Throughout my years of riding, I would sometimes hear comments from trainers telling me that “you rode that line like a German” or “you sit like a German”. When you’re familiar with the equestrian world in the US, you notice comments like this are dropped here and there. But what do they mean? What does it mean to “ride like a German”?
When we think of American Hunter Jumper riders, we think of perfect equitation riders with their flawless light seat, practically gliding over jumps and making it look easy. Americans tend to get off their horse’s back and ride them quite forward. Horses therefore can stretch out their necks and carry themselves and their rider towards the jump. This style works well, as we tend to ride lighter horses, like Thoroughbreds, in the US. Additionally, equitation is a prominant discipline in the States. Young riders are actively trained to have a good, solid position.
German riders tend to sit very tall and deep and have very square shoulders throughout their ride. The horses tend to be a little heavier and rely solely on power to clear the jumps. The riding style is based on control and rideability and the horse is ridden in a much shorter, more upright frame. Commonly, a driving seat is used to ride the horse to the base of the jump. Also, beginners are started with dressage. This gives them a solid foundation and technique, which they can later utilize on course, as Germans are very technical riders.
Overall, these are the prime differences between the two riding styles. However, German breeding is slowly changing towards more agile and lighter horses that require less support. In America, we are seeing more and more people importing their young horses from Germany and selling them on the US market after they have gained some show miles. It almost seems like we are slowly approaching common ground when it comes to the type of showjumpers we want. Both parties are slowly starting to adjust their styles to what works best for the horses and our prefered discipline.