This rider has an excellent leg, an impeccable seat and she is using a correct short release. More importantly, from her and her horse’s stellar turnout, I can tell she’s a true horsewoman.
While I can’t see her foot completely, I can see that her heel is down and her toe is turned out. She needs to make sure the outside branch of the iron is ahead of the inside and that her little toe is touching the outside branch to ensure the most flexibility. The angle behind the knee is about 120 degrees and it should be closer to 110 degrees, so she could shorten the leather a hole. This will help her maintain a secure leg with this narrow-sided jumper.
Her base of support is correct and she’s demonstrating an ideal short release—hands a few inches up the neck, pressing into it. If she lowered her hands 3 to 5 inches so there was a straight line from her elbow to the horse’s mouth, she would be demonstrating a classic automatic release. This rider could practice this release over cavalletti and crossrails. As she approaches the obstacle, she should soften her hand and follow his mouth.
This horse has a lovely expression through his ears and eyes. He’s a lofty jumper and his knees are symmetrical and even, but his left leg below his knee is loose and hanging, though he’s not what I’d call a hanger. I’d like to see him tighter in the front end to be comfortable with him jumping solid verticals. But very often great jumpers are not tight in front, so they compensate by jumping higher, which this horse is doing.
He is beautifully cared for. Someone has scrubbed the hair off of him—he’s got a great coat. His tail has been pulled and banged and his mane is lying flat on one side. The tack and the saddle pad are scrupulously clean and the rider’s attire is subdued.
This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.