Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price
Jim Wofford discusses the two positions you need to take in eventing’s jumping phases: show jumping and cross-country.
When was the last lesson you received on your posting technique? It’s been a while. Because you know how to post, it’s likely that you haven’t had one in a while. You do it automatically, as part of your horse’s motion. Let me make a point about my rhetorical question. Actually, I have many “points” but it will take me some time to get there. Keep reading because I will show you that the best jumping position is as easy and as automatic as the posting trot.
Three-Point and two-Point
Let’s all use the same terminology. Here are the positions you must use to ride cross-country and show jumping in eventing. The first position, which is your show-jumping position (a light three-point), is what I call it. Your pubic bone, and two of your seat bones are located at the three points that touch the saddle. Your stirrups should now be short enough to create a 90-degree angle between your knee and your hip when you’re seated. Because your conformation and the location of your shoulders have a lot to do with your upper body, I don’t use a strict rule. A rider with long legs and a narrow waist will find it too difficult to tell someone “keep your shoulders higher than your knees”. My rule of thumb is to place your shoulders higher than your hips.
Good riding mechanics lead to good results. A good rider over fences must have a perfect lower leg position. This is Beezie Madden, Olympic showjumping gold medalist, on Abigail Wexner’s Cortes C. It is a great example of this principle. Beezie’s contact is sensitive and precise because her lower leg is secure. Her upper body is not directed at Cortes, but she gives the impression that he has raised his chest towards her. Her horse has been able to make a remarkable effort with her technique, even when faced with a large oxer. |
Amy K. Dragoo
Your spine is naturally curved at the waist. This arch changes from slightly pronounced to flat to slight. With your neck slightly bent at your waist, your shoulders slightly forward of your hips and your three-point positioned in front of your hips, your body is in the best position to absorb the horse’s jumping motion and convert it into a two-point at its peak at the bascule. This point will be covered in a moment.
The two-point is also known as the galloping or half-seat position. It can be used in four situations: jumping, galloping and any other time you need to lift your horse’s weight (e.g., when walking up steep hills). This position is called the two-point. It allows you to hold your horse’s head on the two inner points of your knees. Your reins and stirrups are not required to secure the two-point. You should keep it secure by closing your legs starting at the back of the knee and going all the way to the calf. Don’t pinch the bone at the back of your knee as this can cause your lower leg slip back.
The Light-Bulb Moment
Are you still with me? Good. Let’s now return to the question I asked about your posting motion. This time, though, I will use my terminology. To post, you must ask your horse to trot. Your horse will sit for one beat and then you will rise for the second beat. You are going from a light three to two point, and then back again. Posting is not something that you can do. If done correctly, you should allow your horse to post. His back motion causes you to rise from light 3-point to 2-point. Your horse should be able to see your seat. Your horse doesn’t care if your spine is 1 inch or 1 foot higher than his back. However, he will be very alert if you move too close to his motions or too far behind him. Your horse and you will have a more harmonious relationship if your center of gravity is closer to each other.
Let me ask a question: When I talk about your transition from a light 3-point to a 2-point and back, am I referring to your jumping motion or your posting motion? They are both the same motion. The same mechanics that you used to do the trot are what your jumping motion uses. You will now feel the light bulb in your chandelier start to turn on. Instructors can determine if a novice group is ready to crossrail on calm school horse horses by observing how they post, hold their trot and continue smoothly to the next point.
This is a common position in the hunter rings. Hunter riders are keen to show their horses that they can go with them, but this style is a vice. Show-hunter performances should be smooth and effortless. They must also have impeccable jumping technique. It is not easy for horses to use themselves correctly when they are weighed down by their rider.
Amy K. Dragoo
You will be able to improve your jumping technique once you have a better understanding of the mechanics. Jumping too fast for your horse can lead to many jumping errors. Your horse’s jumping effort should determine your jumping position, not the cause. Your jumping position should not be further out than your normal posting motion for obstacles larger than 3 feet 6. If done correctly, the position at the top is determined by the movement of your horse’s back. It’s not a matter of you projectile-vomiting your way up the neck of your long-suffering horse.
How to check your self
You can practice your jumping position by trotting over small obstacles (less than 2 feet 6 inches). Feel your horse’s back pushing you into your two point as he jumps. Placing a placing pole 9ft in front of an obstacle will make it easier to do two trot steps. You should be in the seated position for the entire distance between the obstacle and the placing pole. If you post correctly, you’ll feel the takeoff pushing you out of your saddle from a light 3-point to a 2-point.
The easiest way to check your jumping position is to have a friend use their smartphone to take photos and video for instant feedback. When jumping obstacles 3 feet-6 inches or less, you should keep your body angle relative the ground constant. Your position should react to your horse’s motion as he jumps. However, that adjustment should not be the closing of your hip angle but the opening of the elbow angle.
While it is important to keep your hips parallel to the ground when you jump, this will not affect how you perceive the motion. As you jump, you should keep your hip angle constant. Although it isn’t exactly what happens, that is the way it feels. If you find yourself still leaning forward in the air, this is what you can do: Imagine a zip wire crossing the fence with a hook attached to your helmet. Throughout the entire process, keep your helmet on the zipwire.
If you are so bad at jumping that you cannot do these exercises, then try small obstacles with no stirrups. Your upper body will be more stable if your balance is determined by your two-point, not your stirrups or your horse’s neck.
Between the Jumps
We’ve talked extensively about your position on the obstacle. We need to talk about your position on the course before and after you have completed the obstacle. Show jumping requires that you approach and exit the jumps in the same position as we discussed. This is a light three point. Because you are sitting, this will increase your safety. You also have more expression options when you are in the saddle, instead of above it: Your back, seat bones, and hands, along with your heels, will all be there to assist you. You will also be closer to your horse and will understand his stride better. This will help you time your movements more accurately.
Cross-country speed requires you to gallop in a two-point position, between obstacles, at all times. Based on recent science, the correct galloping position for cross-country speed is the two point position I just described. This inefficient “cruising position”, which is being taught to unsuspecting victims, is not it. It’s bad enough that we accidentally ride in less-than-optimal positions. But to be taught a position that will place us out of harmony with our horses is really regrettable. I find it unacceptable to post at the canter, which is closely linked to the cruising position.
You will need to be able to gallop in a 2-point, between cross-country obstacles. Eight to ten strides from the obstacle, you will transition to a light three point and jump it. The transition involves putting your shoulders forward and your hips in front of the saddle. As your horse jumps, you will be pushed by the back of your horse.
You will find yourself jumping more cross-country obstacles as you progress, typically at the Intermediate level. This is usually without any instruction. This is an instinctive response to the higher speed at the upper and middle levels. It also indicates your improved poise, confidence, and balance. When you slow down to do drops or combinations, you will instinctively go back to a lighter three-point.
Although it took some time before you were able to post instinctively, you don’t have to think about this anymore. Posting is a natural response of your horse’s motion. Next, practice allowing your horse’s motion to guide you to the correct position at the top. Your horse will take care of the rest. You won’t have to jump over any obstacles.