Judge’s Card: Beware of Exaggeration

Photo by ES Equine Photography / Evelyn Szczepanek

By Geoff Teall from Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers, and Equitation

Some people do not understand the correct use of the automatic release and are opposed to using it. In fact, they will often exaggerate the long release–throwing their hands and body forward and making a big deal of not using the automatic release. 

These people, through their theatrics, draw attention to their hands, and their body position, and their horse’s effort over the fence. More often than not, their expansive movements actually work against the horse’s natural motion in the air and can interfere with his jump. 

As a judge, if I see a rider using an exaggerated long release, throwing his hands around, dropping contact early, and not taking it up on the landing side, I will fault such distracting, sloppy riding. 

Other riders exaggerate the automatic release and turn it into something they call the “low release.” In a low release, the rider throws his hands down, emphasizing that he is maintaining contact without going up on the horse’s neck. 

These people, through their exaggeration, go below the line of the horse’s mouth with their contact and often interfere with the horse’s jump. Using a release that is heavy and breaks below the line of the mouth will cause the horse to jump with his head up and make it more difficult for him to follow through behind. 

When judging, if I see a rider who is not releasing, or stiffing the horse, or working below the line with the automatic release, that has a direct bearing on either his riding (for Hunt Seat Equitation classes) or his horse’s round (in Hunter divisions). More likely than not, such a rider has a horse that jumps with his head high, doesn’t follow through, or has unnecessary rubs or knocks rails down behind, and I will fault that. 

What I look for as a judge is an action that I don’t notice. It doesn’t matter which release you use. I shouldn’t notice it because you don’t draw unnecessary attention to your hands, your position doesn’t change, and your horse jumps with beautiful style and expression.

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Within the 263 pages of Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation, Teall covers an impressive multitude of topics aimed at helping riders increase the effectiveness of their time spent in the saddle. 

Find more exercises like these, and much more, in “Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation,” available for purchase from Trafalgar Square Books, here

About Geoff Teall 

Geoff Teall is one of the leading hunter and hunt seat equitation trainers in the country.  Horses and riders who have trained with Teall have gone on to win championships, medals and ribbons at major events including Devon, the ASPCA Maclay Finals, Capital Challenge, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International, the USET Talent Search, and the National Horse Show. In addition to training, Teall is an “R” judge for both hunters and hunt seat equitation. He travels extensively in North America and Europe teaching, judging and conducting clinics.