This rider demonstrates a strong, supple leg, with his heel down, ankle flexed, toe out in accordance with his conformation and his calf on the horse. His leg position can be partially attributed to riding with the correct length of stirrup for this good-sized oxer. Having a solid foundation under his foot–and an equally solid and reliable traditional, heavy stirrup iron–allows him to follow his horse naturally, without resorting to throwing his body or standing on his toes. As a result, his base of support–his seat and thigh–are just right, neither ahead of nor behind his horse’s motion. This rider’s posture is impeccable, with a flat but not stiff back, relaxed shoulder, and head and eyes looking for the next fence.
His short release, too, is very good–the weight of his upper body is resting on the crest of his horse’s neck while he holds the reins with a soft, light hand. He looks like a relaxed, confident and skilled rider–one that I’d enjoy teaching.
This horse appeals to me with his breedy head, alert expression and overall impression of honesty, carefulness and agility. His front end is fabulous, and while he is ever so slightly lower with his belly than his legs, which could indicate a lack of scope over truly big fences, he is a lovely Junior or Amateur Jumper.
Both the rider and his mount look neat and trim, conservatively turned out with plenty of spit and polish. I personally don’t like the stretchy elastic breastplate he’s using because I saw a horse in Florida almost choked by one, but that is a personal preference.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.