Training

Ian Millar’s 5 Key Positions for Effective Show Jumping

I could write a book describing the correct position when riding a horse, but that is not necessary. Identifying the proper position really is this straightforward!

1. Balanced position

When a rider sits on a horse there must be a straight line from the rider’s ear, through their shoulder, down to the hip, with the ankle (lateral malleolus) directly beneath. This straight line must be perpendicular (at a 90 degree angle) to level ground.

 2. Leg angle and foot position to provide correct cues at the optimal time

When a rider’s legs are extended and relaxed, the stirrup iron should strike just below the ankle (medial malleolus). This will establish a foundation stirrup length that can be adjusted based on function. When jumping, the stirrup should sit just above the ankle.

The stirrup should be under the ball of the foot with weight equally distributed across this area. The portion of body weight that is not borne by the horse’s back through the saddle should be absorbed into a deep heel. This will ensure a leg position that can produce an even and effective contact between a horse’s barrel and the rider’s leg.

3. The rider’s body must be supple in order to form a connection with the horse

Particular emphasis is made on a supple and mobile lower back. The rider’s lower back is where the motion and energy of the horse is absorbed.

4. Arm angle and rein length that enables efficient use of the arms and hands

The upper arm should lightly brush the upper body. It is critical that the elbow has flexibility and is not rigidly locked in one position. A straight line should extend from the rider’s elbow, through their lower arm to hand, and follow the rein to the horse’s mouth.

5. A rider’s hands must be an extension of the lower arms

The hands do not need to be forced into an upright or flat position, but instead must be a relaxed extension of the arms. The reins should be held in a definitive but sympathetic manner, with fingers closed around the reins and thumbs flexed on the reins, as well as in contact with the first fingers, to maintain the desired rein length.

Ian “Captain Canada” Millar is the most decorated equestrian in Canadian history. He holds the world record for most Olympic appearances by any athlete in any sport (10, highlighted by a team silver medal in 2008), has earned nine Pan American Games medals and is a 12-time national champion.