Riders Don’t Influence How Horses Jump
Popular belief has it that riders strongly affect their horse's jumping technique.
Through their body position and movement, a rider can direct a horse's speed and stride, as well as take-off and landing points.
Surprisingly, results of a study that measured all these factors while horses went over vertical jumps suggest that this belief is mistaken.
Researchers at the University of Limerick in Ireland filmed ten seasoned horses being ridden over jumps 1.05 metres (3.5 feet) high. Either an experienced equestrian or a novice rider rode each horse.
When the video footage was analyzed, the researchers found that the rider's level of experience had no significant influence on several aspects of how horses went over jumps. There were no differences among riders in a horse's speed, nor its length of stride when it approached the jump.
Similarly, the distances from the fence to where the horse took off and landed were the same among riders. Horses took jumps in a consistent kinetic manner, regardless of their rider's body position or movement.
These findings imply that riders might be given more credit than they deserve for horses' jumping performance. Additionally, if an experienced jumper isn't responding to its rider's guidance, as was the case here, this makes further training of the horse difficult.
Pippa N.R. Powers and Anna M. Kavanagh. 2005. Effect of rider experience on the jumping kinematics of riding horses. Equine and Comparative Exercise Physiology. 2: 263-267.