This rider also has a good leg. The stirrup iron is on the ball of the foot, but it is not at a right angle to the girth, similar to the first rider’s. Her heels are down, ankles flexed and toes out. I suspect she has too much grip in her knees, but her stirrups are the right length. Her seat is out of the saddle just the right amount and her eyes are up and ahead.
Her upper body is dropping back—that angle in her hips is starting to open up way before the horse is coming down. She also is not releasing him. The hands are behind the martingale yoke and pressed into the wither, a very bad habit. As the pony takes the jump, she is going against him. She may be overmounted or the fence is too big for her so she’s riding defensively. I want her knee to relax, her upper body to stay farther forward and her hands to move in front of the martingale yoke at least 2 inches. The horse is underbitted with a white rubber snaffle bit. If you have a little person like this, you make better hands by overbitting not by underbitting, which teaches riders to pull. If you have a pelham or twisted snaffle, then they can be light with their hands.
This pony doesn’t have a very good front end—his legs are very different. I’m suspicious that he hangs a little because of that lower right front leg. If I had this pony, I would put him in a twisted snaffle or a pelham and trot fences, being sure to release him to try to get him using himself a little better.
His care is good. He is at the proper weight and well groomed. In a judged equitation or hunter class, the mane should be braided. The yellow saddle pad and elastic girth aren’t classic turnout. To a traditionalist, the black stirrup irons are ugly. I prefer the heavy-duty stainless steel. Plus they’re light; if you lose them, they’re hard to retrieve.
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Practical Horseman.