Our last rider is workmanlike and athletic with a good leg—her heels are down and her toes are out and she has good calf contact. The only change I’d make is to move the stirrup a little closer to her toe. Her seat is not bad, but she’s too far out of the saddle, especially for this fence height. You don’t make an effort to jump for the horse—you relax your hands and close your legs if necessary for impulsion. The horse does the jumping and closes your knee and hip angles. Jumping ahead has really become an epidemic these days. I watched the Badminton Horse Trials, and as Oliver Townend did the entire cross-country course, his knee and hip angle hardly changed. He galloped and the fences just came up. Beezie Madden does that: gallop, jump, gallop, jump. That’s why people like how she rides, even if they can’t articulate it.
This rider has a kinky wrist in the crest release. It also looks as if her left hand is farther up than the right. Both can interfere with the feel the rider has of the horse’s mouth on course, and they are unattractive. The hands/wrists should be aligned and the hands should be symmetrical to have the most direct contact with the horse’s mouth. Her eyes and posture are fine.
The horse has a little scope and could jump a bigger fence. His knees are up all right though he’s loose below them and he’s a little flat and stiff.
He appears better turned out than many with good grooming. I don’t care for the red saddle pad or what looks like a sheepskin pad. He’s in a standing martingale, which is acceptable on hunters. If riders move to a jumper, then they should graduate to a running martingale, which doesn’t restrict a horse’s back like a standing one can. If the horse is a jumper, she also could try a figure-eight noseband or a flash to keep him from opening his mouth and bracing against the bit.
This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.