This relaxed, bold rider, who is with her horse, would be even better with a few adjustments. The stirrup iron is forward on her toe, putting her at risk of losing it. She needs to move it back about a half-inch and position it so her little toe touches the outside branch. I’m not a fan of wide (front to back) stirrups or ones that are too light. If you lose them, they fly around and are hard to retrieve; heavy stainless-steel irons are much easier to retrieve. This rider has too much grip in her knee, which takes her lower leg off her horse so it swings back. She needs to work on getting her heels down and making sure there is even distribution of contact among her thigh, inner knee and calf.
Going hand in hand with pivoting from the knee is a seat that is too far out of the saddle. She has good posture and she is looking to the left. This is an excellent demonstration of the short crest release. She’s resting her hands up the neck an inch or two and the rein is a little slack with a broken line above the mouth. To improve the release, she could drop her hands 3–6 inches to create a straight line from her elbow to the horse’s mouth.
This horse has a dramatic front end. He’s almost hitting his chest with his feet. I’m not sure if this is a gag-type bit. If so, I suggest she use a rubber rein on the snaffle ring and a leather rein on the curb ring. Using just one rein on the curb ring can cause a horse to jump high-headed and a little flat.
The lesson she gives us is beautiful turnout. The horse is groomed impeccably and is in beautiful weight. His coat blooms. He’s been braided. Her tack, saddle, breeches and boots are clean. The rubber rein is absolutely clean. This rider is a horsewoman. Horsemanship doesn’t start in the winner’s circle; it starts with the horse. Today that is not the norm—now it’s dying out, which is scary. Top caretakers are becoming extinct.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Practical Horseman.