I very much like our first rider. She is doing a remarkable job staying tight on this heavy horse who has a big thrust and is twisting. To be critical, her leg has slipped back to the rear a little but that’s because the horse is cracking his back so much. The stirrup length is correct, which I can tell because the angle behind her knee is about 95 degrees. This helps the stirrup irons act as springs.
Others should study this rider’s base of support. Her buttocks are close to the saddle but out of it. She’s not jumping ahead, which riders do when they’re trying to compensate for not using their legs to encourage the horse forward. Her posture is fine. She has a slight roach, but again, it’s acceptable for a small person on a big horse who is really pushing off the ground. She’s following his mouth beautifully. It’s not a textbook automatic release, but she has a soft, slack rein and is really giving him his head.
This is not my type of horse. He’s big-headed with a short bull neck and looks strong. Even when I foxhunt, I like a lighter horse. But he’s a good jumper and appears to be a good-hearted soul. They are foxhunting, but he might make a good show-ring jumper. His knees are up, and this is a picture of bascule. From the tip of his nose to the tip of his hind foot, he’s really arching over this jump. It’s a hogsback fence in which the front and back elements are lower than the middle element. This is the easiest type of fence, but you don’t see them any more, and they are not allowed at competitions. Capt. Vladimir Littauer and other cavalry people used to school over it because it encourages the horse’s bascule.
The horse is well groomed and braided. And the rider’s turnout—gray breeches with brown-top boots and a sandwich case—is appropriate for foxhunting.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.