Our first rider has subtle faults I see in most eventers that stem from schools in the Netherlands, Germany and England, where trainers emphasized knee grip because they thought it offered security, but the result is quite the contrary. When a rider grips with the knee, it acts as a pivot and the lower leg slips back and inadvertently acts as an active leg. The French school had it right by focusing on contact in the calf. This rider needs to relax her knees, put contact in her calf and drive her heels down to stabilize her leg.
Usually when the knee is pinched and the leg swings back, the rider jumps ahead, but this rider is not doing that. She has an exemplary base of support. Her seat is just out of the saddle the right amount. She has beautiful posture with a flat back and a slight concavity in her loins. Her head is up and she’s looking to the right, probably to her next jump. However, her release is too short and she is restricting the horse in the air. He’s reluctant to stretch his head and neck forward and down over the fence. She needs to move her hands up the crest an inch or two, which would provide enough give to the horse but control for the rider.
This horse has a nice expression, but his front end is a little suspect. His knees are up but he’s loose below them. Over this solid, sloping fence, which invites even a bad jumper to jump well, he should be jumping better, so I am suspicious that over a split-rail fence he might hang his front legs. But over this size fence, he’s pleasant. He’s not round in his bascule, but he’s not flat.
The horse is well-cared for—his weight looks good and his coat is all right, though it is not gleaming. The rider’s boots are polished and the breeches are clean. I’m not a fan of the red shirt, but it’s acceptable. I wouldn’t say this pair is in top show condition, but they are quite well presented.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.