The standard is covering some of this rider’s leg, but it looks pretty good. Her heel is down, her ankle is flexed, her toes are out a shade and her calf is in contact with her horse’s side. This looks like a new, slippery saddle that is making her leg slide back a little more than it should.
She is neither jumping ahead nor dropping back. Her upper body is more parallel to her horse’s neck than the first two riders’. Her eyes are up and she is looking to the left. The problem is her hands. She’s quite rigid in her arms and hands—you can see veins in her right arm—and she’s also rotating her hands in the air. They are coming up to lift the horse over the fence. You can see that the bit is against the horse’s mouth and that there are too many wrinkles at the corners. The problem with this is that the horse can’t drop his head and neck to create a round bascule. His topline is flat from his poll to the dock of his tail in good part due to the rider’s hands.
The flashy, attractive horse has a beautiful front end. His knees are up and perfectly symmetrical. He’s also quite tidy below the knees though not super tight. He’s what we used to call “splinter-bellied,” where his belly is almost closer to the poles than his legs. This could be the way he jumps but also could be the result of the rider’s restrictive hands. To improve this, she needs to trot him to the base of the fence and release him so he has the freedom to stretch his head and neck forward and down.
Though the horse is a great color and appears in correct weight with a good coat, the turnout of this pair is casual. My biggest complaint is that the tack all looks new. She needs to oil it so it is a deeper brown and not as slippery. Also, the saddle looks a little bulkier than I prefer.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.