I quickly judge riders by looking at the angles of the ankle, knee, hip and elbow. This rider’s ankle angle is closed because her heel is well down, though I’d like her foot further in the iron for safety and have the iron cross the foot on more of an angle for more suppleness. Her stirrup is too long, indicated by the 140-degree angle behind her knee. This is more of a length for slow work, where you need the security of a deeper seat and longer leg. You must have a shorter stirrup length for the fast work of galloping, cross country and foxhunting. She needs to shorten her stirrup about two holes for jumping so the angle is between 100 and 110 degrees. This will allow the horse’s thrust to effectively open the knee angle as he jumps and close it again as he lands.
This rider is standing up in the air and jumping ahead, which is a bad habit. Riders who do this are often trying to create impulsion with their seat, not with their legs. Before the jump, she needs to sink into three-point and allow the horse’s jump to throw her out of the saddle. She’s showing a very good crest release, between a short and long, though the reins are loose so she needs to shorten them an inch or two.
Though this horse has sleepy, lackadaisical eyes and ears, he has a pleasant expression. He jumps very well with his knees up near his chin and a very symmetrical front end. He uses his back well and is quite round. He’s in a hackamore, which have their place, but usually they don’t allow enough control and you can’t turn a horse very well with one.
The whole turnout of horse and rider is rough and sloppy. The horse could be groomed better, and the dark saddle pad and sheepskin girth don’t flatter him. The rider’s hair needs to be tucked up into the helmet and her boots need to be cleaned and polished.
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.