This is a secure, accomplished young rider. Her leg is just right—firmly yet lightly in place at the girth, with her heel down, ankle flexed, toe out and even distribution of contact throughout her whole leg. Her base of support—her seat and thigh—is exemplary. Rather than jumping for her horse, she has allowed her horse’s thrust to open her knee angle and fold her hips so her seat is out of the saddle, yet she remains in perfect balance with her mount. Her posture and eyes are just right.
Her hand position should be studied carefully by all of our readers: It is close to ideal. Her hand is following her horse’s head with an almost-straight line from bit to elbow. There is a soft contact with her horse that ensures precise yet subtle communication between them. She does not need to lean on her horse’s neck to support her upper body. Instead, her hand is independent of her seat and leg. In my day (the 1950s) this was the hand position you had to have to win the Medal or Maclay, otherwise you were judged as “grabbing mane,” even if you were not.
This is a very cute horse with a textbook front end: knees up and even and very tight below them. She is so good in front that she doesn’t have to use her body very much, so she is jumping in a flat line with her “splinter belly” as the lowest point of her arc. I am sure she could put forth more of an effort and show us a real bascule. To sharpen her up, I would trot lots of little gymnastics and get her deep to the base of larger ones, such as deep oxers, to encourage her to use herself more.
This mare looks well cared for, is carrying good weight and looks clean. Her rider is dressed casually for schooling.
The article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Practical Horseman.