© Sarah Balas
The stirrup-iron position that allows the leg to function its best is when it crosses the foot so the outside branch is ahead of the inside and the rider’s toe touches the outside branch. This sets the iron so it is at a right angle to the girth. This rider has the iron positioned so the outside branch is behind the inside. Her stirrup is the right length and her heels are nicely down, her ankle is flexed, her toe is out a bit and her leg is in contact with the horse’s side.
Her seat is fine. She is not jumping ahead. You could say it’s a little high out of the saddle. There’s a slight roach in her back. Her eyes are up and ahead. I particularly applaud this release. Her hands are alongside the horse’s neck, indicating that she is attempting an automatic release. She would just have to drop her hands a few inches to form a straight line from her elbow to the horse’s mouth.
This is a plain horse who doesn’t have a lot of spark. His ears are at half-mast and his eyes look dull. His front end is not very good. Ideally, the forearm should be parallel to the ground or higher than the elbow in a very dramatic jumper. You don’t want the knees to be lower than the elbow. This horse’s knees are dropped and he’s loose below them. He’s also stiff in his topline and very flat with no arc to his bascule. He trails his hind end out behind.
This first impression of this turnout is dirty. Her boots are dirty, his hind legs need to be whiter, his coat doesn’t gleam enough, his mane needs to be trained to lie flat and the saddle needs to be cleaned. All you have to do with turnout is to have everything be scrupulously clean and tidy. If you look at Olympians McLain Ward and Beezie Madden, everything is clean, neat and polished. Clean goes a long way.
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This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.