Equitation, my @)(%)()@(%#

by kpmautner

The Chronicle of the Horse is running live streaming of the Medal and Maclay finals.  I have never seen so many poles being dropped (in a BIG equitation class yet), so many horses with huge pelham bits and tight martingales, and so many horses with their noses cranked in to their chests, jumping ears-first.

There are two major and one minor reasons which can explain why our current international teams are floundering.


Kids aren’t riding out in the open.  All their work is done in enclosed arenas, and way too many rely on indoor schools (they used to look at me strangely when I rode outdoors in midwinter, but all my horses benefited).  The current crop of kids has no concept of jumping out of hand and riding your horse’s best stride rather than a pre-measured 12-foot stride.  They also aren’t used to riding horses that haven’t been pre-tuned by their trainers.  I guess when you buy a horse for your kid that costs more than your mortgage, you don’t want the kid messing it up or possibly injuring it on a trail ride.

Second major problem is the infernal crest-release.  Col. Littauer’s forward riding called the crest-release the “beginner’s release”.  As you progressed, you learned to ride with an independent hand, a floating hand, rather than lying on the horse’s neck for support.  George Morris and his ilk are to blame for turning the crest release into a  stylized pose.  My father used to comment on this when watching some of the major equitation classes “these are decent riders.  Why aren’t they using their bodies in balance rather than posing so stiffly?”.

MINOR PROBLEM and my own personal beef:

Buying these kids the huge fancy expensive imported warmbloods.  These are essentially draft crosses, and have a lot in common with the Sherman tank. Put one of these equitation stars on a Thoroughbred and watch what happens.

I guess it’s nice to be able to raid the trust fund for a fancy equitation horse that someone else has made, someone else cleans and primps up, someone else warms up and tunes up, but whatever happened to the joy of doing it yourself?  And yes, it’s nice to have a great big beast which makes the 3’6″ fences look tiny (I rode ponies in England over fences that size, and looking UP at 3’6″ from a 12.2 pony has its own thrills), but wouldn’t it be nicer to have a horse you can actually control with a fat snaffle rather than ten pounds of pelham and that doesn’t need constant leg to keep it going?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that an equitation rider ought to be a complete horseman, and truly be able to ride the horse, not get on a pre-tuned robot.

This is what a free-jumping horse should look like:         Or maybe this

perfect formscan0003

Yes I’d put a helmet on, but hey …….