Writing about two-point was supposed to be easy. After all, two-point is the mainstay position for the hunter-jumper world.
I planned to start out with the definition of two-point used by the leading authorities. That seemed simple enough. Start with the definition and build from there. Right?
I looked through more than a dozen books written by the biggies in the industry, and I was so disappointed in their definitions that I’m only going to share one. Or two.
In The American Jumping Style, George Morris explains two-point on page 29. “The term “two-point contact” is used to denote a “half seat” or a “light seat.” The rider’s seat is suspended off the horse’s back while the seat bones and buttocks are very close to the saddle and can come into contact at a moment’s notice; the only real contact between horse and rider exists in the rider’s two legs.”
Frustrated by the non-information my research revealed, I turned to, Training Hunter’s Jumpers and Hacks by Harry Chamberlin. I didn’t want to resort to a book written in 1936 to explain what we should do in 2018, but I wanted clarity. After all, if instructors and trainers don’t know what something is, how can they effectively teach it? You can’t give good instruction if you live by the statement, “I’ll know it when I see it.”
As I read Harry Chamberlin’s definition, I realized how diluted the information passed from instructor to student, or instructor to instructor, has become over the years. We pass along a picture of what a rider should do without the depth of understanding to do more than parrot what we’ve seen. And with each pass the information becomes weaker.
I’m not going to include Harry Chamberlin’s description here because it encompasses the entire philosophy of the forward seat over five pages. Yup, I said it. All of you who teach jumping, whether you want to admit it or not, are teaching elements of the forward seat.
If you want to read Harry Chamberlin’s complete definition get a copy of Training Hunters, Jumpers, and Hacks, or of his earlier work , Riding and Schooling Horses. Both are terrific resources for riding instructors. A simple internet search should produce a copy.
The name two-point stems from the points of contact with the horse. With George Morris the two-points are the legs, one on each side of the horse. Other names are used interchangeably with two-point. Light seat is a form of two-point where there is slightly more contact with the saddle at the crotch. Jumping position is another name that is used to refer to two -point, although over fences the rider joints are more compressed.
Galloping position is the ultimate two-point where the rider truly is in contact with the horse only at the legs. The purpose of keeping the seat totally our of the saddle in galloping position is to reduce the resistance against the horse’s back, which can be important for endurance and for not disturbing the rhythm over longer cross country courses. This was particularly important before eventing went to the short format with tighter courses.
Interfere as Little as Possible
The point of two-point is for the rider to be in balance with the horse and to interfere with him as little as possible, which brings us around the corner to another topic: interfering as little as possible.
Whether you ride over fences, dressage, saddle seat or western learning not to interfere with the horse comes well before being able to positively influence anything the horse does. A rider has to get control over their own body on a moving animal.
Next the rider learns to move one part of their body and not the other, so they can sit still while applying aids, or so they can apply one aid at a time. Clashing aids are miserable and confusing for the horse. In beginners this level looks like using the heels without having the hands fly into the air. With a more advanced rider it maybe relaxing in the hip to release the horse while applying a leg aid for canter. It takes training, diligence, physical condition, practice, and knowledge at all levels of riding.
Two-point as a Training Tool
I use a lot of two-point when I teach hunter-jumper riders. In fact, I encourage laps at trot and canter around pastures, or minutes in the arena. A rider should be able to do in two-point most of the things they would do in full seat, including riding school figures and lateral movements. Beginners can do exercises in two point, and games can be played in two-point.
But here’s the kicker.
Two-point should be taught minus the current trend of supporting the upper body on the hands in the variety of crest releases.
If you truly want to develop riders who have independent seat and independent aids with good balance, ones who don’t interfere with the horse, teach them to ride two-point, galloping position, jumping position, and light seat without resting their hands on the horse’s neck. In fact, whenever you have the opportunity, take the reins way and have them use their arms in a variety of ways.
Because you can always teach them your favorite crest releases during jumping lessons. Doing flat work minus hands on neck will strengthen your rider’s core, it will strengthen their legs and it will develop true balance, not altered hand dependent balance. They will end up with a deeper full seat and will gain independence faster.
Let’s look at another of George Morris’s definitions of two-point, this one from Hunter Seat Equitation pg 106. “… The rider standing in his stirrups and a little out of the saddle, the contact with the horse being only between his two legs and not with the seat at all.”
I’ll let you debate the part about contact with the seat because I think that’s a conditional situation. Two-point contact gets it’s name from the two-points of the rider that touch the horse, one leg on each side, if you add two hands pressing into the horse’s neck, not only does your student have an entirely different balance with a different center of gravity, she is now riding four-point contact with two legs and two hands.
Teaching two-point minus hands on the neck will give you another tool to help your riders advance. After all, how can a rider be independent if they are dependent on their hands? As I mentioned earlier, if you choose to teach crest release, it can be added in after the rider is stable and independent on the flat. In the long run this will give your riders the foundation to move onto to the automatic, or following hand, sooner using their new, deeper skill.
How do you teach two-point? Do you use it for more than jumping?
Here’s to great riding lessons! Thanks for joining me.