Form Over Fences
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?
That's so funny...I remember that exact article with the jumper in your pic 2. I always wondered about that posing style...it's kind of crude but I call it the "neck humper" style. My trainer told me that she guessed maybe it was turning into a western pleasure thing..."it's so easy I can pose up here at the same time" kind of mentality. Equivalent to the completely unfunctional reins looped down to the knees in western pleasure. Just our theory :?
I think it looks horrible. I don't get why so many trainers teach it. It has to interfere with the horse's jump since they're way up over their shoulders most of the time, probably before the horse even leaves the ground. The only thing I can think is maybe it evolved out of pushing rides too quickly to bigger fences and the ducking provides some false sense of security? I hate to use that word because I don't see any security in sticking my entire upper body over my horse's neck. Good post.
I don't really think that trainers are "teaching" this style, I just think they are not fixing it. There may be some out there that teach like that but I think most just don't fix it. I have been through about 8 trainers and have been riding for 10 years. I started out riding hunters then switched to eventing. My hunter trainers gave me a pretty good foundation and when i switched to eventing, and had to give my horse some time off, lost my position. This is when i started trying more trainers. What I really wanted was help with my position and not one trainer said anything about my position even a hunter/equitation trainer. (and many of these trainers were advanced eventers 2 of which had been to Rolex) I do not have a bad position by any means, but it is not perfect either. So, i've never met a trainer that taught this way, but many that just didn't try to fix it.
I keep coming across more and more people who jump like the 1st picture. It seems like jumping ahead is the new "style" and it drives me crazy! I agree with equineeventer3390 that instructors are not fixing the problem. They aren't teaching it, they just dont think that they should fix it. The sad part is that these riders are wining more and more and in order to be a "hunter rider" you dont need to focus on good eq but rather just lean and duck.
Do you think it is the coaches that we need to point fingers at? GM thinks so - and I do agree to a point. BUT what about the Judges??? Are they pinning these riders who perch and pose like this over fences, and that is why Coaches are teaching it - so that their students pin?
What is the cause of this?
I do believe, whole heartedly - that coaches are allowing riders over fences, way before they should be. How many do we see with unfunctional form - and going over fences continuously? No coach that I see, are putting their students on lunge lines. Classes are too big where the student is not getting the needed attention, and everyone is saying "wow you are such a good rider" when they aren't.
I think that is the biggest issue. Then I think another issue, is that riders are allowed to compete before they should be, so coaches teach their students to perch and pose so not to effect the horses movement so that their student can pin.
I agree that judges are pinning the riders who "perch and pose" and that might be why coaches are teaching it. But I also think alot of judging is political. I have been to hunter shows where the judge pinned a horse who bolted a whole lap around the ring 4th out of a class of 10. I know that they can't see everything but he carried on forever and I always thought that the judge watched the first few the most to decide places. I don't know, but it seemed the judge was partial to the big, stocky and also those that where chestnuts. I saw others that were more of the picture "hunter" not place at all than those that placed in the top. I see alot of ok riders on really expensive "made" horses pinning high while the educated riders on good horses they have brought along pin not as high. It seems that as long as you have money its not as important that you can ride because the horse will take care of you. I am not saying all judges are political because there are alot out there that are really honest, but I go sit and watch alot of shows and have seen my share of classes that were judged unfair. I have sat at a AA show with a judge who explained what he looks for in the horse and rider and how he scores it. It was really informative. Even in the pictures from your original post the of the two critiques the rider who didn't have practical form was riding a hunter but the rider with practical form was riding jumpers. Maybe its a change that is taking place in the hunter and eq rings?
Sorry to rant and sorry if i am totally wrong but those are just my opinions from what I have observed in going and watching the shows on the weekends (I go alot, I love watching)
No, I agree. That's why I dislike the Hunter World very much. I think the Hunter ring has merged into a whole world of it's own, far from what GM and his comrade's wanted it to be.
GM wanted form to merge from what we see with Fox Hunters, functional and practicle. Not perching and posing.
Take the Crest Release - GM created the crest only for those who cannot balance themselves via lower body, or cannot support their upper bodies via lower body. But yet, we see it over taught, over used - and it turned into what we see with the first rider - perching and posing.
While I agree that we need to know how to use both, because not all fences are smooth - where at times we need to do the crest to support ourselves and not interfear with our horses incase we get a bad distance. But we see riders who have a great stride and the horse takes off at the proper spot, still doing the crest.
The world of Hunters has turned into something, that I don't even want to start to understand.
I am left shaking my head, understanding the frustration that GM and other greats must feel.
Lets look at Beezie Madden. Impecable rider, impecable form. That rider can merge from a 1/2 seat to a full seat in the snap of a finger. She can do both releases and fully support herself functionally over any fence. She grew up at a hunter, but as a functional hunter. She is a rider that GM highly speaks of frequently and I can see why.
So - why are we seeing form such as the first rider. These riders think they look good - but I am left shaking my head in disgust, because it's rediculous and far from the mold GM started.
Ok, we agree that the Judging is political - so is that why we are seeing this unfunctional form in the show ring?
Again, I like to point fingers at the coaches though - I feel that they are permitting to many holes in their students training.
Is this perching and posing due to the coaches not wanting their unfunctional riders to interfear with their horses - so that they can pin?
What is going on here?
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