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The Caprilli Technique: A modern show jumping seat

The Caprilli Technique and the development of the forward seat in show jumping …

How Federico Caprilli revolutionised show jumping.

Captain Federico Caprilli (1868-1907), was an Italian equestrian who revolutionised the showjumping seat. His position, now called the forward seat, forms the basis for the modern day technique used by all showjump riders today.

What is the Caprilli Technique …

Federico Caprilli examined horses while free jumping (without tack or rider), using photographs to document their shape over fences, and found that they always landed on their forelegs.

From these observations he developed his theory based on the position the rider should take while jumping a fence:

One that would not interfere with the horse’s jumping movement and most importantly one that would not touch the horse’s mouth

Caprilli Technique

Caprilli also wanted to train a horse that could think for itself, without needing the rider’s guidance.

He did not like "spot" jumping, where the rider tried to add in or lengthen the stride of the horse before the fence.

  • The horse was allowed to lengthen its stride, instead of approaching the fence in a very collected, stiff manner.
  • The rider was positioned more forward at all times, including on the flat, so that the his body mirrored the more lengthened frame of the horse
  • The stirrup was shortened so that the seat could easily hover above the saddle, with the thigh and lower leg providing the rider with support.

Over a showjump fence, the rider kept his seat out of the saddle, leaned slightly forward, and allowed his hands to follow the horse’s mouth forward.

  • The riders centre of gravity was placed directly over the horse’s own making the job of jumping as easy as possible.
  • On landing, the rider remained slightly forward, instead of inclining backward as in the old seat. This position was held not only over fixed, upright obstacles, but up and down banks and over ditches.

Caprilli Technique

The Implications of Federico Caprilli’s Technique:

The caprilli position made horses much more willing to jump obstacles, now that they were free of interference.

However, his rebellion against the classic position lost him his position as Lieutenant in the Italian cavalry, and he was no longer allowed to train cavalry units and was sent to Southern Italy.

Luckily, the Italian Military Chief tried Caprilli’s methods a few years later with great success, and reinstated Caprilli in the famous cavalry schools of Northern Italy, Tor di Quinto and Pinerolo.

After a single year of training, members of the schools made incredible progress. The horses became so willing that riders completed the training course without reins.

Due to the incredible success of the Caprilli Technique, Federico Caprilli was made Chief Riding Instructor of the Italian Cavalry.

The Italian cavalry began to dominate international competition, and riders came from countries around the world to study Caprilli’s system.

The Caprilli technique spread world-wide, helped by the fact that Caprilli himself rode in the 1906 Olympic Games.

Captain Federico Caprilli died in 1907, after a freak accident when his horse slipped on icy cobblestones and fell badly.