Great riders follow the horse, like one partner follows in dancing, and our first competitor is such a following rider. This is in part because her basics are so correct—she has a very good leg position and she is showing a beautiful short crest release.
Starting at the all-important stirrup position, about a quarter of her foot is correctly in the iron, which is at a right angle to the girth. This puts the outside branch slightly ahead of the inside, creating a supple leg.
This is how a base of support should look—she is not jumping ahead or dropping back. You might say her seat is a little high out of the saddle, but it’s over an oxer and her horse is really using his back. Her eyes are looking up and ahead. This is a beautiful example of a short crest release. To be textbook perfect, she could lower her hands about 4 inches to create a straight line from her elbow to his mouth. This takes practice because with this automatic release, you are not able to use the horse’s neck for support.
This horse does not have a great front end—his knees are pointing slightly down and he’s loose—but he’s jumping up and his legs are very symmetrical. Olympic gold medalist Touch of Class did not have a good front end but she was scopey and a trier.
The horse is well cared for—his coat looks good and he’s clean. I like a full-cheek twisted snaffle for jumping. She needs to slide the center piece of the noseband up about one-quarter of an inch; it’s just a little low on the horse’s nose, which could restrict his breathing. I don’t care for what looks like hinged irons—the ankle needs to flex, not the iron. And I don’t like the elastic breast plate—I saw a horse almost choke when the saddle slipped back after a round. I also think the horse would be more dressed up with a white saddle pad and if his hooves were polished.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Practical Horseman.