Help wanted: teach me to auto release

Yesterday’s lesson was our first in about a month- traveling for the holidays and bad weather have meant no jumping for Miss Addy and myself since mid-December. I was super excited for this lesson for one main reason: I thought I looked so cool. Seriously, I felt like a badass. New tan breeches, my newly stretched and re-fit tall boots, and I knew that if attire meant anything, this lesson would rock.

Is this sporty looking or what?!
Generous coating of horse hair provided by none other than Addy herself.

So here I am, feeling like a Grand Prix rider, and I show up to the barn ready to jump 4′ oxers whatever my trainer puts in front of me, but it had better be impressive. Addy was not super on board with this, and when I started babbling at her about taking the local circuit by storm she just looked my way and said “Nope. Staying here and staying warm.”

Unless there's carrots. I'll come out for carrots.
Snug as a bug in a rug.

We chatted for a bit and I could tell she was starting to get into the idea.

Once we warmed up with some flatwork focusing on lateral movements and  grueling torture no-stirrup work, we got into the jumping part. The footing in the ring is really packed down in the middle because of the cold, so we just worked on a single quarter line. Only 2 jumps the whole time? Seemed boring.

But it wasn’t! The first jump was a small trot in, then a quiet six strides out. I don’t know about you all, but trot jumps are my nemesis- I throw my shoulders forward,  bounce around, and I just can’t seem to nail it. Looks like that’s some homework right there. So off the bat there was already a challenge.

Then the quiet six strides. Key word: quiet. I’m on a horse that could have done that in four, and would’ve been comfortable in five. But true to form, she was a rockstar and sat back for the six every single time. Our work on collecting and downwards transitions was really apparent here, she’s definitely balancing and listening to my half halt a lot more instead of stringing out after a jump.

“Instead of being a strung out slinky dachshund, you’re a nice tightly coiled slinky dachshund!” -Trainer

The last jump was just a simple vertical with a box under it, but after a few warm up lines, my trainer switched it up. With a voice of doom she told me, “Olivia, next time through I want you to try an automatic release over the out.”

And that’s when it got messy.

  1. First try: muscle memory said crest release high and forward, brain said automatic release low and wide. Result was weird. Don’t know where my hands went.
  2. Second try: hands went low and wide. Without the crutch of the crest release, I pinched with my knees and my legs swung back towards her tail. I looked like Superman, but not in the cool way.
  3. Sixth Third try: hands low and wide, abs engaged, legs firmly on with no pinching. Success!

This is definitely going to be something we work on, because a crest release is just so ingrained in me. But I think once I learn to hold my leg a little stronger and really engage that core strength, this is going to be a great tool in our arsenal. I could tell that it forced me to stay over Addy’s center of gravity rather than jump ahead of the motion. It also made my bad habits clear- without my hands to support my upper body, pinching with my knee became a huge problem. Sigh. I guess this means more no-stirrup work.

Poor Addy is just gonna have to deal with a sack of potatoes on her back for a little while longer ’til I can pull it together.

Anyone have any tips for mastering the automatic release? How about trot jumps?

12 thoughts on “Help wanted: teach me to auto release

  1. CallyJumps 01/15/2015 / 12:46 pm

    Are you posting or sitting to the trit fence? I hate them, can never see a distance and freak out. An eq trainer in college had me sit about 3 strides out, and voila, SO MUCH EASIER! As to not pinching with your knee, try thinking about sinking into your upper thigh; you feel a lot more stable and pretty much cant pinch with your knee.


    • Olivia 01/15/2015 / 12:53 pm

      I usually sit, but I think sitting a bit sooner would definitely help! And I’ll have to remember that with my thighs. Awesome advice, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Courtney 01/16/2015 / 9:51 am

    I don’t have any tips, but you do look like a super serious professional rider!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. elizabethfgreenberg 01/18/2015 / 2:54 pm

    For me, the thing with trot jumps is that they make you want to lean forward and jump ahead of your horse. Whether you’re sitting or posting, be sure you’re looking up and ahead instead of looking at the jump as well as repeating to yourself, “shoulders back”. On your approach be sure to roll your shoulders back as you make your turn to approach & halt in a straight line after the fence. For releasing over fences I try to match my distance to the fence and my release to the way my horse is jumping. If my horse is jumping up but not across I do more of a crest release and encourage him/her to jump across more. If he/she is jumping flat I try to make my distance closer to the base of the jump, keep my body back, & then help him/her over the fence. Just keep in mind, if you catch your horse in the teeth it’ll probably lead to knocking rails with their front legs & if your bum hits the saddle too soon on the landing it’s more likely you’ll knock rails with the hind legs. I’m no professional but it sounds like you and Addy just need to work the kinks…winter jumping is always a pain! Also, if you’re really looking to go above and beyond try going to ballet or barre classes. They will strengthen your core, encourage your shoulders to stay back and down, and strengthen your glutes and inner-thighs so that you won’t feel the need to pinch, it will just be natural to get in your heels, slide your hips over the tack and release without throwing your upper-body forward. Sorry for the long response! Cheers!


    • Olivia 01/18/2015 / 3:12 pm

      Don’t be sorry for the long response, this is great! I’m definitely trying to be more conscious about my position over my trot jumps, I find that “going with the flow” is just not in my muscle memory yet- being deliberate and training myself to do things automatically is what’s going to get us there. And it’s so funny that you mention ballet classes- I did ballet for a very long time and my position was 1000x better when I was doing that. You’re so right! Thanks so much for the tips!!


  4. carey 01/21/2015 / 2:57 pm

    I hate trot jumps. I made mistake of saying that to my new trainer. We do a whole lot of trot jumps. I still hate them, but am SLOWLY getting better at them.


    • Olivia 01/21/2015 / 2:59 pm

      Haha that’s always how I get roped into doing the hard stuff too… think it’ll work if I tell her I really hate riding WITH my stirrups??


      • carey 01/21/2015 / 3:12 pm

        There’s an idea!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s