Our final rider has the stirrup iron properly positioned so that it is at a right angle to the girth, but she is reaching for her stirrup and her heel is up. She needs to shorten the leather by at least a hole, maybe two. This will help create more angles in her ankle and behind her knee, which is about 130 degrees and should be about 110 degrees for this size fence. A shorter stirrup will enable her knee and ankle to act more like springs and absorb the concussion that occurs at paces faster than the canter. She also should place the iron a little closer to her toe, which will help her create more angle in her ankle and develop a suppler leg. After she makes these adjustments, she needs to work over cavalletti grids and low crossrails in two-point, focusing on dropping the weight in her heel.
Reaching for the stirrups causes riders to jump ahead to catch up with their horse’s effort, which this rider is doing though not badly. Her posture is excellent. Her eyes are up and ahead, and she has a slight hollow in her loins. She is demonstrating a very good short release with her hands moving up the crest about 2 inches and a slack rein.
The horse’s knees are up but not very even—the right one is slightly lower than the left. He also isn’t very symmetrical below the knees and is jumping a little long and flat.
His gray coat is very clean. He has been deeply groomed with a stiff curry, a hard brush and then soft brush. His mane and tail are braided, which I like to see in judged hunter or equitation classes. I don’t like the sheepskin girths unless they’re needed for a specific reason because they stand out more than traditional leather, drawing the eye away from the horse. The rider is beautifully turned out.
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.