I was given a horse magazine recently and while I was reading I kept coming across a term that I wasn’t familiar with – bascule. I would read comments such as “this horse has a good bascule” and “this is not a good bascule.” Not ever having been involved in jumping I had no idea what they were talking about. So what exactly is a bascule?
Bascule is a French term for “seesaw” or “balance” and when related to a horse it is the arc that the horse creates in his body as he goes over a jump. In a good bascule, the horse stretches his neck forward and down, rounding his back, and tucking his legs tight up underneath his neck. Thus, the withers are actually the highest point on his body as he goes over a jump.
If a horse doesn’t lower and stretch out his head and neck, his back is straight, keeping him from being able to tuck his legs up and tight to clear the jump. The “round” jumping form, using the bascule, is especially important in show hunters where the horse is being judged on form, whereas a “flat” jumping form is seen more in eventing, show jumping and steeplechasing where the ability to get over an obstacle with speed is more important. Jumping flatly takes less time and is actually easier on landing with some types of cross country jumps.
Now that I understand what they’re talking about, I can look at the pictures of horses jumping with a more knowledgeable eye.