Our first rider has a very, very good position, and it starts with her leg, which is a rider’s foundation and gives her security. This rider’s correct stirrup length is reflected by the angle behind her knee, which is 100 to 110 degrees. The position of her foot is a little old-fashioned with her instep against the inside branch of the iron and her toes out about 45 degrees, the maximum a rider wants. That foot position is not wrong, but a leg is more supple and flexible if the little toe touches the iron’s outside branch. Her ankle is down and the contact is distributed among her thigh, knee bone and calf.
This is how a rider’s base of support should look— she’s not too far out of or behind the saddle. Her posture is textbook—from the back of her neck through her spine is flat with no sign of a roached back or swayback. She’s using a short crest release, but she’s so talented, she could lower her hands 3 to 6 inches to form a straight line from her elbow to her horse’s mouth. The automatic release, or following hand, would allow her to maintain a soft contact with her horse’s mouth.
This looks like a wonderful, generous horse with expressive ears and eyes. His forearms are up, though he’s a little loose below the knees, which is not dangerous but not as attractive as perfectly symmetrical legs. He’s a rather flat jumper from his poll to the dock of his tail. It may be the size of the jump or it could be his style.
The horse is very clean and well groomed—see how his coat has a deep glow. He looks to be in a lower-level jumper class, so he doesn’t need to be braided. The rider is using a partial rubber rein, which is appropriate for jumpers because it aids the grip. I love the figure-eight noseband because it works to keep the horse’s mouth shut, but it crosses so high that there is no chance of it affecting his breathing.
This article was originally published in the August 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.