[ARTICLE SPECIAL COACH]
According to an IFCE web conference, the rider’s position is important for 3 reasons:
- to be able to communicate with their horse in a calm way due to a flexible and relaxed body
- to maintain their balance during movement
- to be safe
Good position or posture is therefore essential to have good communication between the horse and rider. If a rider does not have a secure position and they are not stable in their position while jumping, this can negatively affect the horses jump and it will cause inaccuracies and loss of control while on course. Therefore, regularly correcting the rider’s position is fundamental to help them progress and succeed.
Finding your balance at a trot is essential first before you proceed to jump in canter. It is best to practise at a trot with single jumps and slowly increase the pace and number of jumps to gain confidence and strength in your position.
Small Biomechanical Point
What biomechanics teaches us is that we are in equilibrium when the vertical projection of the center of gravity is in the support polygon. The support polygon is the surface created between all the support points.
When you are standing, the support polygon is therefore the surface of your two feet and the polygon that connects them. To maintain equilibrium, the vertical which passes through the center of gravity must arrive in the polygon.
Therefore, when riding, the support polygon is reduced to a rectangle which includes your two stirrups. After understanding this we can see why a problem in the front/rear points of the riders position can so quickly cause issues while riding and also why the width of stirrup position is so important for riders.
2, 2.5 or 3 Point Position?
These points correspond to the points of contact between the rider and their horse.
- 2 point position, the rider only has contact with their 2 legs.
- 2.5 point position, the rider has contact with their 2 legs and slight contact with their buttocks which brush against the saddle.
- 3 point position, the riders 2 legs and buttocks are in full contact with the saddle.
- Check that the rider’s belly button is vertical to their stirrups. This is how you will check that the rider is well balanced and that it is not their horse carrying them.
- Check that all the joints of the rider are working properly. Their hip joint, knee and ankle must cushion their horse’s movements.
- Their stirrups must be vertical.
- The rider’s hands should be in front of their shoulders and in front of the horse’s withers.
- Do not overlook the importance of the gaze, ensure they are looking into the distance to help them stabilize.
William Fox Pitt’s Advice On Rider Position
In a previous very detailed article, we explained the technique that William Fox Pitt, huge English eventing rider – both in height (1.98m) and talent – teaches his riders.
For him, the right position, whether on the flat or jumping, is when you can take the rider from their position on their horse and put them on the ground and they are in the same position.
For him, the right balance for a rider, whether on the flat or jumping, is when we can take the rider in the position in which they are in while on horseback, put them on the ground in this position, and the rider stands on their feet. If they fall forward or backwards, it is then the horse who is compensating for this imbalance.
He recommends that all the joints should be very flexed, the shoulders in front of the vertical and the buttocks back. A bit like when we do squats.
How to achieve this: shorten the stirrups. The problem with “too long” stirrups is that the rider does not have enough leeway to flex their joints while staying above the saddle. As soon as the rider flexes, they touch the saddle and therefore they impact their horse.
Some riders will feel more vulnerable because they have less surface contact with the horse’s stomach, but he says shorter stirrups stabilize the lower leg much more and therefore they make the rider more secure.
The position he recommends is therefore a so-called “2 point” or “jockey” position.
It’s up to you to try it out with your riders!
Advice From Coaches! 💡
We asked you what you use as a technique to help riders improve their position while jumping, here are your answers:
The first thing I look at is the positioning of the saddle (proper fit). Over the years, I have noticed that riders often have to “force” an ill-fitting or inadequate saddle while jumping. They are always looking for their balance/centre of gravity to stabilize their positions just because the saddle doesn’t fit!Julie C.
→ Don’t hesitate to contact a saddle fitter to help you correctly fit your saddle for yourself or your riders!
Another coach tells us about video and mime technique! Here is what she had to say:
Use video to show your rider their position! The principle is very simple, set up a line of jumps with cross rails, verticals and oxer jumps. Film the rider and then show them!
Then you, as the instructor, have to mimic their position at the time they jumped (you can use a mounting block to help) and then show them the correct position. This way they can see the difference in their position and the correct one they should have.
Another technique is to find someone else who has the same jumping position to them and point out the areas which they need to improve.
Exercise Suggestion To Improve Riders Position
1. The Policeman & The Jockey
For this exercise, start by shortening the straps of the stirrups by at least 3 holes. Go into canter, stand up in the stirrups and alternate the “Policeman” position (back at the vertical, head-shoulders-hips-ankles well aligned), with the “Jockey position”. This exercise will really challenge their balance. You can do this exercise on the flat or while jumping, on a single jump without technical difficulty.
2. Hands Free
During a session, take away their reins and make them ride while having their hands in front of them or to the side. Without reins to hold onto, balance errors are much more visible.
3. Filmed Session
For one or more sessions, film your riders to show them position faults. Show them the video between each session so they can correct themselves for the next one.
Do you have other experiences or any other feedback to share with us?
Join us on the Facebook group dedicated to coaches and share:
The blog post which details William Fox Pitt’s method
The training plan of the FFE:
The IFCE webconference on the attitude and functioning of the rider: