This horse and rider are beautifully turned out, and the rider’s leg and seat are very correct, but she is not releasing him—a serious fault.
Though I’m not a fan of hinged stirrups like this rider’s appear to be—the ankle is supposed to flex, not the iron—the stirrup is beautifully positioned at a right angle to the girth, her little toe is touching the outside branch, her heel is down, her toes are out and her ankle is flexed. With the proper stirrup length, her calf is in contact with her horse’s sides. She could consider working with a dummy spur, which dresses up a leg. When you work a horse with an actual spur, it reinforces the leg.
With the proper stirrup length, the base of support is much more likely to be correct. This rider’s seat is exemplary. Her posture is, too, and her eyes are up and looking ahead. Unfortunately, she is setting her hands right down on the withers. In a short release, the rider gives the hands up the neck an inch or two. In an automatic release, she drops her hands about 6 inches alongside the martingale yoke. This horse looks very alert, so maybe if she releases him, he’ll take off. But because she can’t give with her hand, he can’t use his head and neck, so he can’t round his back. As a consequence, he’s jumping very flat. If he is quick, she needs to check that she is using a sufficient bit with him. Then she needs to trot fences and stop him after so that he is not taking over. If she could give with her hands, he would start to use himself better.
This horse is a flat jumper, but his knees are up, though he could be tighter below them. Their turnout is simple and beautiful, allowing the horse’s natural beauty to take center stage. The horse is beautifully groomed. The sheepskin pad fits like a glove. The tack looks clean and fits well. This rider is attempting the old-school style of turnout, which I appreciate.
This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.