There are certain things in life that if not lined up perfectly simply do not work. A seatbelt. A jump cup and a pin. A truck hitching to a trailer. There are a million examples of objects in the world that must be in the exact, perfect position in order to function. Could the same be said about your lower leg when jumping?
About a month ago, Denny had me adjust the length of my stirrups at the beginning of a lesson, and by the end of my ride, he said something along the lines of, “When your lower leg is in the right spot, you are locked into a solid position.” In other words, there is a perfect spot for every rider’s lower leg that when found, or discovered, will literally lock you into position and prepare you for lift off.
I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that I had absolutely no concept of a jumping position for most of my riding career. I was always enthusiastic about jumping, and I appreciated and recognized those who clearly were gifted in the position department, but I had no idea how to replicate those riders who looked the part.
Not too long ago, I would jump up my horses’ necks. I would literally hurl my upper body toward the horse (usually resulting in me falling off quite frequently) and my lower legs had minds of their own. Whatever direction my legs wanted to flail around in, they did. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, my legs, my back, my hips … NOTHING. Quite honestly, I was pretty horrifying to watch. Of course, ignorance is bliss I suppose, but I would not have enjoyed watching me ride if I could travel back in time.
So how did I finally start to wrap my head around this whole “solid lower leg” concept, you may be wondering? Of course, a “correct jumping position,” as we all know, is a very controversial term, and I will probably have some people cheering me on today, while others will leave page-long dissertations on what the ideal or correct jumping position looks like. Regardless, I would like to hone in on what I consider to be the foundation of a solid jumping position … THE LOWER LEG!
How did I find my lower leg? Well, Denny has a way of not letting you forget the basics. He does not accept mediocre, and he does not accept lazy individuals. He will drill you until you think you cannot be drilled anymore, and when you think you have finally had enough, he will drill you again. I am incredibly grateful for this teaching mechanism because it has engrained this solid lower leg concept into my head, along with many other training aids.
I find that when my lower leg is solidly on my horse, everything else has a way of falling into place. Of course, finding the right saddle for you and your horse is a huge factor in this puzzle. Also, the appropriate stirrup length, combined with the perfect saddle for you and your horse, is a recipe for success, or at least this will lead you on the road toward success.
It has literally taken decades, but I am starting to more consistently have a solid lower leg when jumping. I don’t always have a perfect lower leg, and none of this is second nature for me yet, but I am hopeful that with time, discipline and practice, I will achieve what I once thought unachievable. If I can, anyone can!