Our first rider’s stirrup is beautifully positioned, and I like that the iron is traditional heavy-duty stainless steel with a grippy pad. Look at the beautiful shine. Using irons with copper, black and aluminum is like going to the theater in a cutoff T-shirt. I envy this rider’s flexible ankle, but her stirrup is too long, which I can tell because there is not enough angle behind her knee and she is slightly reaching for her stirrup. This has caused her to jump ahead—she is too high out of the saddle, though it’s not bad. If her stirrup were a little shorter, it would keep her base closer to the saddle.
Her eyes are looking up and ahead. She has a straight back and a hollow loin. This is an acceptable broken line to the horse’s mouth, halfway between a short and long release and very attractive. To be classically textbook perfect, she would have a straight line from her elbow to his mouth, but you very rarely see that today. Now the crest release, much to Bill Steinkraus’ horror, is almost considered the norm.
When you judge, you want to see the horse’s brain, which you do by looking at his expression. This horse has a beautiful, kind eye and attentive ears. He’s loose up front and not exactly even; his right leg is a little low. He’s not using his back. From the poll to the dock of his tail is a little flat. Most hunters today don’t show bascule because the fences at shows have all of these ground lines, which don’t teach a horse how to round his back.
This is a very showy pair. The rider and her horse are impeccably turned out. A gray horse is hard to keep clean. He is beautifully braided, the tack fits well and all of the equipment is clean. Clean is the first point of good horsemanship, and not just because of aesthetics. It’s a safety and health issue.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.