Col. Chamberlin on Jumping – Guest Post by Roger Hannington

Harry Chamberlin jumping horse over white jump

Whilst not seeking to diminish or detract from the writings of Col Chamberlin in any way and being an enthusiastic supporter of all that he has written  his description of riding a horse when jumping is detailed and expansive to the point that it is difficult to use it as guidance for those seeking instruction.  Whilst not seeking to amend Col Chamberlin’s views or descriptions in any way I offer this condensed extract as an attempt provide a simpler guide. Where I presume to have a personal divergent description it is in double brackets or as an addendum.

An extract by Roger Hanington from

“Riding and Schooling Horses” by Lt.Col. Harry  D Chamberlin

THE FOUR PHASES OF JUMPING 

Riding over obstacles may be divided into four stages: the approach; the take-off; the period of suspension; the landing.

APPROACH 

The approach may be considered as the last twenty yards prior to the jump. Most important is rating the horse at the proper speed without annoying or exciting him. This takes delicacy and skill with the hands. Avoid leaning backward out of balance and pulling. About fifteen yards from the obstacle, rating a horse or bothering his mouth in any way should entirely cease. If, up to this point, increased tension and work with the hands have been required, they should from now on be stopped.

The hands, at this critical period must not distract the attention of the horse from the jump. Upon arriving at the point to take-off, the tension (on the mouth) should never be heavier than the normal feel, and with a trustworthy horse it is preferable to have the lightest contact possible. Members of the Army Horse Show Team when jumping in competition often held the reins between the thumbs and forefingers only. Holding the reins in the above fashion permits the horse to pull them entirely loose, unless the hands follow the movements of the mouth. (( I would advocate this method of holding the reins at all times  RH)). The slightest effect with the fingers on the reins will serve to decrease his speed, keep him straight on his course, or change direction. Keeping the horse straight toward the centre of his obstacle during the approach is very important. Approaching at an angle makes a run-out easy and tempts the horse to try it.

A horseman should always sit down in his saddle during the last fifteen or twenty yards of the approach. ((Do not concern yourself with counting strides – the horse will do that for you  RH.)) If standing in the stirrups, he is unable to feel what the horse is preparing to do, and as a result cannot prevent refusals or run-outs, and never knows at what exact stride the horse will take-off. Moreover, with his weight in the stirrups, his legs are not tightly closed against the horse’s sides, which prevents their acting with sufficient promptness and energy when occasion demands. As in all else, the legs play a prominent role in jumping.

When seated for the approachthe loin is hollowed-out, the heels driven far down,((the toes turned out  RH)) and the calves and knees glued to the saddle and horse. The body should retain the forward inclination 

The good horseman remains quietly in balance during the approach and take-off. Any sliding forward in the saddle, or swaying forward and backward, disturbs the horse’s equilibrium and distracts his attention at a time when all his faculties are concentrated on placing himself for his take-off.

Normally, at about this fifteen yards from the obstacle, with the rider seated in balance, the legs should administer a strong squeeze with the calves to establish more impulsion from the hind legs. The horse is thus notified that the decision to take the jump has been definitely made. After this, the calves remain closely clamped to his side, surging him forward, and ready to act vigorously if he hesitates.

Certain horses depart for the obstacle with a rush. If at first they must be restrained, they should be given a lighter feel on the bit progressively. More important, the legs must still begin to act when nearing the obstacle. There is no horse which will not refuse, sooner or later, if the legs are passive, just prior to and at the take-off.

It is noteworthy that nearly all mistakes at an obstacle are made as a result of the horse’s getting too close when taking off. “Getting too close” is caused by the restraining influence of apprehensive hands and lack of deciding action by the legs. Poor hands, which jerk a horse’s mouth during the jump, soon make him afraid to jump boldly,  and if the punishment continues, ends by refusing.

The horse should be encouraged, to take long, free jumps in his stride. A good horseman endeavours to carry his horse along freely and boldly, with light hands and strong legs, instilling courage and confidence, but avoiding excitement. The legs are always active on any horse during the approach, gently encouraging him to “jump big.”

RIDING DURING TAKE-OFF 

At the take-off and during two or three strides prior to it, the squeeze of the legs should be particularly strong. The contact with the mouth should have become progressively lighter during the approach, and at the moment of the take-off should be exceedingly gentle. As the forelegs leave the ground it is best to allow all contact to vanish, except that maintained by the weight of the reins. The reins may have even a slight sag in them immediately after the forelegs leave the ground, during the period of suspension, and when landing. It is astounding to see the difficult situations from which a horse can extricate himself during a jump, if the rider‘s reins are slack. Unless the hands are excellent, let the reins go slack after the take-off.

RIDING DURING PERIOD OF SUSPENSION 

The important points for the rider to remember during the period of suspension are: First, the horse makes the gesture of extending his neck and lowering his head, to help his forehand over the jump. The hands must feed out all the rein necessary, by extending the arms, and in no
case interfere by jerking his mouth.

The rider’s seat leaves the saddle at the take-off, as a result of the horse’s checking and lifting his forehand. He should, from the moment he is’ thrust forward and upward, remain out of the saddle during the entire period of suspension, as well as while landing by remaining balanced over the knees, stirrups, and heels. . ((See my personal opinion below)) He is standing in the stirrups with almost all his weight in the heels of his boots. If the ankle-joints are relaxed, the weight drives the heels well down and forces the calves against the horse. The calves and knees by their grip aid greatly in maintaining the position and balance. The angle at the hip closes, and that at the knee opens, as a result of the upward thrust out of the saddle. The back muscles must be immediately tightened, and remain so, in order to keep the loin hollowed

The instant the forehand has cleared, the rider should stay out of the saddle and well forward. Sitting down at this instant will interfere greatly with the hind legs’ clearing. Remaining forward helps tip the descending forehand downward, and aids the horse’s efforts.

((My presumption in offering a personal view which I have found from long experience to be easy and comfortable for both horse and rider;  —a different description of the period of take-off and suspension ——

The rider’s seat might leave the saddle at the take-offThe rider should from the moment of the horse lifting his forehand,  drop his shoulders towards the pommel whilst keeping the back hollowed,  stretching the arms forward to release the rein and the feeling of his buttocks  being thrust to the rear. His shoulders and upper torso dropping will in accordance with Newton’s Third Law of Motion, if his timing is right,  take his weight off the saddle whilst ,  leaving his seat lightly in contact with it. (This is comparable to a skier passing over a distinct hump). He remains balanced over the thighs, stirrups, and heels. with his weight in the heels of his boots, the heels pressed slightly forwards to counteract the tendency for the lower leg to swing back. The heels well down and the toes turned out forces the calves against the horse. The calves and knees by their grip aid greatly in maintaining the position and balance. The angle at the hip closes, and that at the knee should remain constant The back should remain hollowed. When  the forehand has cleared the obstacle, the rider should retain his position whilst not applying any weight to the horses neck.))  

RIDING DURING LANDING 

This phase begins the instant the hind legs have cleared the obstacle. The horse’s forehand is descending. The rider’s arms are well extended, to give sufficient rein; his back remains straight and hollowed out, and the brace against the stirrups again is necessary to prevent sliding forward in the saddle as the horse lands. The trunk has been inclined far forward from the hips as the horse rose and cleared the obstacle. As he starts downward, the rider’s closed hip-joints begin to open and the knee-joints to close; he slightly straightens his trunk to move his centre of gravity backward and maintain his balance over his knees, as the momentum of the jump dies out. As the descent begins, the horse pivots about his own centre of gravity and between the rider’s knees, bringing the saddle close to the crotch and buttocks. The rider should not, however, sit down, but remain balanced, in the stirrups, with the help of the knees. During the entire period; the reins should exert no tension’ whatever. They cannot assist the horse while he is in the air, whereas their mildest action on the bit may greatly militate against his efforts. The fingers should always remain relaxed and half open during the entire jump.

As the fore feet land, there is, another up and down gesture of head and neck in assisting the front feet to hop out of the way of the descending hind feet. During this time, the reins remain lightly stretched or slack. The rider should gently collect them and establish the normal feel as the horse takes his first strides in resuming the gallop. In the meantime, the rider continues to remain out of the saddle, which prevents thumping the horse’s back as he lands. The ankles, knees, and hip-joints may close slightly to soften the jar at this time. The body should not be allowed to flop far forward. ‘This can be avoided by using the back muscles to keep the back straight and the loin hollowed out. After the gallop is resumed and the reins
are collected, the rider gently sits down in the saddle, if approaching another obstacle. Thoughtless riders are inclined to sit down heavily as the horse lands and snatch the reins taut. The horse interprets the painful effects as punishment associated with jumping, and soon begins to rush, refuse, or bolt. Landing is an ungraceful and difficult phase for horse and rider. The brace on the stirrups, pinch with the knees, and force exerted by the back muscles, to maintain balance, are extreme, the strain on the horse’s forelegs is very great.

Throughout the jump, and especially at landing, the knees pinch the saddle strongly and weight remains in place in the stirrups. It is a common and bad fault to allow the lower legs to swing to the rear, through riding entirely on the knees and not in the stirrups, during the jump. It weakens the seat and leaves the rider very unstable.

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Many horses start their approach for an obstacle with a rush. Upon nearing it, they check their speed suddenly, and shorten the last two or three strides before taking off. With such horses the rider must be well forward when the rush starts, to avoid falling back out of balance, which will cause pulling on the reins. Also the sudden checking and abrupt shortening of stride make it difficult for the rider to maintain his position and balance. It is only by keeping the heels driven far down, the legs and knees tightly against horse and saddle, and the buttocks pushed well to the rear by keeping the loin concave, that the rider can prevent any dislocation of his seat.  Accord between himself and the horse will exist, and there will be no refusal.

During the last few strides there is often a moment when it appears that the horse has measured his strides badly and is ” all wrong” for the take-off. When the approach appears all wrong, more than ever must the rider relax sufficiently to sit still in the saddle, maintain his forward inclination, relax  the  arms and hands, follow the horse’s head, and increase the squeeze of the legs. In the next fraction of a second, if these directions have been followed, the situation will invariably clear up. The rider’s passive hands having left the horse to his own devices, urged as well by the decisive action of the rider’s legs, will place himself correctly and negotiate the jump with ease. The approach demands from the horseman excellent co-ordination. He must maintain his balance, seat, and muscular control, without stiffening or
standing in his stirrups.

REFUSALS 

With a refusing horse, contact with the mouth must be maintained until he actually leaves the ground with his forefeet at the take-off. In order to stop at a jump, if he is going along at a good pace, he must lower his head. To duck his head, he first must escape contact with the hand. Therefore, with a refuser, contact must never be lost.  It is, however, very necessary that the hands follow the mouth while maintaining the heavier contact. The usual error is committed through fixing the hands or pulling,
when keeping the horse’s head up, which by immobilizing his head and neck. prevents his placing himself, and makes it physically impossible for him to jump. At the same time, the rider’s legs must act more vigorously than usual, Almost invariably a refuser ducks his head either to the right or left when stopping. After determining which side he habitually chooses, the opposite rein should have a little greater tension during the last few strides. As usual, after being forced to jump, he should be given his head entirely as he takes off.

3 comments on “Col. Chamberlin on Jumping – Guest Post by Roger Hannington

  1. barbaraellinfox

    Dear Roger,
    Thank you so much for contributing the abstract of Col. Chamberlin’s teaching on jumping from Riding and Schooling Horses. Your arrangement of the topics and points greatly helps with clarity.
    Barbara

  2. Barbara Kinsey

    I don’t agree with the points you have added when sitting the approach…heels down etc. What did col chamberlain say? It is the image if pushing legs forward and sitting heavy…that I am objecting to. I was trained to sit on approach, so it isn’t that.
    I do like the detail he has written, though. I must look up his wirk. It will be good to refer to once the student is jumoing but needs mire info.
    Thanks for doing this

  3. barbaraellinfox

    Barbara
    Thanks for commenting. The following is a response from RH-

    “I am somewhat at a loss as to know how to respond to this.
    “What did Col Chamberlin say?” — This is what Col Chamberlin says. This article is a slightly condensed quotation of Chamberlin’s work (except where I have declared otherwise) with some shortening by removal of excess words and the sequence of some paragraphs rearranged.. There is no description of “pushing legs forward and sitting heavy”. My own contribution is very largely a different description of the same thing apart from the emphasis of standing in the stirrups.”

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