August 11


Has Base of Support Changed?

By barbaraellinfox

August 11, 2009

base of support, Chronicle of the Horse, George Morris, High Jump, Hunter, Jumper, Olympians, William Steinkraus

by Barbara Ellin Fox

In my blog titled, Are Hands Part of the Base of Support?,  I showed you why, Mr. Morris’ definition of the base of support  is only part of the truth. In this blog I’ll show you why seat and thighs are inadequate as a base of support and how riders have compensated for it.

What happens when we follow Mr. Morris’ definition of base of support to it’s logical conclusion?  To reiterate,  Mr. Morris’ definition of base of support is “seat and thighs”. We have seen photos of average riders, particularly ones of horse and rider jumping higher fences, that the seat and thigh are not in contact with the saddle. And we have seen  that the rider’s lower leg (which is in contact with the horse) and stirrup, are providing them some support during the jump.

But is that all? Is there anything else that’s supporting these riders?


For variety I’ve added photos of more riders.  I invite you to look at these and the photos from my other blogs for comparison.  And in case you feel like I’m “stacking the deck” for the purpose of my point of view, surf the net for photos from shows, look for photos of show results in magazines like the Chronicle of the Horse and draw your own conclusions. But I think you’ll agree that it doesn’t take a highly educated eye to see that all these riders are being supported by another body part, namely the hands and sometimes their arms.

more-supportA quick investigation into other types of riding reveals that the seat taught for hunter/jumper riding is the only one that teaches riders to support themselves by pressing their hands, arms or upper body into the horse’s neck.  One could argue that this is necessary because they horse and riders jump so high, but then I would ask you to view the video on my July 13 post, Huaso Sets the World Record, and you will see that leaning on the horse’s neck was not necessary to break the world’s record for high jump at 8’1 1/2″.  Or look the video I’ve included at the end of this post. And for really excellent photos of our great Olympians, check out the illustrations in William Steinkraus’ book, “Riding and Jumping”. None of these riders needed to “lean” on their horse with their hands or arms,  for support.

What has happened to change the way we support ourselves on a hunter or jumper in America and was this change necessary? Check the future U.S. Horsemanship blogs while I explore this timely and sometimes testy topic.

Thanks for reading U.S. Horsemanship

Barbara Ellin Fox


  1. Hi Barbara,
    I like the military style better.
    It looks more athletic and part of the horse.
    The above pictures look like lazy riders or the inability to ride without falling all over the horse.
    I ride stock saddle. Monte Foreman balance ride style.
    I get off my butt when galloping fast and stand for stops and sit down when doing rollbacks.
    Ride mostly off my feet, and thighs.
    Monte had some western horseman artticles on riding by reasoning. He illustrated riding off your seat style riding.
    I’ll see if I can scan copies to you for your review.
    Ron R

  2. Hi Ron,
    Thanks for your comment. I just now figured out how the comments work on the blog. I remember reading some of Monte Foreman’s articles a long time ago. I think he was a man before his time. It would have been terrific to sit and talk with him.
    I think the hunter jumper industry has been the victim of manipulation and big business. The quicker the riders make it to the show ring, the more money there is for the trainer. Also there is the thought of “If a little is good then more is better”. A judge pins a rider who leans on the neck this week and next week everyone is leaning on the neck. You see it in the Arabian Western Pleasure horse. If this week’s winner had the pole lower than the whither then next week the noses are almost between the front legs. I love competition but the business of showing has ruined a lot of our riding and training.

    I wonder what Monte Foreman would have thought about today’s round pen trainers… I would love to read articles by Monte Foreman.

  3. I agree with you completely on this one Barbara. As I understand it, the short and long crest release were actually devised as a training aid to protect the horse as the rider progressed toward jumping out of hand (automatic release). Somewhere along the line, modern riders stopped progressing and never learned the final stage. As the video clearly shows, the crest release is not the final answer.


  4. Thanks Jim,
    I’ve been really surprised by how many riders aren’t aware that there is anything but a crest release. Ah for the days when we used jumping chutes!


  5. Helen Crabtree, the Grand Dame of Saddle Seat Equitation, talks about picturing the rider going along and the horse suddenly disappears out from under them. Are they able to maintain balance or do they fall over? In the case of the “new” base of support, I’ll wager, if we followed her picturing we’d see another “addition”,… the face :>)

Comments are closed.

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