Event horses have a noticeably flatter jump than hunter, eq, and jumper horses do. Part of this comes from the high speeds they must maintain and jump from. However, this flat jumping style usually carries over into the stadium phase, causing horse and rider to bring down lots of rails; often many more than a show jumper would have. The lack of bascule, paired with sloppy front legs, means that event riders need to ride very precise stadium rounds, and really need to help their horses clear the jumps. In cross country, horses can knock or even step on jumps and not incur faults. Many times, they have to scramble over a jump to clear it, and they are often required to jump through tall brush. This instills in the horse a sense of sloppiness; he feels comfortable brushing the fences as he clears them, and when this carries over into the stadium phase, the rider’s chance for a good placing diminishes.
Nevertheless, event horses are incredibly brave, and many do clear XC fences with room to spare, and then go on to have stellar stadium rounds. As in every other discipline, each horse has its own unique style.
The above horse has a very nice bascule for an event horse, and his knees are impeccable. He has lots of scope and is easily clearing this imposing table. This is an ideal event horse, and his careful jump over this table lets me know that he will probably have a clean stadium round.
In contrast, this horse is making an awkward effort over this obstable. His head is up, back flat almost to the point of being inverted, and knees uneven. I suspect he got into a bad spot, and he did make an admirable effort to get his front legs up and out of the way.
The above horse’s front legs are totally split, making for an extremely dangerous jumping style. While one knee is pointing up (although the lower leg is in a precarious spot), the opposite leg is pointing down, and this gives the horse a good chance of flipping.
Now, let’s look at how these faults carry over into the stadium jumping phase.
Although this bay is easily clearing the fence, his knees are pointing down, and his left knee is a touch higher than his right. These faults will cost him rails if he doesn’t compensate by jumping higher than he needs to, as he is here.
This horse shows typical stadium form. His knees are up, where they should be, but instead of snapping his lower legs into his chest, he lets them dangle. To be honest, he’s a fairly correct jumper, but you can see how close his hooves are to the pole, and how one slip will cost him the rail. Many event horses jump like this; they get to the fence, stand off a bit, and hike up their knees without truly folding their legs.