Awesome topic! We just had this discussion on another forum with quite a few British riders. I'm always in awe at how young British riders are and already doing very advanced riding - it's not an exception, it's the norm.
I don't think good equitation equals good riding all the time. As was said, anyone can pose, but without function, what good is it doing you? I rode with a young girl who could do 3'0" courses, but the minute we went trail riding, if her very quiet horse jigged once, she'd start bawling and jump off. Her "perfect" equitation didn't mean a darn thing the minute a horse acted up underneath her, all she knew how to do was look good over fences on a trained horse. So she may be winning lots of ribbons, but I would never classify her as a good rider. She could never get on a problem horse and ride him accurately, because if he didn't behave perfectly, she was lost. And THAT is the norm in my area of Canada, and I just find it ridiculous.
As far as I'm concerned, it's almost impossible to have "perfect" equitation unless you have a fully trained push button schoolmaster. Watch any good rider worth his or her salt training a youngster, and you could rarely call it "showring equitation". A good rider needs to be able to adapt to his or her mount. The basics of equitation are solid, but if you get into a mindset that without perfect equitation, you're not a good rider, you're setting yourself up for failure. There needs to be a happy medium between trying to accomplish good equitation while at the same time recognizing different paths you must take for your horse to understand you properly, which often deviate from what most consider good equitation.
I think all young riders SHOULD strive for good equitation, because it gives a principal to follow. Once you're able to recognize the proper way of going, you're more able to adapt yourself to different methods in order to accomplish what you're trying to teach your mount. I can see the value in teaching proper equitation to a novice, because in those cases, heels down for example gives them a solid base. But when you're a more advanced rider, heels down doesn't become as neccesary as long as you have a solid leg. I know talking to a lot of British riders, they're always confused as to why North America seems to jacknife our heel so much. It really isn't neccesary, and if anything, tends to lock up your leg. But that's what we've posed as good equitation, and that's what we strive for without even really knowing why I don't think.
I LOVED your pics Nutty Saddler, I think you presented an ideal image of how you MUST change your riding up depending on the horse you're riding. You're still centered, and you're staying out of your horses way, and because you're a good rider anyway, your functionality is not being sacrificed for equitation, nor is your equitation being sacrificed for funtionality. You've found that proper medium where the two can combine. Thanks for sharing those!
Equitation in hunters is very different then equitation in jumpers.
I am speaking for my area here, it may be different where you are.
They want to see you laying on the horses neck as if you are jumping a very large fence, even if you are just doing 2'6". They want to see your hands in almost a crest release. They want to see you in half seat through most of the course.
This is my friend, who consistantly places in the top of her eq o/f classes in her hunter divisions.
This next on is not the best one of her, she usually doesn't jump ahead, although in hunters that is pretty common, as with pinching with the knee. It was the only side photo I could find.
Now this horse doesn't have the best hunter form over fences but he's so consistent else where that he beats out the more inconsistent horses with great form. Also he is very good for the flat classes so...
Equitation for Jumpers in my area is often a more functional form of the above. Just because we have more Hunters that do jumpers then people who just focus on Jumpers. So they tone down the prettiness level a notch. Then you have the people who just do Jumpers and they either throw form out the window, or focus on functionality.
I'm not trying to diss anyone here, I'm just saying that it differs.
Thank you so much Jody and Nutty! I really appreciate your input, knowledge and experiences! What you say makes so much sense to me, and Nutty you look fabulous regardless of what horse you are riding -
I was always taught that in order for your horse to do his job correctly, you must be spot on in form. Like, for example - if you loose your lower leg, then you aren't aiding your horse to remain round and up into your aids. If your upper body is forward, then your bodies weight is on your horses forehand, if you carry your hands low, your horse is not being lifted up off of their forehand - etc, etc, etc.....
What are your thoughts on this?
I am understand that you must learn to conform to the horse, 100% agree with this. What do you think about low level riders who are green, and starting to jump - do you think they need to be made to focus on being correct in equitation before they go over fences, or need to focus on solidity before they go over fences *solidity meaning solid seat, behind the horse, leave the horse alone, get the horse to the base of the fence correctly...more technical, than perching*
IN a perfect world you would have a perfect position and it would be easy - I've seen way to many people who over analyse everything they do on the horse - Constantly put criteque pics up (Not this site _ I have not been on here that long) to strive for the perfect postion - but what are they doing - they are losing the enjoyment....Its all about getting that leg in the right place - back flat etc.... there are some poeple on horses that make it impossible to look perfect on
There is the ideal position which in most places is same - Pinto pony has a possie most of us strive for....(Including myself LOL) but at the end of the day - she's been jumping for years with her pony and really has solidfied it so she is extremely stable...
Learning to jump - well personally I think they need to focus on two things... Stability in the lower leg and the release.... (Of course overall things but these two things are a major) I think the other things will come with time - can you remember when you learnt (I can't but have recently been teacing someone) - there was just so much to take in and then on top of that it was the fear/excitment of actauly jumping. They should definitely focus on the form but I think pretty comes later.... (So I guess in answer to you question Solidity) I absolutely thing though all foundations must be taught on the flat first as it will only end in tears!
There are so many conflicting theories as well to confuse everyone ontop.... My first instructor taught me to over release and ride in two point to the base of the jump.... what did that do for my current horse.... well she being new to jumping (Only learnt in the last year) was not supported and felt like I dropped her at the base and over the jump then would run away afterwards as I "Thrown the reins" at her....
So my current instructor - who I love - works on sitting up holding her to the base and riding leg to hand over (While maintaining contact - but still releasing).... her jumping has come along huge bounds so yeah what works with one horse aint going to work with others....so you will need to adapt
On another note - Upsidedown - I so have to agree with you re the
"They want to see you laying on the horses neck as if you are jumping a very large fence, even if you are just doing 2'6". They want to see your hands in almost a crest release. They want to see you in half seat through most of the course."
Our Showhunter in NZ - (Which is like your hunters as opposed to your Showhutner) that's exactly what its like.... couldnt have put it better myself..
I agree that EQ is important to a certain extent... but especially for eventers, I think functionality is most important. Sure, we have OK EQ, some better than others, but it's more about conforming to your horse. It's very important in eventing to be able to expect the unexpected when out on xc, so if that means going over a fence or two funky, so be it. As long as it is safe for both you and the horse.
I grew up doing hunters, and I always won my hunter classes. And then I switched to eventing - And I have to say, I still have the posture of a hunter rider but I like to think that also have function - That's what always differentiated me from others I competed with (in hunters) which is why I switched disciplines. Hope that makes sense, I'm having trouble talking today :P
In this months practical horseman, Beezie talks about making your horse's job easier. I think that's what it all comes down to, making life easier for your horse. Equitation helps us have a secure position, which helps us stay out of our horse's way when we need to, and get in our horse's way when we need to.
As a rider, we have certain jobs. First, we need to stay on. Second, we need to stop negatively influencing our horse. Only then can we learn to influence our horses for the better.
Think about it, a flat back allows for a better usage of the core muscles, which creates a stronger seat. Heels down leads to better leg security, which leads to a stronger seat and better balance in general. Keeping a straight line from the elbow to the bit allows for clear communication, without needless 'static' from the reins.
However, I do see the point about people getting so wrapped up in the details of finer equitation that they get going crazy. In my experience, these are usually very academic, analytical, task oriented people (i.e. Me, the super nerd). I drive my coach crazy because once I get onto something, I "can't see the forest for all the trees" (her words, not mine). What she means by that is that I'm so wrapped up in keeping my wrists dead straight, and my back flat, and my heels down, and my head straight, and my elbows in etc etc etc... that I overload my brain and the wheels fall of the wagon on my ride. My ride sucks, I don't enjoy myself and my horse isn't a happy camper either.
The biggest thing to remember is that riding isn't about the little details, it's how the little details come together to form the big picture. Riding is about balance in motion. So what if at a split second your leg slips a bit far back? As long as you stay in balance with your horse, it's not the end of the world. Whenever I get too wrapped up in the details, my coach just tells me to 'stop thinking and let it flow'. Riding isn't about making it perfect, it's about making it work. Additionally, we'll take the horses out on a hack. Nothing like a good gallop to clear the mental pipes.
Just on an end note, I'd like to point out that for all people criticize the North American System (saying we teach our hunter/jumpers to pose, and not really ride, where form outweighs function etc...), we do pretty **** well in the show jumping scene. Last Olympics Canada had an individual gold and a team silver, and the US had a team gold and an individual bronze. We're obviously doing something right.
From personal experience, I think the "pretty vrs functional" goes something like this in my area...
Usually when people (kids, I guess) start off riding, they go to the "all around" places or just cheaper places where lessons are at a good rate, but the trainers aren't exactly certified or even qualified to be training at in the disiplines or levels that they do. (a few years ago I had a saddle seat trainer trying to school me over crosscountry jumps...makes no sense) When said kids get more serious about riding, they start showing. I hate going to the local shows in my area because the majority of the people are just throwing themselves over their horses necks trying to pose because their trainers told them that's how it's done. Even at my own barn a few months ago, I was asked to cover a beginner lesson and when I asked the girl to go into two point she literally threw herself on her horse's neck. Or rather, she was calling it "jumping position". If kids are being taught that this is the proper way to go over a fence before they're even jumping, it makes sense that there aren't many young riders at the more advanced levels of riding.
I'm so glad that my friend and I were able to help each other out when we started jumping. We were more concerned with staying on than looking pretty, so we were focused on having a good base of support, staying with the horse, and releasing. It's funny, because the people at our barn that took jumping lessons were either taught to just stand up in the stirrups, or to over exaggerate their hunter positions. Now, I'm so glad that I'm fortunate to be at a barn that trailers out to eventing barns for jumping lessons.