This rider has a very educated leg. Her foot is correctly in the stirrup with her little toe touching the outside branch, which is leading the inside branch. Her toes are out and her calf is on the pony. I’d like to see her wearing a spur, even if it were just a small one, so she learns to use it and will have it if she ever needs it. I don’t ever ride a horse without a spur. I also think a well-polished spur dresses up a leg.
Her seat is too high out of the saddle and she is ducking a little—throwing herself at the pony’s neck—instead of letting the pony jump up to her. She also has a roached back. Both of these faults often happen with pony riders. Leaning up the neck not only is unsightly but it throws a horse off balance. Unless someone is a professional, I’d rather have her stay behind her horse a little rather than throw herself at him.
This rider is demonstrating an excellent long release with the weight of her upper body on the pony’s neck, but she is too advanced to use this release on a regular basis. This release is acceptable for a hunter class nowadays, but when critiquing a photo of an intermediate rider, I’d rather see a short release where the hands are 2 inches up the neck instead of 8.
The pony looks like he is part Arab with his dishy face; long, flat croup; and slightly stuck-out and stiff-looking tail. He’s very attractive and a good jumper with knees perfectly symmetrical and parallel to the ground. Though he’s not the roundest jumper—typical of Arabs—he’s really jumping up over the fence.
Both this rider and the pony are well turned out. The pony is very clean, in good weight and nicely braided. The saddle pad fits well. The rider is dressed conservatively in well-fitting clothes. Everything is neat, tidy and clean.
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.