Riding Tips and Hints with Brett Cantle
There are many elements and parts of a good technique. Everything that you read in the following posts is what I have learnt from others, and works for me. If you have another way of going about it that works for you, then that is great! Keep going!
LEGS! I will start at the base of your technique and what I often look at first – The Lower Leg!
The lower leg is needed for both security and as a driving aid, so if you let it fly out behind you, it is not going to help you on either front. Take a photograph of you and your horse when you are at the highest point of the arc over the top of your jump, look at where the stirrup is, draw a line straight up and there should be roughly an equal amount of the rider’s weight both in front and behind the stirrup. As soon as the stirrup (and of course the lower leg) goes back, the rider’s weight is toppling forward and you are out of balance. This means that you often spend the first stride after landing recovering, rather than landing balanced.
If you grip with your knees, which is easy to do, and a very common fault, then your knees become your pivot point. Everything above your knees will go forward, and the lower leg will fly back.
So what do I do to try to correct my position? When I am riding around in either 2 point or a light seat, I push firmly into my heel to stretch down/lower my heel, and then relax my leg, to allow it to mould around the horse. You should get a nice snug feeling of your calf firmly against the horse very close to the girth. As the horse leaves the ground, try to drop a little weight into your heel and think of closing the angle of your knee and hip. Fold at the hips. Try not to take your hips forward and straighten your leg. Keep your eyes/chin up, allow your hands to move forward up the crest of the horse’s neck as far as needed. As soon as the horse starts to descend, the hip angle starts to open again as the shoulders come up and allow you to land balanced.
A good exercise to use to help you to practice is a have a line of fences with a couple of strides between each jump which allow you to practice closing and opening all the angles. It is not easy, and takes a lot of practice to make a good technique automatic.