In my last blog I showed you how the Base of Support has evolved from Fort Riley to the current Hunter Seat trend. This blog will explain why “Base of Support” as defined by the legendary teacher, George Morris, is only a part of the truth on the flat and over fences.
To refresh our memory, the 1935 “Cavalry Manual of Horsemanship and Horsemastership”, vol. 1 defines the base of support as “The base of support is formed by those parts of the rider’s body in contact with the saddle and horse, from the points of the pelvic bones down along the inside of the thighs, to and including the knees, legs, and stirrups.”
In his “Hunter Seat Equitation”, George Morris defines base of support as the thighs and seat, omitting the knee, leg, and stirrup from the Cavalry Manual definition.
The Proof is in the Pudding
I believe it is more beneficial look at what is being produced in the average rider, as opposed to analyzing at a few exceptional riders, to conclude what is happening in horsemanship. Looking at the average rider shows us what is being taught, learned and used, and how theory and definitions effect the many riders who are striving for success. The average rider is compiled in the photo below of six jumps taken at a recent Grand Prix competition. And as a matter of record, these Grand Prix jumps were higher than equitation fences, all of these riders finished the course without falling off and one of these riders is the likely winner of the event.
In his book Riding and Schooling Horses, Harry Chamberlin shows how the area covered by the base of support becomes less as the rider goes from the full seat into the more forward jumping seat, which we currently call 2 point.
the above pictures show that during the jumping phase, the average rider no longer uses his seat and thighs in 2 point and that the lower leg from just above the knee through the foot becomes the rider’s base of support. This occurs by necessity.
A General Definition
A quick Internet search for “base of support” produced the following :”The region bounded by body parts in contact with a support surface or surfaces, such as the ground that exerts a counterforce against the body’s applied force.” In the case of the of our jumping riders in the above photo the base of support during jumping is the knee, calf and foot in the stirrup. According to Mr. Morris’s definition of base of support being the thighs and seat, the riders in the photo have no base of support at all because their thighs and seats are not in contact with anything. Logic says that, according to Mr. Morris’s definition, they are no longer supported on their horse.
We’ve Gotta Have It
Using the correct definition needs to be given top priority when it comes to passing information on to a new generation or else we will lose all recognition of sound principles of horsemanship.
Logic says that a rider must have a base of support over a jump. If the seat and thigh are no longer in contact with the saddle or horse they can no longer be the base of support. Following Mr. Morris’ definition, what then becomes the base of support over jumps?
Blast From the Past
In my blog, Did Caprilli GIve Us The Crest Release?, I mentioned that the modern “riders are encouraged to support their upper body via their hands on the horse’s “crest” .” And in my post Crest Release – Where Did It Come From? I included this excerpt from V.S. Littauer’s, More About Forward Riding, published in 1938: on Page 60, Littauer states, “As long as keeping a firm position, while having the hands in the air, requires a very athletic body and constant daily practice, I would suggest that you help yourself remain in balance by supporting yourself with your hands laid on the horse’s neck.”
Has the base of support been diverted from the Cavalry definition of, “The base of support is formed by those parts of the rider’s body in contact with the saddle and horse, from the points of the pelvic bones down along the inside of the thighs, to and including the knees, legs, and stirrups.” to that of the seat and thighs and HANDS?
mmmm, Where is this Going?
Jumping horsemanship has evolved a great deal since 1900 and much of it has been very good for the horse, but what of our current situation? Does the average rider or average instructor understand what they are doing and teaching? Has the most recent evolution been beneficial? How has it benefited the stability of the rider over fences? And has it been beneficial to the horse?
I’ll explore some of these questions in future blogs.
Thank you for reading U.S. Horsemanship
Barbara Ellin Fox