I like this girl. She’s a good rider. She has a leg position that I grew up with in the ’40s and ’50s. I appreciate it when I’m judging, but it’s a little exaggerated and outdated for today. Her toes, in what appears to be a safety stirrup, are turned out to the maximum 45 degrees. This allows for a viselike grip for riding cross country, but too much grip impacts the suppleness of a leg. Maybe this rider needed this if the horse hesitated. Riders today are riding with their toes turned out closer to 15 degrees. In Europe, they are riding with their toes almost parallel, which takes the leg off the horse. Her heel is down and her ankle is well flexed. The angle behind her knee is correct at 110 degrees. She’s very tight on her horse.
Her base of support is also excellent. She is not jumping ahead or falling behind. She has great posture and is a little hollow in the loins. Her eyes are up and looking ahead. She’s also using a short release with her hands up the neck a few inches and alongside it.
The wing is covering this plain bay’s front end, but I think both of his knees are up. He’s a big, long, probably safe jumper. He’s stepping over this low jump. He looks healthy, but he has not had the attention that our first horse has had in terms of turnout. His hair is a bit long and he isn’t trimmed as neatly. Eventers should braid a horse’s mane for show jumping. If you have a ring bit like this, or a pelham or gag bit, you should always ride with two reins. You want a top rein so you have direct contact with the snaffle ring. When you ride with a rein just on the bottom ring, you’re riding off the emergency brake only. The horse will get hollow and not break over his poll.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.