Our first rider’s leg position is good except that it has slipped back. This activates the leg, which can send the horse unintentionally forward and irritates him. The angle behind her leg looks correct at 110 degrees, so the slipping back is probably a habit. It also could be due to this small, narrow horse. Sometimes with a horse like this, you need to ride with stirrups that are shorter than you would need on a well-sprung pony or bigger-barreled horse. So she may need to shorten the stirrups by one hole. Otherwise, the stirrup is correctly placed, crossing the ball of her foot on an angle, her heel is down and her ankle is flexed.
Her base of support is exemplary—she is neither jumping ahead nor dropping back. This is exactly how it should look. Her posture is beautiful with a flat back, and her eyes are up and looking ahead. She’s demonstrating a beautiful short release: Her hands are a couple of inches up and alongside the crest. If she dropped her hands 2–3 inches lower, it would be considered an automatic release.
This is an attractive horse who brings her knees up, though I wish they were even. Her left knee is higher than her right knee, which is not very attractive. She looks to be slightly downhill and is a little bit of what I call a splinter-bellied mare. She drops her head and neck but from the withers back, she’s flat. It’s not bad because she’s jumping high. She possibly has a trailing high end. I like the horse, but I don’t love the jump.
The horse looks very well cared for. The coat is beautiful and the mane and tail are braided. The tack looks to be rolled—to be very classical and traditional, tack should be flat. But it looks clean and well cared for. The saddle pad fits well. Years ago, elastic girths were frowned upon in the hunter divisions, but that’s a tiny thing. The rider looks beautifully turned out.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.