The Elephant In The Room

Jumping my Conn x pony this summer Jumping my Conn x pony this summer

Nine years ago an ignorant, inexperienced, awkward, and confused young lady arrived at Tamarack Hill Farm. I knew how to get on a horse and “get the job done” so to speak, but there was nothing about my riding that made the words “effortless,” or “graceful” come to mind.

Riding with Denny sent me up and down a steep learning curve for several years, forcing me to face the music by learning how to effectively ride, or give up and abandon ship. Even though the first few years were testing, giving up never even crossed my mind.

One crucial component that Denny focuses on day in and day out is a ‘correct’ jumping position. It doesn’t matter if you’re having your very first Denny lesson, or you are a weekly regular, you will realize why a solid jumping position is of tremendous importance. He’ll often talk about checking these items off the list: Eyes up, chin up, heels down, lower leg securely on, a soft giving release, let your hips go back, and let the horse come up to you, not the other way around.

Believe me, I have struggled with and continue to struggle at times with my jumping position. I was not born with a naturally good position over fences, nor did I learn about such a classic position until much later in my life. I had bad habits’ with deep roots.

I used to throw myself at the horse and I had no concept of a solid lower leg. I was a total and complete mess. Until I came to work with Denny, I didn’t understand how to acquire such a position, and I did not understand the inevitable repercussions of a flawed jumping position.

For me, learning how to acquire and maintain a consistently good jumping position is crucial. I have certain standards for myself and my riding and achieving this goal will monumental. I don’t want to be an okay rider, I want to be the best rider I can and having a very good position seems synonymous with being a very good rider, at least in my book it does.

So, the elephant in the room seems to revolve around jumping positions. There are, in my opinion, horrific styles out there, and there are flawless styles out there. This obviously leads to the question, which position type is the right one? Is there such a thing as the “correct” jumping position?

We all know what George Morris would say, and I have a very good idea about Denny’s methods and opinions on the subject. But there seems to be a spilt world. On one side we have the hunter jumper folks who have their own styles and approaches, and then there are the eventers who seem to offer a wide array of positions.

Skybreaker June 2014

Skybreaker June 2014

Not to mention there are very accomplished individuals who have competed in numerous CCI 4* with alternative jumping positions. There’s also lots of classic positions out there as well. I don’t want to start another world war, but I’d like to open up a discussion on jumping positions, particularly for event riders. I am an event rider, so obviously I can’t argue for or against other disciplines, and even if I could, I don’t know that I’d like to journey down that road!

Once I learned about and figured out what it felt like to be in a “correct,” or more classic jumping position, it was a no-brainer for me. I felt more secure, more balanced, and more prepared for the inevitable surprises that show up on cross country, not to mention this style works very well for me and my horses.

I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable any other way. I’m not insinuating that I have some amazing position that deserves a round of applause, nor am I suggesting that’s its my way or the highway. Rather, I am sharing my story and what works for me as an event rider.

So, I am just dying to know how important this subject is to everyone. Do events riders care about their position? If so, why do you care, and if you don’t care, I want to know why? What styles do you want to emulate? What riders are your idols when it comes to flawless jumping positions? What is a good jumping position in your book and why?