My whole life, I’ve evaluated riders by first examining the leg because as Capt. Vladimir Littauer and Paul Cronin have described, the American forward riding system is a leg-based discipline, not a seat-based one as in dressage. The first thing I would have this rider do is turn her stirrup iron so that it is at a right angle to the girth and so her little toe touches the outside branch. In the old days, we used to put our foot so our big toe touched the inside branch of the iron and the iron was not angled at all. This wedged us into the horse and was practical for fast riding, but it didn’t offer enough fluidity or elasticity. The leg has evolved and Bert de Némethy taught us to slant the iron and feel the outside branch with our little toe. I’d also shorten this rider’s stirrup a hole to help her get her heels down.
Her seat is out of the saddle just enough. I wouldn’t want it out any farther. Her posture is excellent with her eyes up and looking ahead and a very good back. She’s using a long release with her hands resting on the crest of the horse’s neck to support her body. She could graduate to a short release.
This flea-bitten gray with specks of orange throughout his coat is pleasant looking, though not the same quality as the first two horses. He’s got a dishy face and one ear is back. He’s short necked and long behind the saddle. His knees are up though they’re not even and he’s loose below them.
He’s very clean and his mane and tail are braided, which helps to dress him up. He’s not as well turned out as the first horse, which I can tell by details like the hairs sticking out of the top of his tail. It looks as if it was a very hot day in which riding coats were waived. On occasions like this, it’s appropriate to forego a coat as long as you have a choker or tie.
This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.