I like this rider a lot. Most of the angles in her position are correct, and that’s how you judge—by looking at the riders’ angles. The angles in Olympians McLain Ward and Beezie Madden positions contribute to their winning. The angle behind this rider’s knee is about 100 degrees, which is what you want to see. Her stirrups are at a right angle to the girth and her little toe is touching the outside branch. Her heel position is adequate, but she could move her stirrup iron about one-eighth of an inch toward her toe to give her more flexibility in her ankle. She is pressing on the iron rather than down in her heel. Once she adjusts the iron, she can practice sinking the weight into her heel at the walk, trot and canter.
Her seat is excellent. This is how the base of support should look—the buttocks just slightly out of the saddle. I suspect that she rides in this stirrup length on the flat, too, because she has a roached back. She should lengthen her stirrup a hole when working on the flat and then raise it again for jumping. She is demonstrating a beautiful short crest release with a light contact and good hand placement. If she dropped her hand 2 inches, she would be using an automatic release with a following hand.
The horse is very businesslike with a good expression. Evaluating his front end is difficult because it’s behind the wing, but it looks as if his knees are even and his legs are symmetrical. He’s not a round jumper but he’s not real flat either. He has a lot of thrust and push.
He’s very clean, which I like. In an indoor arena like this and with the rider dressed so well, it looks as if they are prepping for an equitation class. The horse still should be braided because even if it’s not being judged, the judge could be somewhere in the arena watching, and you always want to make a good impression.
This article was originally published in Practical Horseman's December 2016 issue.