This photo is instructive because it shows you don’t have to jump—the rider is going over a rail on the ground. Just as for any other sport, you first must practice at a basic level. If you’re lifting weights, you start at 5 pounds and then move up. I’m not thrilled if they’re at a show where I don’t think there should be ground-pole classes.
This is an athletic child with confidence. The stirrup iron needs to be angled so that the outside branch is ahead of the inside and the little toe touches the outside branch, which U.S. Show-Jumping Coach Bert de Némethy taught me. This is not only aesthetically better, but it provides security while allowing a flexing of the ankle, which improves suppleness of the leg. Her heels are down and her toes are out and she has contact in her calf.
Her seat is excellent, just out of the saddle enough. Her posture is good and her eyes are up looking to where she is going. Her hand position is in a short crest release with a soft rein, though it should be slack, not with a loop. When jumping, she probably needs to use a long release, reaching halfway up the neck and grabbing mane. Novice riders or riders on green horses should use the long release. I’m very proud that I’ve taught the long release, which is the first stage of a rider’s education.
This horse is a little big for the rider, but he is wonderful. Horses like this are worth as much as a grand prix horse. If it weren’t for the school horses at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club, I wouldn’t be where I am. I can’t critique his jumping form because he’s just taking a big canter stride over the rail.
He looks clean and well cared for. The turnout is not at the A-game. The saddle pad is big and you can see too much of the elastic part of the girth.
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.