This rider has a good position except for her leg, which has slipped back because she is gripping with her knee. As a consequence, her heel has come up, which jeopardizes her security because she could fall off. It also acts as an active leg—her heel and spur go up against the horse’s flank, sending him forward when she doesn’t want to. Riders need to have control of their legs and their entire bodies. How can you have control of your horse if you don’t have control of your body?
The stirrup iron is placed correctly on her foot, so now she needs to move her leg, making the stirrup leather perpendicular to the ground, and put her heel down. Then she has to work on relaxing her knee and having more contact in her calf, which is critical for security and also for engaging the horse’s hind end—it also makes a horse straight, bends him and produces impulsion. Her base of support is very good, and she is using an exemplary short release.
The horse has a lovely expression but not a good front end because his knees are pointing down and he’s loose below them. If he got deep, he might hang them. I’m also suspicious that he throws his hind legs to the right. He is very flat from his poll to his tail.
The horse is well groomed and it is old-fashioned, good horsemanship to put a red ribbon in his tail if he is a kicker or bucker. The saddle looks shiny and slippery, which may be contributing to the rider’s leg issue, so she needs to oil it. She also needs to tuck all of her hair under the helmet. Traditionally, hair has been tucked up to avoid catching in a tree branch when riding out in the woods. And if they say to me that they don’t ride in the woods, I say they should. I won’t cave in to these fashions. They’re traditionally not correct for safety.
This column was originally published in Practical Horseman's December 2016 issue.