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Jumping From An Anatomical Approach

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Last week I was very lucky to be invited back by Horses Inside Out to help out with preparation for the filming for Part 4 of the upcoming ‘Webinar Wednesdays’ series which will be aired in September. Today’s focus was ‘Jumping from an Anatomical Approach’.

Gillian Higgins, equine anatomy specialist

The day was held at a private yard in Leicestershire with an absolutely fabulous indoor arena. The perfect setting for the demonstration.

Gillian had 2 horses that she needed assistance with to prepare and paint so it was great to have some extra volunteers for the day including Dominik Ulinski and Vicky Cleland.

gillian higgins horses inside out volunteers helping with painting

gillian higgins horses inside out volunteers helping with painting

If you would like to be a volunteer at any of Gillian’s events you can register your interest here.

The horses we were preparing were International Event Rider Fiona Davidson’s Lisi Eager Jnr Guy, also known as ‘Pete’ and International Showjumper Nathan Bull’s horse ‘Jackpot MFD’.

Pete is a 12 year old ISH and is 4* event horse. He was painted with muscle chains to one side and the skeleton and psoas muscles to the other side.

Jackpot is a 7 year old Warmblood currently jumping 1m 20 tracks. He was painted with the skeleton as well as the biceps catapult and gluteal muscles.

Gillian Higgins, biomechanics, skeleton, horse, anatomy, equine rider horse saddle interaction

Gillian would explain the importance of these muscles in relation to jumping during the demonstration.

Gillian Higgins, biomechanics, equine, biceps catapult

Despite being top competition horses they were fabulous models as we painted and prepared them for the filming.

Today we were not only joined by videographer Matthew Roberts but also by photographer Helen Richmond. As well as Gillian’s dad David Higgins.

Once the horses were prepared and the riders had arrived we were ready to get started!

webinars with Gillian Higgins, online lecture demonstrations

Gillian began by explaining how jumping helps horses develop strength, stability and balance, how jumping can be used as cross training for other disciplines and how watching horses jump is a great way to learn about the biomechanics of the horse, as the joint movements are more extreme.

I had never thought about it like that before, and I then couldn’t wait to watch the horses jumping and really get a good look at those joint movements.

Nathan also wore a skeleton suit while he was riding, which demonstrates the rider’s joint movements too. It’s fascinating to look at how the rider and horse work together.

horse jumping, biomechanics, skeletal movement, technique, scope, gymnastic exercises

I couldn’t believe how much information Gillian managed to pack into this lecture demonstration.

There were 2 parts to the demo.

Part 1) What parts of the body contribute to making the jump

Using the live painted horses and her amazing collection of real horse bones Gillian explained:

· The 4 main ways the horse uses the head and neck, and the effects this has on the back, hip, flexion and forelimb extension

· The forelimb, including the Biceps Catapult arrangement of muscles, tendons and ligaments

· The 5 angles of compression and extension in the hindlimb

· The importance of the Lumbosacral Junction when it comes to jumping

· The gluteal muscles and their function in lifting the forehand

· How muscles can help balance the extensor and flexor muscle chains

horse bones, thoracic, lumbar vertebrae, sacroiliac equine

Part 2) How the rider can influence the horse to change their jump using exercises, and how this affects the horse’s movement.


· The importance of the warm up

· Benefits of walk and neck flexion

· Benefits of trot and lateral work

· Benefits of the canter in the warm up

· Using transitions and rein back

· Riding transitions within the gait

· Jumping a cross pole

· Jumping bounce fences

· Common problems riders have and exercises to help correct them

· How changing the distance between the jumps effects the horse’s movement

· How changing the width of the jumps effects the horse’s movement

· The importance of the warm down

All of these things were beautifully demonstrated by Fiona and Nathan and their horses.

Anatomy, jumping muscles horse myofascial chains, biomechanics

I can’t tell you how amazing it looks seeing the horses jumping with the painted bones and muscles with Gillian explaining the function of the different body parts. When you see it like that everything just starts to make sense. You can really understand how the horse jumps, and also how you can help the horse to improve their jumping technique with the various body parts in mind.

This was such a fun day to be a part of, I cannot wait to see the finished webinar. I think this is one you will not only want to watch live when it goes out in December, so you can also take full opportunity to ask Gillian any questions! But also watch back a few times afterwards as there really is so much to take in. And not just for showjumpers and eventers, you can learn from this whatever your discipline.

Now available to be the recorderd demonstration HERE,

Learn more about jumping from the anatomical perspective in Gillian's book and video course Anatomy in Action.

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