This rider has a very good leg position, though I would put her foot on the outside of the iron. Again, this position reminds me of how we used to ride with a more viselike grip. The stirrup length looks correct.
Her buttocks are too far out of the saddle, which is indicative that she is jumping for her horse instead of closing her leg to the jump. Approaching a fence, she needs to close her leg, relax her hand and let the horse do the work. Her back is naturally slightly hollow just above the belt, and her eyes are up. Her long crest release is a little mannered with her wrists bent and her hands floating above the horse’s neck, but it’s better than hitting the horse in the mouth. The point of a crest release is that the rider puts the weight of her upper body in her hands so the horse’s neck serves as a platform to support it. Once you have the security and timing, a rider can graduate to a short crest release and then an automatic release, where you wean yourself off of the horse’s neck.
This is a beautiful horse with a wonderful expression in his eyes and ears. His knees are up by his eyeballs. He’s just stepping over this fence, and his back is hollow, which can happen when a fence has excessive ground lines like this. Some steppers are dulled by too much longeing or jumping. The most important part of training is keeping a horse’s interest.
He is beautifully turned out. He weight is good, he is bathed, his coat shines, he is braided and his saddle pad fits. The rider is appropriately dressed—everything fitting well and clean. The only thing I would change is that the saddle looks a little new. She needs to leave it out in the rain, clean it with saddle soap and oil it so it loses its orange look and shine. But overall, their turnout gets an A grade.
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.