your horse for the technical stuff, but correctly packaging it means softening when your horse softens and then riding forward through the combination/jump. I think that many of us get so caught up in getting and then keeping the package that we forget to soften and ride forward. And so it is only because our horses are such generous souls that we get through the combo even when we have failed to do our part and soften and push forward.

    I don't think this issue is the fault of course design at all. I think it is simply, as Lucinda has said, a failure on our part as riders to really learn to ride a correct coffin canter. And any breed can canter in a package - be it a warmblood or a TB - if asked correctly.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      In editing, I managd to lose a statement which fits with what you just wrote, flyingchange. Watching the Syracuse show online yesterday evening, I noticed a couple of jumpers going down to the fences like they were actually bracing against the motion--their front legs acting more like pogo sticks angled backwards rather than springs bouncing upwards and forwards.

      That whole "bracing" thing, I think, is part of this syndrome--and, yeah, it looks like the horses learn to cope with it well enough, but I wonder what would happen if the three-point was discouraged more often--especially at the lower levels where so much packaging is certainly not necessary.

      Every time I jump judge lately, I can't help but notice how many riders sit the last three strides of every single jump, regardless of what type of jump it is, the terrain or what comes afterward.

      Foxhunting is the ultimate x-c riding, IMO. And yet horses and riders survive just fine--sometimes for hours on end and always without ever "walking the course"--without grinding into the saddle before each jump. I'll admit that part of my questioning lies in the fact that that was never my style, so I don't understand it--we'd sit to balance on turns and to slow and collect, but not routinely in front of every jump. I just don't get it, I guess.

      And so I guess I'd kinda like to hear what others are instructed to do on an approach--say going to down to a single fence in a field. Watching, it seems to me someone has told them to sit the last three strides. Zat true?
      Sportponies Unlimited
      Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

      Comment


      • #4
        It's a matter of impulsion, not speed or rider position. Backward riding is losing the impulsion, and there's a lot of it to be seen. Whatever position works to get the impulsion is the one to be used. Benny O'Meara could jump enormous fences from the slowest canter imagineable, but the horse's hind end was under him and working and the impulsion was there. It's like bottling up energy and having it balanced do do whatever at a moment's notice.

        Comment


        • #5
          As I'm coming back into jumping after a 3 year old-horse-had-EPM hiatus, this thread is givng me a lot to think about in terms of my riding, what I was specifically TRAINED to do, and what I failed to recognize AND understand about "sitting down the last 3 strides". My old guy (DWB/appendix QH) is fairly long-backed, thick neck from dad, and built a bit down hill from mom - sitting down always helped me rebalance and then ride forward - at least that's what I THOUGHT I was doing. My current trainer certainly tried to do a bit of both with Buddy and me, but he was out of commission pretty soon after we got going with her. EPM sucks! Its going to be different jumping with little short backed OTTB Rasta; methinks a lot of old habits may get in the way and some tune-ups with Lucinda whenever she's in this area may really help!

          occasionally during my time eventing Buddy, I had lessons and/or clinics with Beth Perkins - Beth had us riding forward to the jumps, sitting only if necessary, but balancing nonetheless. Maybe getting over to do some work with Beth may be in order.

          Thanks for the thinking going on in this thread!
          ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            "Losing impulsion" Or slowing down? One seems the unintentional result of passive riding. The other seems intentional due to wanting (and being able to get, more or less) more of a certain type of control. When Clayton or Phillip (whichever one it was) said that about half-halting too much, it sounded like the result was the latter: it slowed him down. THAT would imply it's the course, in a way. Anyway, I didn't get the feeling from the other discussion that backward riding was just a novice issue, which losing implusion would seem to imply...wouldn't it?
            Sportponies Unlimited
            Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by pwynnnorman View Post

              And so I guess I'd kinda like to hear what others are instructed to do on an approach--say going to down to a single fence in a field. Watching, it seems to me someone has told them to sit the last three strides. Zat true?
              This is NOT what I have ever been taught.

              I have learned that when you have a long open field and/or a big gallop before a fence one must, re-balance/half-halt/whatever you want to call it somewhere (I'd say 4-5 strides out) so that your horse is not running on its forehand to the fence.

              I do not do this by placing my but in the saddle but rather by shifting my shoulders into a more upright position.

              After that re-balance you must ride FORWARD in that NEW balance with horses hind end underneath them, not strung out, feeling the boing-boing-boing of each canter stride to the upcoming fence.

              I will add that I don't always get it right which can lead to no re-balance or too much. I believe the too much would fall into your category of riding backwards to the fence. I have on occasion had a mount that said "I don't hear you" as they charged at the fence any which way they d@mn well pleased.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think we are in an area of definitions.

                To me, backward riding is what fluties says. A rider will hold a horse to the point that impulsion is lost. A rider can sit deep and sit up (old cavalry style) and still be forward in the ride. A rider can also be very slow but still be forward in the ride.

                So, is "backward" riding the course or the horse? To me, it is the combination of a weak rider and a too technical question on the the course. The rider usually is unwilling to trust the horse and will continue to take away from the foward impulsion (no leg and all hand), robbing the horse of the energy it needs to clear a fence.

                The XC courses today ride more like jumper courses (speed and accuracy) so of course we will ride the fences like jumpers and look like jumpers.

                Reed

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by west5 View Post
                  This is NOT what I have ever been taught.

                  I have learned that when you have a long open field and/or a big gallop before a fence one must, re-balance/half-halt/whatever you want to call it somewhere (I'd say 4-5 strides out) so that your horse is not running on its forehand to the fence.

                  I do not do this by placing my but in the saddle but rather by shifting my shoulders into a more upright position.

                  After that re-balance you must ride FORWARD in that NEW balance with horses hind end underneath them, not strung out, feeling the boing-boing-boing of each canter stride to the upcoming fence.

                  I will add that I don't always get it right which can lead to no re-balance or too much. I believe the too much would fall into your category of riding backwards to the fence. I have on occasion had a mount that said "I don't hear you" as they charged at the fence any which way they d@mn well pleased.
                  This is what I was referring to in my earlier reply: that Beth teaches you to rebalance with your shoulders and its never about pulling back...I found it very difficult, but I think I now know why - I was depending on being able to sit down, brace with my back, and THEN go on to the fence. Buddy could easily trot a 4' fence so my backward riding was never an issue for clearing Training fences. By stupidity we jumped Intermediate/Advanced corners out schooling one day with only dear hubby along for safety. I went in too slowly and yes we got over cause Buddy was so talented, but I ended up on the ground as he clearly had to practically jump from a standstill. Got back on, and listening to Lucinda in my head and body I got the engine going, galloped forward to the corner, Buddy rebalanced himself and we rode the corner in a proper way, galloped away ecstatic. Today, I may have learned the lesson that corner should have taught. thanks y'all!
                  ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    "... I got the engine going"

                    This is what individuals who ride backwards DON'T do! They let the engine idle which makes it that much more difficult and uncomfortable for the horse.

                    I agree, Reed. The technical questions on todays courses are ridden "backwards" when ridden incorrectly, and the results aren't pretty - or safe! When they are ridden in an energetic show jumping package. they tend to ride just fine. A show jumping package and riding backwards are not the same thing at all, but sometimes one can be confused with the other.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RunForIt View Post
                      By stupidity we jumped Intermediate/Advanced corners out schooling one day with only dear hubby along for safety. I went in too slowly and yes we got over cause Buddy was so talented, but I ended up on the ground as he clearly had to practically jump from a standstill. Got back on, and listening to Lucinda in my head and body I got the engine going, galloped forward to the corner, Buddy rebalanced himself and we rode the corner in a proper way, galloped away ecstatic. Today, I may have learned the lesson that corner should have taught. thanks y'all!

                      This is one example of the differences between today's courses and older courses. Corners are now used as part of complexes with related distances and the type of ride you describe is not necessarily doable. For instance, the OI at the AECs had a coop/bending line/off set corner that required an amazingly accurate ride to both fences. I had to come at the complex as I would riding in the stadium. To an onlooker it probably looked like I was holding and pulling to the fences (i.e. riding backwards). However, my horse was under me and going forward at about 200 mpm in order for us to make the turn to both the coop and the bending 3 strides to the corner and not bounce off of the face of the corner.

                      I suspect that is what is being asked. In this case the course required a "backward" ride, e.g. that not normally being associated with XC.

                      Reed

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        [QUOTE=pwynnnorman;2778746]"Losing impulsion" Or slowing down? QUOTE]



                        AH!!!! This is where the principles of dressage come in....

                        Losing impulsion and slowing down are two very DIFFERENT things. This thought is where riders are making mistakes....

                        Impulsion is derived from the hind end and has nothing to do with speed

                        Speed is derived from the forehand/shoulder...hence speed can be very dangerous when used INSTEAD of impulsion when approaching a fence.

                        There needs to be a combination of both with certain types of fences.
                        Last edited by snoopy; Nov. 3, 2007, 05:30 PM.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          A rider will hold a horse to the point that impulsion is lost. A rider can sit deep and sit up (old cavalry style) and still be forward in the ride. A rider can also be very slow but still be forward in the ride.
                          Of course, RAyers, that is possible and done well by good riders. But that is NOT what I've been seeing--and it is not always associated with impulsion or speed at all. So maybe I misinterpreted what was stated on the other thread.

                          Recall this comment, from Sleepy:
                          And, while some riders may, in fact, ride these courses backwards, they wouldn't be if they were properly trained. Lucinda Green recently commented on this, saying something to the effect that she was shocked at how many riders at the upper levels are getting around the courses without knowing how to ride a coffin canter. I don't think it's what the courses are "encouraging" per se, but rather where the emphasis is in the training (or, really, where the holes are).
                          This is why I don't get the way I see, rider after rider, galloping in an open field down to a simple, single jump sitting in three-point the last three strides. How much re-balancing is necessary in front of a fence and why is it necessary at EVERY fence? And, yeah, what I see is not sending the horse forward afterward, which implies getting out of the tack (or never actually getting into--as in a deep two point, as someone already described, verses a full three-point position).

                          [And, no, I'm not talking about those rarer times when one has to sit and push the reluctant horse--I'm talking about why the arse has to sit, stride after stride, in the saddle to approach a jump, jump after jump.]

                          You see backwards riding as a necessary evil, rAyers--because we no longer have open, galloping courses, perhaps? I think I am defining it as an unfortunate trend, as was Lucinda Green. Best contrasting example I can think of right now is how Bruce or Karen or Phillip or Kim can go down to some whopping big oxer--yes, a galloping part of a course--without sitting. If THEY can do that, why can't the Novice level rider stay out of the tack in that field? And wouldn't the Novice be developing more skill if he or she did? And what is the result of that tendency do sit even when it isn't necessary? In my mind, that is backward riding...and the observation I'm making is that I see it not on your classic forward TB, but on the type of horse that puts up with (and maybe even needs) it.
                          Sportponies Unlimited
                          Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            "... In my mind, that is backward riding"

                            I think we're experiencing a semantic issue here. How about instead of "backward," the sitting up riding style be called "deep seat" or "three point" or something that describes the rider's position (which is what Wynn seems to be struggling with) rather than "backward" which seems to have a different connotation to many of us, myself included.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              agreed

                              "think we're experiencing a semantic issue here. How about instead of "backward," the sitting up riding style be called "deep seat" or "three point" or something that describes the rider's position "

                              I think you are right. I know that I often (maybe to often) ride with a deep seat but don't think it is always backwards riding. My usual plan is to ride in my two point and let the horse travel between fences, rebalance (shoulders back, deeper seat, hopefully does not involve pulling back of the hands) about 4-5 strides away from the base (what I think of as the zone and it is never closer than 3 feet), and than ride forward to the fence. If my stride gets shorter and shorter in the last 3 strides, yep I am riding backwards, if I have a nice bouncy, jump anything canter, no matter what "seat" I am riding with......... life is good

                              Clear as mud, no?
                              Susan
                              http://community.webshots.com/user/ss3777
                              www.longformatclub.com

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by pwynnnorman View Post

                                You see backwards riding as a necessary evil, rAyers--because we no longer have open, galloping courses, perhaps? I think I am defining it as an unfortunate trend, as was Lucinda Green. Best contrasting example I can think of right now is how Bruce or Karen or Phillip or Kim can go down to some whopping big oxer--yes, a galloping part of a course--without sitting. If THEY can do that, why can't the Novice level rider stay out of the tack in that field? And wouldn't the Novice be developing more skill if he or she did? And what is the result of that tendency do sit even when it isn't necessary? In my mind, that is backward riding...and the observation I'm making is that I see it not on your classic forward TB, but on the type of horse that puts up with (and maybe even needs) it.
                                No, no, no. I don't see "backwards" riding as a necesary evil. One can be slow, compact and not backwards. That is my point. One should NEVER ride backwards to a fence.

                                I agree with flutie1. To me what you are describing is a 3-point/deep seat type of ride. I agree with you, in that you do not need that to a single fence in a field (e.g. fly fence). What I do is to get closer to the saddle but not open up my upper body when I "fly" a fence but there are not as many of those fence out there anymore. I hate the new comapct courses that don't allow you to fly. Rebecca Farms is an old style, Mark Phillips course with huge long gallops and I rarely actually get into a 3-point other to balance to on that course. Because of that we usually are in under the time unlike other courses.

                                I suspect what you are seeing at the upper levels is the result of the run your horse's ass off and then try to slam the horse onto its back end as quick as possible to get over the single, hence the comments by Lucinda Green?

                                Reed

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I agree with those who say that backward riding is not about position.

                                  It is about impulsion, but more important it is mental. It is a rider who is hesitant, killing the engine, being TOO careful, sucking back. Not thinking forward.

                                  The rider must THINK forward, attacking, get to the other side. Whatever you have to do physically to navigate the obstacle has nothing to do with riding backwards. It could be the bouncy coffin canter or a wide open gallop....position is separate from riding backwards or riding forward.
                                  Nina's Story
                                  Epona Comm on FB

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    On the separate issue of sitting in the saddle. I think that depends on the horse. My horse did not like to be jumped out of two point. He wanted your ass in the saddle and leg on supporting him right to the base of the jump. Other horses hate this and much prefer a lighter seat to the jump. I don't think you can judge whether a rider is giving a good ride by whether or not they are sitting in the saddle.
                                    Nina's Story
                                    Epona Comm on FB

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by BarbB View Post
                                      On the separate issue of sitting in the saddle. I think that depends on the horse. My horse did not like to be jumped out of two point. He wanted your ass in the saddle and leg on supporting him right to the base of the jump. Other horses hate this and much prefer a lighter seat to the jump. I don't think you can judge whether a rider is giving a good ride by whether or not they are sitting in the saddle.
                                      This is SO true. My current prelim horse wants your ass in the saddle too, and leg on all the way to the base. But my novice mare does not do well with this type of ride - she does much better with a 2-point approach. VERY different horses (very interesting to go from one to the other!).

                                      At a Lucinda Green clinic I did recently, she was adamant that with this horse I keep my rear end in the saddle - she said as long as I do this, and stay back, "he'll do anything for you." So ... I am trying to follow her advice!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by flyingchange View Post
                                        This is SO true. My current prelim horse wants your ass in the saddle too, and leg on all the way to the base. But my novice mare does not do well with this type of ride - she does much better with a 2-point approach. VERY different horses (very interesting to go from one to the other!).

                                        At a Lucinda Green clinic I did recently, she was adamant that with this horse I keep my rear end in the saddle - she said as long as I do this, and stay back, "he'll do anything for you." So ... I am trying to follow her advice!
                                        pwynnorman:
                                        Best contrasting example I can think of right now is how Bruce or Karen or Phillip or Kim can go down to some whopping big oxer--yes, a galloping part of a course--without sitting. If THEY can do that, why can't the Novice level rider stay out of the tack in that field? And wouldn't the Novice be developing more skill if he or she did? And what is the result of that tendency do sit even when it isn't necessary? In my mind, that is backward riding...and the observation I'm making is that I see it not on your classic forward TB, but on the type of horse that puts up with (and maybe even needs) it.
                                        the lesson here - at least for me - is ride forward, but lots of us get stuck in thinking that because the horse is moving toward the jump while we're sitting up in our dressage seat and HOLDING, that we're riding forward...not so! I've got to learn the difference and this thread has been the wake-up call. Thanks. So much to learn and learn how to do.
                                        ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

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