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Learn How to Stop Leaning at the Jumps

Submitted by member: Emilie

I’m a hunter rider currently schooling up to 3′. I have a bad habit of leaning at the jump and therefore getting the long distance. My poor horse has to launch himself from a mile away. I get behind the motion and unintentionally punish him by either catching him in the mouth or sides. I really need to stop doing this but I can’t seem to break the habit.  In my mind I know I need to stay back longer but I instinctively lean forward too early. Are there some techniques or exercises you can recommend to help me break this habit? Maybe a visualization to help me better understand the timing of when my body should start to tip forward. Thank you! (My horse thanks you too!)

Answer by Julie Winkel

The first thing to consider is how the rider’s position affects the horse’s jump and where you should be at the five phases of the jump: approach, takeoff, flight, landing, and departure.

The rider should not lean forward at the jump, but rather allow the horse to jump up to the rider. You should approach the jump in a half-seat position with your body inclined forward and your seat out of the saddle. That position should be maintained until a few strides before take off, where you should sink into the saddle (light seat) without leaning back or opening your hip angle. At the takeoff, your horse needs you to sit still and allow him to transfer weight to the hind legs so he can push off from behind. If you lean back on the approach then throw yourself forward at takeoff, you are making it impossible for your horse to do a good job. In fact, it only makes him jump from momentum (off the front end) instead of impulsion (off the hind end).

In flight, landing and departure, the rider stays in a half-seat.

To get a good feel for this and to teach your horse to jump correctly, I recommend a lot of trot jumps. Trotting teaches a horse and rider to jump from technique. The last few strides the position is the same; light seat. Allow your horse to shift his weight backward and push from behind. This enables the rider and horse to find shorter distances to the jump and allows a stronger, more correct effort.

Whether you are reporting or cantering jumps, ride forward through the turns, wait the last few strides in light seat, hip angle closed but shoulders up. Allow your horse to find his balance and stay supportive with your aids.

For more information, I had highly recommend watching Bernie Traurig’s video about the four seats on!

More Learning

Click on the links below for blog topics on similar issues:

The Following Arm: Old Fashioned or a Lost Art? by Bernie Traurig

Troubleshooting: The Automatic Release and Seeing Distances by Linda Allen

Video Recommendations:

hip angles, show jumping,

Building Blocks to a Great Position: Part 5 To Sit or Not to Sit
Bernie Traurig
Bernie discusses all the different seats one uses on course and where they apply with show ring footage from some of the best Hunter, Jumper & Equitation Riders.
Running Time:  8 minutes and 53 seconds

View Video
learn how to stop leaning on your horse

Conquering Bad Habits – Riding Behind the Vertical
Bernie Traurig
Watch Brian’s journey from riding behind the vertical, out of sync with his mount, to beautifully riding with the motion of the horse. This summer Brian joined Bernie in Southern California at EquestrianCoach Ranch for an intensive workshop. He traveled all the way from Argentina for the chance to ride twice a day for seven days. This video documents his progress and stamps the merits of the American Forward Riding System. He arrived with a habit of sitting behind the vertical on his approach to the jumps. He had convinced himself that this allowed him more time to find a distance, but it really only served to interfere with the horse’s ability to jump and created various other complications on course.
Running Time:  24 minutes and 26 seconds

View Video
leaning forward on your horse at the jump

Jumping With The Motion Versus Jumping Ahead Of The Motion
Denny Emerson
In this topic Denny thoroughly examines a very common riding fault know as “jumping ahead of the horse.” He explains the reasons why so many riders do this and provides strategies and methods to eliminate this tendency.
Running Time:  21 minutes and 56 seconds

View Video

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Julie Winkel

Julie Winkel has been a licensed Hunter, Equitation, Hunter Breeding and Jumper judge since 1984. She has officiated at prestigious events such as Devon, Harrisburg, Washington International, Capital Challenge, The Hampton Classic and Upperville Horse Shows. She has designed the courses and judged the ASPCA Maclay Finals, The USEF Medal Finals and The New England Equitation Finals.

For more information, visit her website:

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