I like this rider, who is demonstrating an almost textbook automatic release. She could improve by shortening her stirrup and keeping her seat a little closer to the saddle.
She is showing with the hinged stirrup iron, which is a shortcut to good habit. This hinged iron is acceptable but a solid, stainless-steel stirrup is preferable. I’d like this rider to twist her iron so the outside branch leads the inside. Also, her little toe needs to touch the outside branch. These adjustments allow for a suppler lower leg. Her toes are out and her heels are flexed, but not enough. Shortening the leathers one, maybe two, holes will help her drop the weight into her heel. The rider’s seat is very good but just a little high out of the saddle. The horse’s thrust tosses your seat out of the saddle—you make no effort to do that. Her posture in impeccable and she appears to be turning to the right. There is a straight line from her elbow to her horse’s mouth, and she has maintained a connection with her horse’s mouth—a rare release to see today.
The horse has alert eyes and ears focused ahead. He has a good front end with his knees up and symmetrical. He’s not hollow, but he’s also not round. I don’t like gag bits, but when they’re used I prefer to have a snaffle rein as the primary connection. If the gag has only a bottom curb rein, when you take it, the horse’s reaction is to hollow his back. The curb rein is supposed to supplement the snaffle rein.
The horse and rider are acceptably turned out. He’s been body clipped, trimmed and well groomed. Her boots have shine to them. I don’t care for the elastic breastplate or the bling on the browband. I’d like his mane to be a little shorter and trained to lie on its side.
This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.