Jumping - understanding the release

Howdy jumpers, I’m popping in from dressage – I’ve just had my first jumping lesson in about a quarter of a century. My sweet gelding did a little jumping as a young lad with a previous owner, but we have not done any jumping together. He did really, really well today. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of me… :slight_smile:

My instructor said I was releasing too much over the little fences we worked on. I could not feel myself do it but i was losing steering control after the jumps so i can see the problem. She said I want to keep my hands in one position, elbows bent, and let the horse jump up to me over the jump. Could anyone recommend a link to a video showing this kind of release? I kind of understand the idea, but I think watching some videos would help me wrap my head around it more.

I’m a big fan of an automatic release, but your trainer may feel otherwise. This release is the most fluid, IMO. Hope this helps!


It sounds like your trainer is almost asking you not to release at all - I wonder if she is over-exaggerating in order for you to end up somewhere in the middle (I.e. releasing less dramatically).

Releasing as you describe doesn’t sound like an automatic release, but more like bracing against the horse and encouraging a short, tight neck over the fences (which would not be desireable - you want the horse to have the freedom to use their neck over the jump). Or did she say that you can move your hands forward, but not as forward as you were?


I think I’m supposed to keep my hands more or less where they are at in my two point position, which I am in approaching the fence.

Yes, I would say this seems to be what my trainer was encouraging me to do. Thank you!

A following hand (auto release) has a straight line from the elbow to hand to the bit, and the hands are floating away from the neck a bit, down from the crest. You don’t lose contact. The woman in the video above is pressing her knuckles into the base of the neck and not following - you see a big gaping flap of rein over the jump.


I am being taught that your knuckles/hands should be placed roughly underneath your nose on top of the horse’s neck (grab mane). I’m not jumping very high, but the two advanced riders (one jumps 4-5ft and trained under GP riders in CA) at my barn also are placing their hands roughly in the same spot.

It’s not the placement of your hands in any specific place that matters, but learning to develop the feel to softly follow the horse. Ask her to explain the progression of releases to develop a following hand.

Some equitation hunters have opinions about aesthetic placement of the release, but that’s a separate consideration from developing a soft, following, independent hand. You can have a soft following hand in any of the releases.

If you watch top eventers and show jumpers, they are almost always using automatic release, because of the size and technicality of the fences, they cannot lean on their hands and give the horse sufficient freedom and guidance.


This rider, Brianne Goutal, won all of the equitation finals as a junior, and she has been successful in both the hunters and the jumpers as a professional. Note how she stays quiet in the middle of her horse, and lets the horse jump up to her, which is pretty much what everyone should be trying to do.

Amanda Steege is another good one to watch for the same qualities.


With the automatic release, you’re keeping contact in the air, following the horse’s mouth. It’s a more advanced skill, and requires that your two-point position be solid. You may not quite be there yet, if you’re just getting back into jumping - it requires strength and timing.

The various crest releases are encouraged for riders whose position isn’t yet as strong - they’re designed to keep the rider from falling back and hitting the horse in the mouth over the jump. You may be erring on the side of too much of a release, getting your body ahead of the horse’s motion.

It may be that you should practice getting in two point, putting your knuckles on the horse’s neck, and just cantering over the jump (not making any sudden moves). You can do this on a relatively short rein, which will give you control on the other side of the fence.


It may be helpful to use a neckstrap, adjusted to fit the horse’s neck in the location your trainer wants your hands to be. Whether you grab it or not, it will give you a visual to aim for, and you will feel if it is under your hands. Plus it gives security if your 2pt position needs strength, while encouraging hands beside the crest instead of on top of it (like grabbing mane).


I’m also a dressage rider that has tried to dabbke in jumping multiple times throughout my life. I can understand how to do a half pass, flying changes or renver but understanding what exactly I’m supposed to be doing over jump is something that always really confuses me. Just saying that I can understand!! Lol

For me it seems like I want to be told step-by-step what to do and I haven’t found a trainer that can 100% do that exactly how my brain wants it. I think there’s an element of feel to jumping that’s hard to explain it or something.

I also used to get told that I was releasing too much. I will have to say as I learn I much prefer being in two point a little before the jump. Because trying to figure out what to do with my body without doing that is a train wreck.

I then found trouble feeling left behind if I wasn’t releasing enough. I eventually started grabbing mane, Even though on some horses I didn’t feel the need to really do that balance wise. It helps me get a feel for following the horse.

Anyways I still don’t call myself a jumper and this post is less advice and more moral support!! Listen to everybody else on the thread over me. Lol


I think there is almost no chance in hell that the trainer wants this beginning jumping rider to be thinking about an auto release. What it sounds like is you are in two point on approach to the jump, as is appropriate for a beginner on a trustworthy horse over small fences. You should stay there as the horse jumps, not make a second move up the neck. That’s it. When the horse has landed and stepped away from the jump, sit up out of your two point.
But as always, if you don’t understand what your trainer wants, ask them.


Agreed. Unless you’re jumping something huge, the “release” is just following the horse’s neck down as they make their (marginal) effort. It’s not about moving your hands up the neck at the last minute, assuming your reins are the correct length.


Here, look at the distance between the rider’s hands and the breastcollar. Overall it doesn’t change.


If you are a visual learner I really recommend “Form Over Fences” by Jane Marshall Dillon. This marvelous and useful book is not longer in print but it is available on Amazon Books, with their cheapest copy around $10.00 US.

Jane Marshall Dillon taught her young riders with the goal that when they were good enough after the process of grabbing the mane, then resting the hands on the sides of the horse’s neck, to becoming good enough to do a full automatic release (she does not call it the automatic release, it is keeping a LIGHT contact with the horse’s mouth over the jump.) She expected all of her advanced riders to be able to do the automatic release, and every one of her steps in learning to jump a horse had this eventual goal in mind.

This book has over 100 pages of pictures of her students jumping, from the beginning to advanced, with good examples, sort of good examples, minor errors to really awful jumping with paragraphs critiquing each picture.

Since Jane Marshall Dillon taught a rather pure Forward Seat (ala Vladimir Littauer) do not expect to find dressage methods in this book, just good jumping at the right time with the rider acting just enough to allow the horse to jump using his body without being afraid of the rider’s hands.

As far as I know this is the ONLY book to have this type of indepth discussions of the horse and rider going over a jump that also has the pictures showing the perfect, good, barely good and awful rides over jumps.

I no longer jump, but I gave a copy to my riding teacher telling her if my MS ever allowed me to jump again that this book showed exactly how I wanted to jump a horse.


Thanks! Is this the auto release?

For a dressage rider doing some jumping, it could be interesting for you to look at some German riders. In Germany, dressage and jumping go hand in hand, sometimes a jumping round looks like dressage with jumps :wink: It’s definitely a different feel, but these riders also are super light in their hand over the fences.

Here a random example of green horse class:

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Absolutely this!! Auto release?! Ignore that. Something to work up to. Same as what CBoylen said, your jumps are small enough so you can practice. No need to move.

And OP I used to do the same. It’s fixable. When I got comfortable with the auto release (much later and jumper much higher) that is all I’d use unless I had to grab mane! Now I just grab mane!


No, it’s a crest release, but without extraneous movement. They’re basically pressing their hands into the crest of the horse’s neck smoothly as the horse leaves the ground at the jump, without making a big change in their body position in the air. In other words, letting the horse jump up to them.