Our first rider has dropped the weight way into her heels, but her toes are turned out too far. This position was acceptable and popular in the 1950s and ’60s, and it provides great security for galloping and jumping because it causes the leg to work like a vise. Today, however, we like to see a softer, more supple leg, where the toe isn’t turned out so far. This rider’s base of support is very good. She’s not jumping ahead of the saddle or falling back in the air. Her posture is beautiful and her back is flat with a slight hollow in the loin area—it is not a swayback or a roached back. Her eyes are up and ahead.
She’s riding with an automatic release—there is a straight line from her elbows to the horse’s mouth. With this release, the horse is still able to use his head and neck, but the rider’s hands don’t yield so much that they lose the connection to the horse’s mouth, allowing for more finesse and control.
This horse is attractive, but he’s a relatively flat, loose, long jumper. His knees are up, but they’re not quite even and he spreads his front legs a little. He doesn’t hang them, which would be a safety issue. For this size fence, he doesn’t have a bad technique, but he doesn’t have a top technique, either; he’s somewhat in the middle of the pack.
His rider has made an effort to turn him out nicely. He’s clean, well groomed and braided, though I recommend she paint his feet before going into the ring. I don’t love the tack. The saddle pad is ill-fitting, and the girth is a different color than the saddle, which is distracting.
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Practical Horseman.