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Musings on Hips and Angles

‘Fraidy Cat Eventing had a really great blog post on two-point position not too long ago that resonated a lot with me. Her theory is that a rider has a solid position over fences if you can erase the horse from the picture, if the rider, (while maintaining the same position) drops straight to the ground, stays upright (you know, not face-planting or ass-planting). I really liked this description because you see so many different types of two-point from world-class riders that the definition of “perfect two-point position” gets easily muddled. Plus, I’ve always felt that rider body type isn’t taken into consideration enough in this discussion.

Nick Skelton, 2016 Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medalist
Nick Skelton, 2016 Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medalist

First, I want to look at some of the different styles of two-point that I’ve noticed. I’m not here to say one is more correct than the other, as these are all really great and accomplished riders. But their form is quite different. Obviously there are many factors that come into play here, including height and width of the jump, pace, distance, desired result, etc. etc. These factors all play a part in the minute difference’s in each of the rider’s two-points below, but at the end of the day they are all doing the same thing: guiding a horse over a jump. It’s the rider’s job to get the horse to the jump, and the horse’s job to actually jump the jump… on a very basic level, once in the air, the rider is just trying to stay out of the way.

Kelley Farmer, winner of multiple USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships
Kelley Farmer, winner of multiple USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships

Of course, that’s a very dumbed down version of what all is occurring, but the point is that the equestrian industry’s top riders all have very distinct differences between their two-points. While I think that we as riders are constantly working to improve, I also think it’s important to keep in mind that what is ideal for one person might not be ideal for another… for a variety of reasons.

Michael Jung, 2016 Eventing Olympic Gold Medalist
Michael Jung, 2016 Eventing Olympic Gold Medalist

It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of comparing yourself to others. I enjoy looking at photos, especially of my friends, and it’s hard not to get down on myself about the things I need to work on (of which the list is very long). But I also need to cut myself some slack, because I don’t ride the same way they do, I don’t have the same exact goals, and my horse doesn’t go around the ring the same way.

Lillie Keenan, Equitation Goddess
Lillie Keenan, Equitation Goddess

My style of two-point is not popular in the hunter or equitation rings. I look more like I’m going cross-country then I do jumping a 2’6″ hunter brush box, and I’m pretty self-conscious about that. While my jumping position still leaves a lot to be desired, it’s actually improved a lot in the last few years, which I’m really proud of. But my hip angle still doesn’t close like Kelley Farmer’s… or the other girls I ride with.

Claire and Mingo
Barnmate showing off her pretty breakover <3

In a recent lesson, this topic came up briefly and my trainer made a few comments that hit home. She said “I don’t want you to look like that, because you’re not built that way.” And she’s right. I’ve always struggled to keep my weight down in my lower legs because I physically carry more of my weight in the upper half of my body. To be blunt — my boobs are way bigger than my ass. It’s just how I’m built. So bringing my upper body back (or opening up my hip angle AFTER a jump) is always going to be more difficult for me.

Miles and Tracy at New Vocations Charity 2016

The second thing she said is: “If you had a pre-green horse that you knew wasn’t ever going to play after the jumps, maybe I would be more concerned about [your breakover].” Again, spot on. I love Miles, but sometimes he plays after the jumps, and if my weight is too far forward, I roll right off his shoulder. So I need to keep my weight back a little bit, just in case. For a better rider, they can still breakover and snap back up just fine… but I’m still working on that skill.

One year later - Miles at 2015 New Vocations

So, I guess my point is this: there’s no such thing as “one correct two-point” position. It depends on the horse, the rider, what the pair is doing and what the goal is. For my horse (who sometimes plays after jumps), and myself (someone who carries too much weight in the upper half of my body), and the fact that we’re jumping 2’6″ hunter fences, my jumping position is just fine. Of course, I’m always working to improve things, but just because it isn’t stylish, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

What are your thoughts on jumping position? Is your position ‘stylish’ for the ring you show in? 

Tracy

Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

26 thoughts to “Musings on Hips and Angles”

  1. While I agree there is no set in stone “correct” form and it varies rider to rider and discipline to discipline, I def think there is a more correct and EFFECTIVE way to ride. MJ for example, simply perfect. Not saying that because I used to event and I’m prone to like their position a bit more, he is utterly in tune with his horse and right where he needs to be to be in control, but also out of the way. Stunningly beautiful. Lillie too, while I’m not a fan of hunters, she actually doesn’t look like she’s jumping for the horse like most hunters do by throwing themselves on their horses’ necks. She IS a goddess and an effective one to boot. Gorgeous.
    I am no goddess or eventing king and struggle dearly to maintain position on B. He throws me around like no other (even if I wasn’t injured), where riding Yankee is just easy. I have never struggled with his jump and staying correct. I like this post a lot. The comparisons are neat to see! Jump position, you fickle beast you!

    1. I agree that a more correct position leads to a more effective ride… form follows function after all! I also am not a huge fan of the excessive “hunter duck” as I call it that is often seen in the hunter ring, but I do appreciate a good solid leg and a nice breakover, no matter the discipline. It’s really interesting that you feel like your position is better on different horses — I didn’t even think about that, but I definitely feel that way too! My position is better on Moiya, in part I think because she’s so small. I can wrap my leg around her much more easily!

  2. Hip breakover was really, really hard for me to get down. My “safe” position is a lot like yours. When I trust a horse and the jump is sizeable (aka Simon), I can finally break down and do the Farmer hip angle… but it took years to get there.

    1. The more I go along, the more I think trust has more to do with my jump position than I would have ever thought. It’s a really interesting concept.

  3. I actually think your hip angle is very correct for the height you’re jumping. You shouldn’t be folded in half over 2’6″. I think you get a little ahead because your lower leg comes back a touch, but your angle itself is really quite good.

  4. I like MJ position as well. Notice how his spine mimics the horse’s. One shouldn’t be diving to meet the horse, the horse jumps up to rider. I have an over developed break that my hips practically have oil in them. So I have to work on my core holding me up.

  5. I’m definitely still working on my position and my two-point is far from GM perfect.

    With that said, I will disagree with your statement of “not being one perfect two-point position”. IMO, the “perfect” two-point position is staying with the horse approaching the jump as well as over the jump, while staying out of their way and still guiding and applying the aids. It is absolutely critical to stay off a horse’s neck while jumping because rocking back and using their neck is how a horse physically jumps over an obstacle; adding extra weight on their necks greatly affects their balance and ability to physically jump the jump. For years, one of my bad habits was jumping ahead and laying on my horse’s neck, which often caused stops or run-outs or me falling off because the horse felt the extra weight on their neck and couldn’t effectively rock back to take off. Staying out of their way on the landing is also important (obviously) because it affects their balance and ability to land and canter/gallop on after jumping. Finally, a stable lower leg (near-ish the girth) like MJ and Kelly and Lillie creates a base of support to go with the horse and not end up in the dirt. Having a lower leg that swings back can simultaneously tip you forward onto your horse’s neck, and your balance and security in the tack is lost. Of course, there are nuances and slight variations for each rider, but the majority of the riders you’ve shown are following their horse across the jump while staying out of their way, and are secure in the tack to follow on the landing.

  6. I am certainly biased to think of the “eventing” sort of position as the correct one. I have never been a fan of the extreme breakover that many hunter riders favor; I can only ever think “if that horse stopped, that rider would go right over his head!” I know that the point is to show off the horse’s jump, and that those lovely hunter horses never stop, but I just can’t get past it!

  7. ha thanks for the share on my earlier post – and awesome to hear it got you thinking ! obvi if you read that, you already know my thoughts. there’s more ‘acceptable’ positions than ‘unacceptable,’ and i want to see riders be safe and effective and SAFE haha.

    i will add one other thing, and take it with a grain (or mountain if you like) of salt. sometimes your position reminds me very very strongly of my own – esp when i was riding in my horse’s former saddle. one day the horse had girth rubs so i opted to jump her bareback and was astounded at the difference in my leg position. i will never ever claim to have the best position, but it was pretty apparent at that moment that my saddle had been doing me no favors either. so again, just food for thought, and take it as you like. but maybe playing around with barnmate’s saddles could lead to interesting outcomes?

    1. The saddle thought has crossed my mind before… I just almost don’t want to try other saddles in case I actually find one I like better. I really, REALLY don’t want to saddle shop, lol

      1. As someone who is currently saddle shopping, and was in a place with a saddle that did no favors, my advice is…. go bareback. Kidding, though in all seriousness, saddle shopping SUCKS.

  8. I’m going to politely disagree with some of this post. But I see where you are trying to go, I would need to spend more time formulating a cohesive and terse standpoint (I literally feel like Equitation is something I can lively debate for hours) I read something recently that summed up how I feel about equitation but it was written about a horses’ conformation:

    “Good conformation is functional, which means that the horse is built to be stronger, sounder, and to do his job better. While individual conformation points are important, overall qualities such as balance, proportion and the angles of major bones may have a greater effect on the horse’s athletic ability than a single defect.”

    1. Well let me know when you are ready to debate! Hah, in all seriousness though, I don’t have a super strong opinion on this subject, I just find it really interesting. There are so many details that go into equitation, and I find it intriguing how different people ‘make it work’ so to speak. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it sometime!

  9. I agree with a few other comments: I have always been taught that that extreme breakover (or excessive hip angle) is a fault. The key is to following the horse’s motion: excessive hip angle over small jumps impedes the motion by adding extra weight to the forehand and by creating an excessive movement (that on some horses can distract and worry them). I agree that you see it more often as acceptable in the hunter world (and some would argue that it doesn’t matter since it’s judged on the horse, not the rider). I loved the comment about comparing it to the horse’s spine/horse’s motion in the air; great way to think about it.

    I think your hip angle is fine in a lot of your pictures: my only critique would be your leg position. But you’ve already aware of that and have already had lots of great ideas to improve it 🙂

  10. so true! I guess it is the same for dressage where I look a little chubby compared to many others in the ring… And still, my position might be somewhat correct even though the long legged gazelles look way better than I ever will with my short legs…

  11. Recent pics I’ve seen of myself look very much like yours, and for all the same reasons. I’m OK with that (you look great, after all), and my trainer has a similar opinion to your trainer’s…it’s a solid enough, safe position for where we’re at. I’m always working on getting my weight more in my heels and my hips back, and of course making my body stronger. My body type is not perfect for riding, yes, but I think the vast majority of riders have some sort of struggle that way so I keep on fighting to be better 🙂
    Emma has a good point also…my trainer’s county xc saddle instantly made a huge positive difference the few times I’ve borrowed it, as did shortening the stirrups on mine if we’re doing anything over 2’6″.

  12. I’m loving reading the comments on this- I loooove looking at pictures and debating equitation and learning more about the angles and theory and all that jazz. Because I am a science nerd and love to turn everything into math. Re: the spine angle mimicking the horse’s spine angle- I try to do this as well. A little half seat over crossrails where Frankie isn’t really putting an effort, and progressively more breakover as he starts reaching up and over the fence. Math!
    But overall my trainer put this in a way I really liked- “good equitation is for when things go wrong. It’s easy to ‘get by’ with position flaws when the jumps come up well.” While correct positions are aesthetically pleasing, at the end of the day they are considered correct because they keep the rider safe!

  13. I agree there’s no one perfect position. However, there are right and wrong positions. And I know mine is generally wrong. The whole if you removed the horse, would you fall down and leans on your fee thing resonates with me. Because I would most likely not. I’m usually hurling myself up Nilla’s neck. And there are consequences to that. I’m unbalancing her and making it harder for her to clear the jump. Like you have with Miles, I cannot trust Nilla not to play after jumps so I will land off of even a tiny 2′ jump like I’m going down a bank at Rolex. One day I might go back to sitting back, but I don’t know when that will be.

  14. I think that people generally find Eventer positions more aggressive but when you think about it a lot of upper level Eventers would be able to stand up if the horse was removed from the equation. Look at Michael jungs leg. He is a god. Seriously. I wish I could ride with as much skill as he has in a pinky finger. A solid position in my mind does lead to more effective riding regardless of your discipline. I have been able to work on my position a bit more with Annie as she is a much easier ride over fences in that she doesn’t jump with an incredibly low head.

    That said I am not one to judge if an Olympic riders leg slips while they are jumping a freak of nature over stupid big jumps. I wouldn’t have a hope of staying on. Interesting discussion.

  15. I think I have to agree with you – so much goes into a balance point that it truly has to be individual and could even change from horse to horse. The magical ‘pretty’ hunter picture is great when you are are dealing with a horse with perfect conformation and a rider who has a body like Lillie Keenan, but when leg lengths change or weight distribution is different, only the rider themselves can feel when they have it right and the resulting picture might be different.

  16. I think there is an optimum two-point/ jump position, it just gets modified for horse and rider to small degrees. Things like like where your leg is shouldn’t change. But a big break over is over kill at 2′ etc. Having audited GM a couple times, the way he basically describes a perch on your crotch with really very little change in hip angle from the “crotch seat” over the jump. If you are balanced right you still have enough leg under you if horse gets naughty to hopefully not lawn dart. I’m not top-heavy (far far from it sadly) but can imagine needing to stay back a bit to stay balanced.

    Holly is pretty downhill, so if I matched her back, I’d be ducking. But others I’ve jumped really rise up to meet you. I find if I focus on keeping my legs forward and solid on the horses sides, my hips know where to go. With crappy core muscles of late I find I’m keeping my hip angle more open because I can’t sit up fast enough anymore.

  17. Such a fun read! I know I may have a biased opinion, but I am such a strong believer in the rider’s position changing based on the horse they are riding. For example, Mingo, my 9-year old OTTB, uses his whole body and has a pretty intense bascule over fences. He is also extremely sensitive. When I ride him, I have to give him a huge release and my breakover has to be fairly extreme — as is seen in the picture of him above (green fence) — so I do not interfere and I do not catch his senstive mouth, even over fences that are 2’6″. This is a lot different than Tucker, my 5-year old OTTB, who does not have the intense bascule over fences that Mingo has. On Tuck, I am able to keep my hip angle more open. I think it is so important to ride what you have — as long as you have a solid base in your leg!

  18. I skimmed this post when you put it up 2 weeks ago and then left it unread and purposefully waited to come back and read it for true because I knew the comments would be amazing – I was not disappointed. This is an amazing discussion! Lots to think about and learn here.

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