Seeing where this rider’s foot is in the iron is hard because the iron is black. But her heel is down and her toe is out. Her leg has slipped back over this little fence, and the knee is acting as a pivot so that when the lower leg goes back, the thigh and upper body go forward in what is known as jumping ahead. It’s a problem because if the horse stops, the rider can easily fall off. It also throws the horse on his forehand. One reason riders jump ahead is because they ride from their seat and upper body and not from their legs. This rider also looks a little tense and reluctant to let go of the horse’s mouth, so she also may be jumping ahead to compensate for not letting go of his mouth. She is doing the work of her hands and legs with her upper body.
To fix this, at home she should practice over crossrails. As she approaches the fence, she needs to get in the jumping position, relax her arms and hands forward into a long release, where she grabs a pinch of mane, and close her leg if necessary. Then she just needs to wait for her horse to jump the fence. The horse’s nature or the rider’s legs create impulsion. Over a fence, impulsion is what throws the rider slightly out of the saddle and forward.
This horse has a great expression. I love his eyes and ears. Expression is important because it tells you about what’s inside a horse. This horse is a very long, scopey jumper, but I don’t care for the left knee lower than the right one. I’m suspicious that if he were ridden to a short distance to a vertical, his style could be a problem.
He looks well cared for, he’s in good weight and the tack looks clean and fits well. I would prefer a white saddle pad, but overall, the rider’s turnout is neat, tidy and workmanlike.
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.