This rider is very secure in the saddle. Her leg is reminiscent of the leg I grew up with in the 1950s where the foot was on the inside of the iron, the heel was well down and the toe was turned out 45 degrees. It provides a viselike grip for cross-country jumping, but it’s not supple enough for today’s competitive riding. Now we put the foot on the outside of the iron closer to the toe. To modernize this rider’s leg, she needs to work without stirrups so her toes don’t turn out so much.
This rider is ducking, throwing her chest down a little on the horse’s neck, which pushes her buttocks up too high. She’s using a textbook long crest release and maybe she’s grabbing a piece of mane, which is appropriate because the horse looks green. He’s jumping very high, but he’s not tight with his hind end. The virtue of this release is that it ensures the horse has his head. The reins are loose, and the rider is held in jumping position by pressing on the horse’s neck. It prevents the rider from falling back and hitting the horse in the mouth. There are lots of critics of this release who don’t remember their early days of riding or who don’t ride green horses or who haven’t taught a lot of beginners.
The horse is attractive, but his knees are pointing down and his legs are loose below them. This is his style, but it could be improved by rolling out a ground line from a fence 6 to 8 inches and galloping to it in a half-seat. Before the fence, you would throw away his head to let him figure out how to get over the jump. If the horse has a stiff topline, this could help him relax and his legs might get better.
The turnout is not up to my standard. His mane is sticking up, his coat doesn’t shine and he has a square blue pad. She should be wearing a belt.
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.