How To: Improve your jumping position

Lila Gendal’s jumping position is classic eventer–her leg is so secure, it looks as though nothing could pry her loose from her horse. She shares some tips for shoring up our over-fences style.

From Lila:

Mastering your jumping position takes years of practice, dedication and patience. I have been riding since I was a tiny little girl and at 27 I am still practicing and perfecting my jumping position. Of course there are a variety of different styles and techniques out there, but as an event rider I have learned over several years where exactly I need to be in the air in order to feel safe and secure while still allowing my horse to do the jumping. Today I want to hone in on How To Improve Your Jumping Position!

This discussion is not saying “my way or the highway” but rather offering tips to those who want to achieve a similar jumping position. Like I said, there are myriad alternative styles within the worlds of hunters, jumpers, eventing, steeplechase, etc. I can only speak from an event rider’s perspective, and therefore offer tips to those who want to have a similar feeling and result over a fence. So here we go!

  • 1)      Eyes and Chin UP.

The idea that your eyes and chin should be UP when jumping has been engrained in my head. This has helped me a lot with my position. If your eyes are staring down, or likewise your chin is heading down then everything else will follow DOWN. Why would you want to be thinking down when jumping? Jumping is the exact opposite and should have the feeling that you and your horse are heading up up and away! So remember–eyes and chin UP!


  • 2)      Heels Down, Toes Out, Lower leg on!

For me, I have always struggled with a swinging lower leg and a leg that is not secure is ineffective. How can you tell your horse to gallop towards a ditch, corner, roll top or what-have-you if you don’t have your leg on? Your leg is an extremely crucial driving aid. Therefore, when your heels are down, your calf is on and your toe is out, your leg will be in a position where it can influence the horse. For me, I not only have to think heels down, but I have to literally tell myself toe out so that there is no excuse to not have contact between my ankle and my horse. When my toes are out and my heels are down, it is easier for me to achieve the “ideal” jumping position. If my heels are not down, and my leg is not on, my lower leg will be swinging and I will inevitably lose my balance which will result in a less than perfect position in the air.


  • 3)      Release.

This is also something that has been a work in progress for me. I wasn’t born with a great jumping position–I had to learn how to do all of this and it has taken over 15 years to achieve, and there are still days when I struggle. Giving with your hands over a fence is very important because you do not want to catch your horse in the mouth. Catching your horse in the mouth will deter your horse from jumping and might lead to a horse that quits. Giving with your hands over a fence allows your horse to use his or her body correctly without feeling any kind of restriction.

  • 4)      Don’t commit your upper body.

There might be riders who do not agree with me here, but I am speaking from experience and have a style that works for me. I have been taught to not throw my upper body at the horse when jumping mostly because this puts me in a very vulnerable position. If I am galloping towards a huge trakehner on cross-country or a 4’6” oxer in show jumping and at the very last minute I throw my upper body at my horse and my horse slams on the brakes, I am most likely going to eat it! I have thrown my body countless times at horses and I have been left in the dust. Staying in the back seat, or sitting in the saddle the last four or five strides and not committing my body, has not only helped my jumping position but has helped my horses as well.


Everyone has their own jumping style and has a formula that works for them. This is my formula and it has helped me become a more confident and secure jump rider. An “ideal” jumping position looks great when caught on film, but more importantly an effective jumping position puts riders in a safe and secure place while allowing the horses to do their job!


About the Author

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.


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