The Riders Position in Show Jumping

Showjumping - Show Jump Riders Position

The forward seat, the riders position and jumping techniques that give your horse more freedom and give you more control.

The riders position is a seat position used by equestrians when jumping a horse over an obstacle.

It normally involves the forward seat, first developed by Captain Federico Caprilli and commonly referred to as the caprilli technique.

The modern showjumping forward seat position is not meant to be held by the rider, but is rather a fluid seat that changes as your horses balance changes.

It keeps you in the correct jumping position over your horses centre of gravity.

Using or maintaining a correct riding position or jumping seat serves two purposes …

    Showjumping - the Riders Position
  • Firstly, it gives your horse the freedom to jump an obstacle, allowing it to keep its forelegs and hindlegs tight and reduces the chance of a rail down or a fall.
  • It also encourages your horse to bascule over the fence, which improves jumping form and your horses ability to jump higher obstacles
  • Secon, it provides you, the rider, with the support needed to stay out of your horses way while still maintaining a secure seat so that you are less likely to fall on landing.

It’s important to understand that your horse, not you, is responsible for opening and closing your hip and knee.

  • As your horse takes off, it raises its upper body off the ground and comes closer to you. This makes your hip angle (between your thigh and chest) close.
  • Over the fence, you keep the angle closed. As your horse lands, it moves away from your body, and allows your hip angle to open and you become more perpendicular to the ground. It is important that you, the rider, simply allow this movement to happen.

The importance of maintaining a good showjump riders position

The riders position and the riders leg …

Poor leg position can make it difficult for you to stay with your horse.

Your lower leg is the anchor of your showjump riders position, and contributes a great deal to your security. Poor lower leg position makes you more likely to lose your balance over fences, and increases the chance that you may fall. It can also reduce your ability to communicate clearly with your horse.

Correct Showjumping riders position
  • Your leg should hang down your horses side, making even contact along its whole length (inner thigh, knee, and calf), and should not change position when your upper body moves.
  • Your weight is dropped along the back of your leg and into your heel through a flexible ankle, your heel stays lower than your toes.
  • Your toes are generally turned out slightly (as opposed to dressage riding, when your feet are parallel to your horses body). This places the back of the calf against the horse, instead of the whole inner side as in dressage, which decreases the contact of the calf on the horse, therefore lowering the refinement in communication between horse and rider. The toe-out position helps to anchor the riders position and increase security. Toes should turn no more than 45 degrees out.
Your stirrups should be shortened from the long dressage length, according to the height of the fence your horse is jumping.

Grand Prix jumpers and eventers on cross-country generally need to shorten the stirrups the most, to allow them to gallop and jump in motion with their horse.

The short stirrup provides more leverage, and therefore security should the horse stumble, get a poor distance, or peck on landing.

More importantly, a shorter stirrup allows the rider to get off the horse’s back between and over the fence, freeing up his back and allowing him to bascule.

  • The stirrup leather should remain perpendicular to the ground.
  • The stirrup iron is usually placed on the ball of the foot, allowing the rider to have a flexible, shock-absorbing ankle.
  • The rider should keep even pressure across the foot, rather than pushing on the inside or outside of the stirrup iron, as this makes the lower leg stiff.
The result of a shorter stirrup is that the ankle and knee angle decrease.

Both these angles are used as shock-absorbers, opening and closing according to the thrust of takeoff and landing.

Stiffness in these angles makes it harder to stay with your horse’s balance, which may result in the common riders position faults of ‘jumping ahead’ or being ‘left behind’.

Showjumping - The riders position
Variations in leg position

Riders leg position may vary slightly between disciplines.

Eventers and steeplechase jockeys tend to have a slightly forward leg position, with the foot “home” in the iron and steeplechase jockeys shove their legs forward for extra security.

A more forward leg position increases security, making it much more difficult for the rider to become dislodged.

This is important in both sports because the riders jump solid fences at high speed, where the horse is more likely to stumble or fall if he hits the fence. Especially in the case of the steeplechase jockey, where a fall could be extremely dangerous, as other horses in the race could trample him.

The foot is also placed “home” (behind the ball of the foot, near the heel) for security purposes. This decreases the chance that the rider will lose a stirrup should a horse jump or land awkwardly.

Showjump Icon
Riders Position – the seat, hips, and thighs

The rider should keeps his weight toward the pelvis, and suspended in the air over the saddle (not on the horse’s back). This allows the horse to bring his back up over the fence (bascule).

The jumping rider should not bring his hips too far forward, over the pommel, as observed in the fault of jumping ahead. This changes the rider’s balance, and places him in a potentially dangerous position.

The hip joints are especially important, as they are the connection between the lower leg (which remains still), and the upper body. The hips should be very flexible, opening and closing as needed. The hips should always move backward from the neutral position, not forward (a sign that the rider is jumping ahead).

Between fences, the rider may ride in two-point (were the thighs take the weight of the rider, not the seat bones) or three point (were the seat bones touch the saddle).

Showjumping icon
Riders Position – the Upper body (shoulders, head, trunk)

Looking down causes the upper body to fall forward. In all disciplines, the rider should be looking up and in the direction of where she needs to go on landing.

Showjump riders Position - Looking Ahead is Good

Looking down tends to cause the rider to lean forward with their shoulders, round their back, and places them in a precarious position.

The head shouldn’t be tilted to one side, as this changes the riders lateral balance and places more weight on one side.

In general the back should be flat. Over-arching causes stiffness and rounding not only looks bad, but affects the riders balance.

A slightly rounded back is acceptable cross-country when used in the safety seat.

The rider should have an open chest with shoulders back. This helps to prevent the rider from collapsing forward and helps to centre the weight of the upper body over the lower leg, therefore helping to keep the rider secure.