Our first rider has an old-fashioned leg position and a good base of support, but I’m concerned that the horse is jumping with an overflexed neck, a sign he isn’t being worked properly on the flat.
The rider’s leg is reminiscent of the 1950s because her toe is turned out more than 45 degrees. I’m one of the few judges who appreciate this type of leg because it allows for a very viselike grip, but others might mark her down for it. This foot position, however, might be causing her to grip too much with her calf or she might need spurs if her horse needs a lot of leg.
The rider’s base of support is very good because her buttocks are out of the saddle just enough. She has a relaxed flat back and her eyes are looking up and ahead. She’s using a short crest release, where her hands are supporting her upper body. The reins are too short though, so she needs to lengthen them by 1 to 2 inches.
The horse has a very good front end—his knees are square and up by his chin, his forearms are parallel to the ground and below his knees is even. He’s well over this jump, but he’s a flat jumper. The overflexion we see in his neck, where his nose is behind the vertical, is not a natural position for a horse to jump. They have to extend their heads and necks as balancing agents. I’m concerned that he is worked behind the vertical on the flat with a short, tight neck that leaves his hindquarters all strung out behind him. This is incorrect basics. On the flat, the rider must use her legs to ride the horse forward from behind and allow him to stretch his neck so that his poll is the highest point and his face is on or slightly in front of the vertical.
The horse and rider are beautifully turned out. He has a good coat and is very clean. I’m not a fan of how sheepskin girths look, but it’s all right if it protects the horse.
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.