The Basics = Safety

Welcome to the first entry of my new blog. This will be a great way to communicate anything and everything related to hunters and hunter seat equitation. Most of what I’ll offer will be insights gained from teaching riding clinics around the country. For instance, in a recent clinic, I found myself saying “put your heels down and grab the mane” to almost every rider. Sometimes they would successfully go for the mane, but forget to put their heels down, so that the horse’s thrust over the fence would almost launch them.

When you’re learning how to jump a horse, you have to have the basics, which include both legs on the horse (your glue), heels pressed down (to exert downward weight to help hold you on), seat out of the saddle (to free the horse’s back), body inclined forward (to balance over the horse’s center of gravity, which is at the withers), eyes up and looking through the ears of the horse (to keep you centered on the animal so that you won’t fall off sideways), and both hands pressed on the neck in a crest release (with mane being grabbed in at least one hand if you have any balance problems at all). By “balance problems,” I mean if you can’t always place your horse at a good take-off spot and sometimes find yourself behind the motion in the air, or you have a weak leg position that moves when the horse jumps so that you can’t keep your upper body in a stable position.

This reminds me of a conversation with George Morris. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, so I said, “What have you been up to?” He answered, “Just teaching the basics.” He had already taken the position of chef d’equipe (the manager of a national team) for the United States Show Jumping Team, so I found it amusing that he considered himself “just teaching the basics.” When I thought about it, I realized that no matter how difficult a course may be, the underpinnings of success are always “the basics.” When you make a basic error, the results are never good, whether you’re in the show ring as a beginner, or are an advanced rider competing in a world-class event.

So that’s my “food for thought” this week that I hope will be helpful as you strive to be the best rider you can be.