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Barbara Ellin Fox 01-24-2010 06:30 PM

More about crest release vs automatic release
I started this on the thread crest release vs automatic release but when I went to post it said the thread was too old and to start a new one, so here I am.
The crest release is the most popular use of the hands for jumping in hunter classes today but it's sort of usurped the position of the automatic release.

A quick description: crest release is when you lean your hands into the crest over fences. There is a short release and a long release. The purpose is to release all contact with your horse's mouth and keep him from getting his mouth punished over jumps. It was originally intended for beginners. The automatic release is when the hands follow the mouth over the jump maintaining contact and not leaning on the horse at all. There should be a straight line from the mouth to the hands to the elbows.

Some people believe George Morris was the innovator of the crest release but he wasn't. He only gave it a name. It was first taught by Littauer in the 30s. He used it as a quick way to get students jumping because he said they couldn't get fit and strong enough to jump without leaning on their horses. Then Gordon Wright (George Morris' teacher) continued the idea during the 50s and then G. Morris went on with it.

The crest release is intended for beginners. Before G. Morris began pushing it you wouldn't have considered going into a Medal or McClay class if you had to lean on the horse to jump. G.Morris actually teaches that you should support your upper body with your hands, making it part of the base of support. Even so, riders put more and more of their upper body weight into their hands, on their wrists, on their arms, to the point that they are laying on the horse. Then it becomes dangerous because it takes the weight out of your heel and leg where it should be and makes the rider vunerable if the horse stops or has a bad fence.

The crest release also encourages getting ahead when you jump. Getting ahead not only makes the rider unstable, it throws the rider's weight on the horse's forehand making it harder for him to jump.

But there are more problems. Too many use the release incorrectly and you see horses jumping in tight reins. The crest release is supposed to release contact with the horse's mouth. The crest release also creates horses who need stronger bits because they are either jumping in tight reins (bad crest release) or loose reins which means the rider loses a little control of the horse, so riders use stronger bits and more gadgets. The automatic release gives the rider smoother, lighter control.

And lastly, people are beginning to forget what an automatic release is and don't want to progress past the beginner crest release. People are jumping higher and higher with crest release and the horses are the ones paying the price for it.

If an eventer uses a crest release for anything except an emergency, they're inviting a serious accident at some point. I'd love to see everyone progress in their riding so they can use the automatic release naturally and save the crest release for when they have a sticky situation or a very unpredictable green horse they want to be sure not to hit in the mouth or back.

Keep up the good work. Explaining the releases and why you use them and like/dislike them helps everyone

maura 01-24-2010 06:39 PM

Greeat summary, thanks!

anrz 01-24-2010 06:41 PM

I think that the crest release only encourages some riders to jump ahead. The way my instructor teaches it, is that you 'push' yourself to the back of the saddle in a sense with your hands still supporting you to some extent. I'm sure that this will be misunderstood by the way I worded it, but I can't think of any other way to say it, haha. Right now I need the support that a crest release gives you, so I like it for that. But once you don't need that support anymore, I do think that you should progress to an automatic release while still having the crest release for times when you need it (what I mean by that is that you should still practice it every so often).
I don't really agree with the statement that George Morris encourages supporting yourself while jumping with the crest release. If you've ever seen the Jumping Clinic in Practical Horseman, he will say something if he believes that a rider should be using an automatic release over jumps.

maura 01-24-2010 06:47 PM

That's true, George Morris *now* bemoans the fact that it's become the standard; and in his Jumping Clinic, he's constantly talking about able riders lowering their hands and working towards an automatic release.

He is also the first to criticize a rider who uses the phony crest release, with hands floating above the neck in an exaggerated broken line.

However, Barbara is right about the history. George Morris is responsible for popularizing and making it the standard for Hunter Seat Eq; a fact he now regrets.

She's also right that Littauer (a huge influence on my early riding and training that you don't hear much about any more) developed it as an intermediate step between grabbing mane three strides away from the base of the fence and developing a true automatic release.

ohsareee 01-24-2010 06:53 PM

I was never taught to "lay on my hands" in a crest release, I was taught to simply change my hip angle and let my horse jump up to me and when I learned to ride obviously I learned a crest release but I do not "grab mane" or "lay on my hands". I was actually taught to jump a majority of the time without stirrups that way I could feel the horses motion.

In the maclay test this year they had to jump without stirrups. If all of these maclay riders are "laying on their hands" and "jump ahead" how do they successfully jump a 3'6" jump without stirrups?

There are plenty of riders who do not know how to use the automatic release and simply lay on their horses neck and throw their hands down. A crest release shouldn't hurt your horse unless you ride with too short of reins and snap back with your hands on the landing.

The crest release can be critisized all you would like, but when it is used correctly it shouldn't be hurting the horse or inflicting with the horses movement. Likewise - the automatic release isn't god gift to this earth. It is also used incorrectly, riders are getting sloppy and just laying on the horses neck and dropping their hands.

Then again, I am also a firm believer in George Morris. Im am anti-christ Hunter/Jumper/Equitation rider, oh no!

MIEventer 01-24-2010 06:58 PM

The Crest release is farly overdone in North America. So much, that yes, George Morris admits the regret of introducing it to the riders in North America.

The Crest release also promotes perching, posing and has become a major crutch to many riders today.

I dislike the release - and I think it should be weeded out of lessons, and the show ring.

ohsareee 01-24-2010 06:59 PM

Let me also clarify - I school 3' - 3'3" and I know how to properly use an automatic release. I can't say that I use it 100% of the time though as I have just begun to embark on the long road of being a successful automatic releaser and am sometimes afraid that I may drop my hands too much or if I get a bad distance, I am more worrying about collecting my horse and sitting up rather than hand placement and due to learning to jump with a crest release, its my natural posture in that situation.

Allison Finch 01-24-2010 06:59 PM

I have mixed feelings about the crest release. I do feel it has become quite a crutch in todays jumpers. I do use it, on occasion, on XC, When jumps are taken at speed.

But, when things are more predictable, as in show jumping/jumpers, I always try to use an automatic release

Crest releases often do NOT allow the rider to give the reins enough to move with the horse, due to the hands being "planted" on the crest. As such, I really don't like it, on most occasions.

Allison Finch 01-24-2010 07:07 PM


Originally Posted by ohsareee (Post 531827)

The crest release can be critisized all you would like, but when it is used correctly it shouldn't be hurting the horse or inflicting with the horses movement. Likewise - the automatic release isn't god gift to this earth.

Then again, I am also a firm believer in George Morris. Im am anti-christ Hunter/Jumper/Equitation rider, oh no!

The problem with the crest release, is that most riders using it put their hands on top of the crest. This makes the hands immobile. The horse, when it jumps, stretches its neck out to make the bascule.When this happens, the riders, with their "planted" hands, are unable to give the reins to the horse. It creates a "snatch".

MIEventer 01-24-2010 07:07 PM

Allison, you are a rider who uses the crest, as george morris intended for it to be used.

You must beable to learn how to use both seats, if you watch exceptional riders like Beezie Madden ride, she can swap between both seats to accomodate that particular fence that she is approaching.

Same with releases. The Crest is useable when you come to a fence that compromises your position, so that you can stay out of your horses way so that he can get his job done.

The Automatic is the oldest of releases, has been done in Europe since English came about - I believe, that the Automatic should be the one we commonly see today, as George Morris even states in his critique columns. It is unfortunate that the Crest is overly done and a crutch of North American Riders today - I dislike this release very much.

Don't get me wrong, it has its' place, but unfortunately, majority of riders in North America, can't surpass its use.

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