This is a strong, gutsy rider who needs more polish. The photo has a dark shadow so it’s hard to critique her lower leg, but it looks correct and she’s as tight as a tick. Her foot is at a right angle to the girth with her little toe touching the outside branch of the iron, which is leading. This helps her have a supple leg so she can get her heels down. Her toes are turned out and her calf is on her horse. I like that her stirrup leather is short because she needs the support of the iron over this imposing, solid fence.
Her seat has dropped back in the air too much at this point in the jump. This is a defensive position, which I understand when a horse is jumping this high over a fence. But a seat that is too deep encourages a roached back like this, which can also be weak. The rider is showing a long crest release, which is OK for this little horse who is making a big effort. She is making sure not to restrict him at all—he has unlimited freedom. Her hand position would be better if she lowered them 4–6 inches and followed his mouth in the air.
This horse is a very good jumper and looks like he tries his heart out. His symmetrical knees are pointing down, which isn’t great, but he’s so careful with them. Horses who try this much don’t have to have exemplary front ends.
The turnout is rough. The horse’s mane is long and the saddle pad isn’t attractive. The rider’s shirt is untucked and her hair is out.
This article originally appeared in the 2018 Winter issue of Practical Horseman.