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Horse Articles :: Horse Show Jumping Take-Offs


Show Jumping Take-Offs

Bromley Davenport's words in his Dream of the old Meltonian are very apt when describing the take-off of a horse in show jumping. The quotation, "With your muscular quarters beneath you collected," describes a state of affairs eminently desirable at the take-off. The rider has made arrangements for the horse to commence his jump from the spot best suited for the fence in question, and must now ensure that he does not interfere with the drive from the hind legs into the air, but, in fact, assist by preserving balance.

Loss of rhythm and coordination now may well adversely affect the parabola it is hoped the horse will describe. So it is important that the rider move his weight forward smoothly without displacement of the lower leg; that his fingers and hands, being supple and separated sufficiently to allow of instantaneous independent action, keep an even feeling on the horse's mouth, following the natural movement of the head and neck; and that he looks forward along his chosen route for the next approach phase, which is not far away.

When a horse is taking off well, its forelegs are bent up from the knee, and the hocks, having come well under him, are, with great power, propelling him into the air. The rider is comfortable, is looking well forward, and is giving complete freedom to the back and loins. His hands are ideally placed for independent action if required, and are moving slightly back to retain an even feeling on the horse's mouth. There is no interference with the horse's natural movement, and the general impression is one of workmanlike efficiency.

There is a school of thought whose contention is that a distinct increase in feeling on the mouth, amounting at times to a definite pull, should be exerted as the hind legs come to the ground for the last time before the take-off, with the object of helping the forehand into the air. For some types of fence, notably those of parallel variety, it is, without doubt, beneficial. There are, however, dangers to it.

One, for instance, is that the horse may well take off when it is the rider's intention to shorten stride close to the fence. In some cases the pull acts on the rider, bringing his leg to a standing position with the stirrup-iron as pivot, and drawing his hands back against his ribs, where they cannot act lightly or independently. The jump will be jerky and unharmonious, with a real danger of loss of balance on landing.

In the final stages of take off, the horse gives final propulsion from the near hind leg. His forelegs are well tucked up, and he is beginning to stretch his head and neck out to gain distance, and to help the hind quarters up. The rider is well with his horse, and is master of the situation. His hands are separated, ready to give all the rein required. If, perhaps, showing a little rigidity at the knee, he is nevertheless nicely balanced, and his position shows ease and fluency. His concentration on things to come is very apparent.

When final propulsion has been completed all but the near hind toe has left the ground. The head and neck are stretching out, and the forelegs are folded up as close as the body allows. The rider's weight distribution is assisting the horse's effort, and the hands conform to the outward and downward movement of the head. Note that, from the horse's mouth to the rider's hip, the rein, arm, and body should form practically a straight line. This is the completion of a beautifully controlled and elegant jump.

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