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The Biomechanics of How Your Horse Jumps

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Even if you don’t jump your horse studying the biomechanics of how the horse creates a jump is useful for every single rider because of the biomechanical and mofascial connections illustrated more obviously.

The horse needs physical strength, focus and a balanced rider to jump successfully. He also needs a good technique, willingness, coordination and the ability to convert forward momentum to upward thrust.

Horses aren't natural jumpers, although in the wild they will jump obstacles that get in their way. This is what makes watching a horse jumping fences so fascinating as you see them using their bodies to an extreme. You also see a greater range of movement and the biomechanical relationships within the body become much more obvious. Those connections still exist when you’re riding your horse on the flat, and in other disciplines they just are just more subtle.

Understanding them can help to improve performance and in this blog article we look at jumping but this is also the topic which is explored in much greater depth in the online lecture demonstration: Jumping from the Anatomical Approach

gillian higgins horses inside out Biomechanics of horse movement, how to assess jumping techniques, horse lose jumping, tendons and ligaments skeletal movement, biomechanical connections, myofascial

We are really excited about this dynamic, jam packed lecture demonstration which is the last in our autumn webinar series.

How the Horse Jumps

As the horse approaches a jump, he lifts his head to assess the fence, gathers power and impulsion by brining his hind feet under his body and compresses his body like a coiled spring. He'll then bring his weight back and shorten the last stride to convert the forward momentum into upward thrust. Just before take-off he lowers his head and sinks through the thoracic sling. The fetlocks drop and the energy in the muscles, tendons and ligaments is released as the forelegs straighten to push and lift the forehand. It's at this point that the hindlimbs come through together - flexing and compressing before powerfully pushing upwards. The horse then lowers his head and rounds his back in bascule.

As he lands, he raises his head and the back extends at the forelimbs stretch out in front. The fetlocks sink to the ground as the thorax also sinks. The structures in the lower limb bear the brunt of the concussive forces with the trailing limb taking more force than the leading limb. The hindlimbs land together with the first stride after landing being shorter before the horse regains his rhythm.

Learn more about how your horse jumps in Posture and Performance.

The Anatomy of Jumping

gillian higgins horses inside out Gymnastic jumping exercises, polework placing pole, A frame, skeletal movement, rider skeleton position and balance

By studying the biomechanics of jumping and having the ability to assess and recognise what is a good jump. This then gives you ability to pick the best exercises to ride on your own horse to improve his performance and jump.

The lecture demonstration starts off looking at the anatomy and more specifically how the horse uses his body when he’s jumping. So, the neck for example – there are four main ways the horse uses his neck to affect the rest of his body, which we will cover in detail and includes;

  1. Affecting the centre of mass

  2. How the head and neck effects forelimb movement

  3. How the positioning of the head and neck affects the back.

  4. How the positioning of the head and neck affects the hip joint.

gillian higgins horses inside outGillian Higgins explains the anatomy of the lumbosacral junction, horse biomechancis related to jumping

We then go on to study how the forelimbs contribute to elevating the forehand when jumping and absorbing the forces when landing. We look at how the hind limbs work in terms of creating upward and forward movement to create the trajectory, and the connections between the hind limb, and the back.

At the end of the first half we look at the myofascial chains. We will be building on the information about myofascial chains covered in the previous online lecture demonstrations in this series.

We will look at energy saving mechanisms and the role of fascial connections and force transmission within the spinal and forelimb muscle chains in greater detail with specific examples beautifully illustrated by these horses.

How Different Horses Jump

In the second half, two very different horses and riders perform for us. Fiona Davidson, who is a 4* international event rider, rides her advanced horse called Pete. Nathan Bull, who is an up-and-coming show jumper, rides an up and coming showjumper called Jackpot. These two horses are so different and really help to illustrate a classic event horse style and a show jumper.

Exercises to improve the jump

We will demonstrate a variety of different exercises and discuss how the horse creates the jump, but also look at how, if you alter the shape of the fence, have poles on the ground, alter the approach or alter the distances between the jumps, this affects the shape that the horse makes over the fence. Understanding how these different jumping techniques and exercises work can help us to improve our training both for the benefit of musculoskeletal health as well as jumping technique.

This exciting online lecture demonstration is sure to be very popular - follow this link to learn more about puchasing it: The Biomecahnics of Jumping

The team at Horses Inside Out including volunteers!

There are always many people involved behind the scenes helping to create a successful lecture demonstration, as well as our lovely riders and horses, filmographer: Matthew Roberts, photographer: Helen Richmond and several painting and general helpers. If you would like to get involved and volunteer with Horses Inside Out, register your interest HERE.

Read more about the biomechanics of jumping in How Your Horse Moves and Anatomy in Action

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