Our first rider has a very good leg position with her heel down, ankle flexed, toes out the right amount for her conformation and the stirrup leather at a right angle to the girth. My initial impression of her base of support and upper body is that she was “caught.” This is an expression that you don’t hear any more, and it’s more of a feeling than something you can see. It’s in the same category as dropping back in the air and getting left but in a different dose. Getting caught is when the horse takes off just a bit before you thought or jumped out a little more than you expected. This rider’s seat has dropped slightly and her hip angle, which controls the upper body, has opened a little. In general, the rider’s body should be parallel to the horse’s topline. There also is a little resistance against the horse’s mouth in the air. Dropped back is when you open the hip angle a bit early but you’re still with the horse. Getting left is when your seat and hand fly back in the air.
Because this rider has been caught, her crest release is too short and there’s not enough follow-through or give, though it’s subtle. She may be caught because this looks like a scopey, powerful, aggressive kind of jumper with a big thrust, and she’s regulating him in the air because she wants to control him on landing. His front end is a little iffy. He throws his front legs to the right, and his left knee is a little lower than the right. It’s not dangerous—it’s just not attractive. Overall, he’s quite a capable jumper.
Their turnout looks good. The horse’s weight is appropriate, and his coat has some shine. I’m not a fan of girths with fleece, and I think the elastic detracts from their appearance. The rider’s clothing fits well and is clean. It looks as if they’re in a jumper class, but this is a rather normal, hunter-type fence with a solid base, not designed to incur faults.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.