A rider’s posture is important while jumping as it affects the horse’s balance. If the rider leans forward, the weight falls on the front end of the horse. You need to be in balance to the jump otherwise if a horse spooks while you’re leaning forward, you’re less secure in your position and you can’t apply leg aids as easily.
Samuel Hutton is an international British show jumper based in Antwerp, Belgium. He offered some useful tips for riders to improve their posture, benefitting the horse, for a better jump.
Samuel said, “To improve the posture while training, you can do flat work with no stirrups. If your horse is not too sharp in the warm-up at a competition, you can walk, trot, canter without stirrups. After ten minutes I guarantee you will feel more secure in the saddle, 10 minutes makes a big difference, you will be surprised after even five minutes.”
Visualisation is a great technique to help riders sit up and remain in balance with the horse. Samuel said this is the advice he gives his clients. “I tell them to roll their shoulders backwards, especially on take-off, if you take off lying on their neck you are blocking their shoulders. If you can stay in your spot a second longer more, behind the horse, then you have more chance to clear that fence. When you are jumping 1.60m it makes a difference, as you jump that delicate plank, the lightest of touches will leave it on the floor, it’s those little details.”
There is plenty you can do to improve your posture while off the horse. Samuel is a fan of Pilates which is good for core and balance. He said he’s much more aware of where his body is and when and how he uses it.
“Gym balls are very good.” Samuel said, “If you can get on the ball on your knees and throw a smaller ball between each hand, it sounds simple, but it’s really hard, you have to think about your core while holding the ball.”
While jumping, one of the most important body parts is a rider’s lower leg, it connects with seat and position. Samuel said, “It’s an important part of your riding, when you land, put the inside leg on to stop your horse dropping a shoulder, the outside leg helps you turn.”
When you know your horse you can anticipate what they might do, for example if your horse drifts to the right over fences, you need to use your right rein and right leg to keep straight.
Samuel said, “I get all my work done before I get to the turn so straight after the jump. You should keep your leg on, I don’t mean kicking, but as support to keep the rhythm level. Then you are more likely to go clear. If your leg pressure is on and off there is more chance you are shooting forward, you want a steady pace.”
Samuel’s final thoughts were about the rider’s vision. He concluded by saying, “Your eyes should be looking at the next fence, early enough to get your aids on. If you are looking down, it brings your body down, practise in the flatwork looking where you are going, it will improve your posture.”