Our first rider needs to fix some basic problems with her leg and release. Regarding her leg, she is standing on the ball of her foot, which pushes her toes down, causing her heel to go up. This makes her seat go up so she is jumping ahead. She needs to shorten her stirrup leather a half or entire hole and work in two-point on the flat at walk, trot and canter and over crossrails, driving weight into her heel. This will improve her base of support, giving her a secure position.
What also is causing her to jump ahead is that she is not releasing her horse. She is trying to follow his motion with her upper body instead of her hands, which she has incorrectly set just in front of the withers. She is hitting her horse in the mouth and unintentionally punishing him for jumping. She also could fall off if he stops. As she works over crossrails in two-point, she needs to practice moving her hands halfway up her horse’s neck in a long release and waiting with her upper body. She needs to wait for the horse’s thrust to throw her seat out of it just a little, allowing the knee angle to open and the hip angle to close. Her posture is good and her eyes are looking ahead.
This horse is quite a saint because even though the rider is restricting his mouth, his ears are pricked forward and he’s looking for the next fence. Though his knees are symmetrical, below them he’s very loose and uneven, so I don’t love his front end. He’s also jumping flat because he can’t use his head and neck.
Though the horse’s weight is all right, he could be groomed better to get some of the hair off and to give his coat more of a gleam. His mane needs to be pulled and trained to lie flat on one side. The tack looks like it could be cleaned and oiled. The saddle pad fits nicely and the rider’s clothes are clean and well-fitting, though I’d like the same attention on the horse’s turnout.
This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.