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Teaching/learning the Automatic release-Curious

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  • Teaching/learning the Automatic release-Curious

    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.....
    Form follows function, or does function follow form?

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    http://clearvisionequine.blogspot.com

  • #2
    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.
    Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.

    Comment


    • #3
      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!

      Comment


      • #4
        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.

        Comment


        • #5
          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

          Comment


          • #6
            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

            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.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by M. O'Connor View Post
              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

              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.

              Comment


              • #8
                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.
                http://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628
                Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!

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                • #9
                  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 today!!! My instructors were very strict and "Old School" BHS trained and there were no "natural" horsemanship techniques used.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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/sh...ad.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.
                    "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

                    Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by supershorty628 View Post
                      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.
                      **********
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                      • #12
                        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.
                        Last edited by findeight; Nov. 12, 2011, 11:15 AM.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by supershorty628 View Post
                          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..
                          Live in the sunshine.
                          Swim in the sea.
                          Drink the wild air.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by supershorty628 View Post
                            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.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              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 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 as more of a leading hand or with a typical following hand. I also use crest releases on him varying from "connected" to no contact.

                              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.
                              __________________________________
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                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by Lexus View Post
                                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!
                                Form follows function, or does function follow form?

                                www.clearvisionequine.com

                                http://clearvisionequine.blogspot.com

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                                • #17
                                  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
                                  http://www.lucysquest.blogspot.com

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                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    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.
                                    Form follows function, or does function follow form?

                                    www.clearvisionequine.com

                                    http://clearvisionequine.blogspot.com

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                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Thanks, Starhouse. Hope you don't mind I posted your vid to my facebook friends with thanks!
                                      Form follows function, or does function follow form?

                                      www.clearvisionequine.com

                                      http://clearvisionequine.blogspot.com

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by boosma47 View Post
                                        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.

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