I see Form Over Fences changing very much from a Functional Form "Classical" which is what I grew up riding and was taught *because in Eventing there is little room for error so your form must be functional and solid*. Classical Form is what is known at the Millitary Style.
Here is George Morris representing the Milliary or "Classical Style" very nicely:
Now, we see something completely not at all what GM and other Greats intended for form over fences. Into this "perching" or "posing" form that is not functional at all - where we see a rider drop their upper body so low to their horses neck. The rider closes the angle for the horse.
I just don't understand why coaches today are teaching this?
What is the function of this form that we are seeing so much today in the Hunter/Jumper show ring?
So - here I am going through my collection *trust me, I have a collection* of Practicle Horseman, and came across March 2007's where GM gave a very thorough critique that I wanted to share:
"This Rider is skilled and attractive, but her photo is a snapshot of how even our best riders today depart from traditional equitation. I'm sure that this rider is a very succcesful junoir, but her mannered position is a travesty of what it should be.
I ask all of our readers to compare her form with someone photographed riding around 1955. They will see how form today DOES NOT concern itself with funtion, but only with posing.
I do not want to pick on this rider because she is only riding as she was taught, but our riding teachers need to reeducate themselves in the why and how of true equitation.
The most obvious flaw in this rider's position - and what is largely responsible for her other flaws, that I will discuss - is that her stirrup is two or three holes too long.
When a rider has to reach for her irons, she cannot use them for balance while her horse's motion lifts her out of the saddle. Instead, she reaches for the irons and then, because she feels insecure, throws her body forward to catch up to her horse.
As a result, this rider's seat is much to high out of the saddle and her upper body is practically lying on her horse's neck.
Despite all of these gmnastics, her leg position itself is good, with her heel down, ankle flexes and calf on her horse.
Her crest release, too, is mannered, rather than functional. Her hand should rest alongside her horse's crest, pressing into the neck as it provides support for her upper body. Instead, she has perched her hand on top of her horse's neck with a severely broken line from the bit to her elbow.
Again, this is what she sees all around her in the show ring, but it is not correct. And while some Judges do not penalize it, I would sharply mark it down in an equitation class.
This horse is lovely, with an alert expression, but he, too, is showing form problems that today's hunter ring has created. He has been schooled so much over rampy, low fences, that he has learned to jerk up his knees while he canters over the fence without making any effort with his body.
As a result, his front end is sharp and tight, but his back is as flat as a pancake from poll to dock. A hunter should round his back and lower his head and neck and he arches over the jump, rather than just stepping acros it as this horse is doing.
This pair is capable of so much more than we see here. The equitation ring has evolved from being a training ground for the effort of a 4-foot verticles and natural obstacles in the hunter ring, to being a destination of its own where posing and imitating have taken the place of real riding and jumping."
And here is a rider in Milliraty Form where GM gave an exceptional critique:
"This Rider deomonstartes a strong, supple leg, with his heel down, ankle flexed, toe out in accordance with his conformation and his calf on the horse.
His leg position can be partially attributed to riding with the correct length of stirrup for this good-sized oxer.
The solid foundation this creates under his foot - along with an equally solid and reliable, traditional stirrup iron - allows him to follow his horse naturally without resorting to throwing his upper body or standing on his toes. As a result, his base of support - his seat and thigh - are just right, neither ahead of nor behind his horse's motion.
This rider's posture is impeccable,with a flat but not stiff back, relaxed shoulder and head and eyes looking for the next fence.
His short release, too, is very good - the weight of his upper body is resting on the crest of his horse's neck while he holds the reins with a soft, light hand. He looks like a relaxed, confident and skilled rider -one that I would enjoy teaching.
His horse appeals to me with his breedy head, alert expression and overall impression of honesty, carefulness and agility. His front end is fabulous, and while he is ever so slightly lower withhis belly than his legs, which could indicate of lack of sope over truely big fences, he is a lovely Junior or Amateur Jumper."
So WHY are we seeing so much equitation that mimicks Rider #1??? WHY are coaches teaching this unfunctional form? Shouldn't Hunter/Jumper coaches be following GM's footsteps since he and others started this sport in North America?