Differences in riding position on XC

This morning i watched the rides of Dutton, Boyd and Jung consecutively. Obviously all three got the job done. The riding positions are quite different. Dutton rides almost standing in his stirrups in a very up right position. Jung almost looks like a steeplechase jockey as he is always so close to the tack. Boyd is still pretty up right and more like Dutton than Jung.

One thing that is very noticeable about all three is how quietly they ride.


Yeah, Phillip definitely rides in a more defensive position where as Michael is just super soft and centred. I wonder if it has anything to do with how their horses are trained, because as Lynn S. said yesterday on the feed, Michael makes it look easy and almost as if he’s hardly riding… Which is a testament to how much he does at home to prepare them! He trains them to be as on the aids and reactive as they are in dressage on XC. JMHO. :grin:


At one point the commentators spoke about the British vs American stirrup length when an English rider was going around. They said Brits ride with much shorter stirrups than us. That particular rider got jostled several times, lost a stirrup and almost her seat a couple times. I think on a tough course with huge questions and undulating terrain, etc. it is safer not to have uber short stirrups. Showjumping may be a different story…?


A lot of it is height vs horse body size. I am 5’11"+ and have very long legs and I cannot ride like Jung, ever. I would guess my legs are 7" longer than his so I cannot just set my whole lower leg against the horse’s side and push down into my lower leg/ ankle/ foot area as a base of support because my leg comes down below the body of almost every horse so my ankle is free floating. What is pushed firmly into the horse for support is more in my upper calf and it is more of a sideways grip like as if you rode with no saddle- you can clearly see this in Boyd’s riding too. I believe it is more tiring to ride this way but have not done experiments!

As far as riding shorter: there is a limit to how short we tall people can make our stirrups and be able to sit when needed without losing them.

Dutton is 58 years old, two decades almost on the others. It is possible his joints do not bend quite as well anymore :wink:


Perhaps also something to do with Dutton and Martin being originally from Australia. Growing up there as a kid, I remember being told to get well out of the tack on XC. We also don’t have the US hunter/equitation system, which is such a popular foundation in the US (and which encourages more of a flat back, and butt further back in the saddle). I agree that joints get stiffer as you get older, but I also remember buying a copy of the Australian Horse Magazine around the time of the Atlanta Olympics (I think?), with a beautiful shot of Phillip Dutton going through the water on the cover. More than 25 years ago now, but he was still standing up in the stirrups with his legs straight :slight_smile: Love watching him ride, Martin and Jung as well.


I’ve always thought that Phillip’s upright position was not one to emulate–especially if you are a woman. I think upright works better if you are have a center of gravity high on your torso in your chest, but for women our center of gravity is lower. We are more secure pushing our relatively heavier (to the rest of our bodies) bum behind us.

Remember, you will almost always fall off a horse being pulled forward over its shoulder. So being able to push your center of balance back is a more secure position. When Dutton stands straight up he is pushing his center of balance back over his feet. When I stand straight up I am pushing my center of balance forward.

Also shorter stirrups are more secure not less secure over terrain and big jumps–especially if you have longer legs. It is counter intuitive. Again it allows a lot more freedom to move your center of balance where it is most helpful in a situation where it’s going to need to be in extreme positions.


@subk I am certainly not educated enough to comment about riding at this level myself, but I audited a clinic with Lucinda Green, and she said EXACTLY that. All the riders in the clinic were women, and to paraphrase her, “you know how Phillip Dutton rides? Standing in his stirrups? That works for him, but that will NOT work for you, because of our center of balance and because most women aren’t strong enough to stand up the entire ride.”


Also shorter stirrups are more secure not less secure over terrain and big jumps–especially if you have longer legs.

Only to a point. I ride shorter than you would think to jump but my inseam is 37". My waist is 46" off the ground. I cannot shorten my stirrups enough to get my whole lower leg on most horses without looking like a frog. It would be nice if I could but it’s not possible. Now I ignore most advice on tack/ stirrups/ balance at a gallop unless it also comes from a woman my height or a very tall man. Only they understand the trials we face!

Karen Healey once told me I would have needed a minimum 18hh horse to do the equitation if I had been a junior in the US. I believe her: that little hovering position with the upright body and the longer stirrup is physically impossible for me on most horses. I have to stand more upright or sit down.

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I really wish that there was more research/allowance for how rider body type (and horse body type) affect the combination’s ideal position. Eventing isn’t as bad as hunter-jumper, thank God, but I’m sure many of us started out with hunter-jumper lessons, and it was drilled into me that it was always the fact I wasn’t “strong enough” to “hold my body in the right position” when I now realize I was just shorter legged and longer torso-ed than the “ideal rider body type.” A rider can adjust strength/flexibility/softness/tension but adults cannot magically grow shorter or taller, and using the wrong saddle or stirrup length for your body on the horse, for the discipline, will just make everyone miserable.

I mentioned this in the other thread, but for awhile it seemed like there was a fad for many eventers to ride dressage at William Fox-Pitt-length stirrups without being WFP tall. Like, many people in the dressage riding with their boots barely brushing the stirrups. People seemed to be riding a bit shorter this year, and it seemed to work well.


Yes, people your build often have a problem of bracing very strongly already against a hand that is too low, because of weight distribution. Making them ride in a stiff artificial position makes that worse. Instead you should ride shorter in the stirrup, with a higher hand position between fences and focus on really keeping that lower leg out in front so you don’t tip forward. You can see Buck Davidson pushes strongly down and forward in the stirrups a stride or three out from the jumps and rides with a high hand, because of his build.

We call it the old man foxhunting position :slight_smile:

Someday I think I would like to teach lesson that only focus on the rider positions, I have a lot of interest in it and I do it for free for all my friends anyway. I think that saddle fit and one-style-fits-all holds so many people back. I see so many people who ride in saddles with flaps that are too small and they cannot be secure jumping in them, they just fight and fight a battle they can’t win.


I’m 5’10". Watch William Fox Pitt ride XC, he’s 6’5". His knees are only a few inches below the withers. Its not whether you LOOK like a frog, because he’s definately frog like, it’s how effective you are. He has incredible latitude and freedom in putting his center of balance wherever its ideal, but its because of his short stirrup length.

Also catch a clip of him sitting in his XC saddle before he sets out. His knee hangs well over the flap. Who was the guy in the 5* that rides everything in a flat track exercise saddle? Very little about how a saddle “fits” you is about flap size–its all about stirrup bar placement in relation to the center/balance point of the saddle.


That is Bobby Meyerhoff.

On the position thing - my husband is tall with long legs but a shorter torso. He rides a 16.2h TB with a narrow rib cage. Any movement of his upper body greatly affects how the horse jumps. To me, that is even further noticeable with Boyd and Thomas. I would never even think to compare the styles of Boyd on his horses (especially Thomas) to Jung on his, considering the extreme difference in their body types and center of gravity.


I think it also has to do with body size and shape. ETA just repeating what others have said.

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From people I’ve known who ride in clinics with Buck Davidson, he encourages riders to stand up in their stirrups and be vertical, especially right before the jump. It’s hard but builds a lot of core strength.

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I have a bit of a quibble with this - e.g., when clinicians tell their participants to ride a certain way without considering the demographics. As @Impractical_Horsewoman and @subk said, most women physically cannot ride in that style as our center of balance is far different than that of the clinician. Buck telling a group of riders to ride his way because that’s what he is accustomed to is likely to backfire. Unless those riders are also riding 10+ horses a day and doing core work, they’re going to fatigue by fence 4 and end up sitting on their horses’ backs the rest of the course.

(I also personally think Buck’s position is somewhat atrocious and half his horses have sore backs because of it, but hey, it works for him. :laughing:)

I have a hard time as I’m all leg and had a 16.2 hh rail board for a horse. I could never find saddles that fit my leg properly, and even putting my stirrups up to the standard “right above your ankle bone” was still too long.


I once had a very beloved teacher say that I looked like Buck Davidson riding my dressage test. God help me, she meant it as a compliment, but I nearly cried, I was so mortified.

And I mean, the man was born on a horse, he’s won on all different types of horses, so God bless. But not something I could ever nor would ever want to imitate!


I had a talk with my stadium trainer a week before K3D about position. He basically said “Look at a showjumping competition, there are lots of different positions. As long as your position doesn’t get in the way of your horse you are fine.” Watching upper level eventing I also agree that as long as you don’t get in the way of your horse (and stay in the saddle) your position is fine.


Philip has always ridden cross country in a more upright position, not that I watch that closely but years ago it was often mentioned in coverage of various events he competed in when he was much younger. And wasn’t Philip somewhat of a mentor to Boyd when Boyd moved to the US? So perhaps he copied PD’s style. Back when Lucinda was in her prime I seem to remember that she too was mentioned as having more of an upright position going cross country. Although now that I am older I am very aware of the fact that my knees can’t bend nearly as well as they did in my youth.

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:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

The only thing I hate to see is riders who don’t get off their horses back for the entire course (aside from the jumping and related distances). You should never be on your horses back galloping. It’s way too common at the lower levels and usually you see it at the UL for riders who maybe aren’t fit or strong enough. When you see a 5* rider with their legs pointed out forward and smacking on their horses back you have to wonder if they are fit for the task.

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Andrew Hoy has a similar position, maybe it’s the Australian way :sweat_smile:

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