Over the years, the only other person I’ve known to be as obsessed about stirrup-iron position as I is Helen Crabtree, the doyenne of saddle-seat equitation about 40 years ago. She said, “George, it starts with the stirrup iron.” It’s such a trivial-appearing thing, but in my own experience, it’s critical because it is the foundation of position and balance.
With that in mind, I want this very nice rider to twist her iron so that the outside branch is a little ahead of the inside. This puts the iron perpendicular to the girth, which allows for a suppler leg. Otherwise, her leg is excellent: Her toes are turned out, her heels are down, her ankles are flexed and there is even distribution of contact between her thigh, inner knee bone and calf.
This is how a rider’s base of support must look: The thrust of the horse’s jumping effort has tossed her seat out of the saddle. Her posture is excellent and she’s using her eyes well in the left turn. This is a good example of a long crest release. It’s like placing a hand on a table—it supports you while giving the horse freedom. However, if the hands are thrown more than halfway up the neck as you often see in the hunter ring today, that is unnecessarily maligning the crest release.
This is a lovely horse whom I’d love to jump. With a beautiful head and expression in his eyes and ears, he has an impeccable front end and his rider is letting him drop his head and neck. He is not the roundest over the low fence but his hind end is following through nicely.
He is also beautifully turned out. His coat shines, he’s a good weight and he’s braided. The rider has correctly put a red ribbon in his tail, indicating that he kicks. I’d prefer a white saddle pad because I think it dresses up a horse. I’d also like the rider to wear the more traditional navy or hunter-green coat. The overall picture is a bit gray and musty for my taste.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Practical Horseman.