This rider is an athlete, controlling his tall body correctly on this small horse. He’s done the right thing by shortening his leathers, which has helped him maintain a beautiful leg with his heel down, his toes out and the iron positioned at a right angle to the girth. A quarter of his toe is in the iron and his little toe is touching the outside branch. There is even contact from below his knee to the heel. When you relax the knee and envelop the horse with your calf, you have more security and grip and a better aid.
Even with a short stirrup, he’s maintained a correct base of support—he waited for the horse’s thrust to push his seat out of the saddle. I wouldn’t accuse him of a roached back, but tall people often round their shoulders. Bill Steinkraus used to practice touching the back of his neck to the back of his shirt on and off the horse. This is a very short release, which gives infinitely more control than a long release. He’s maintained a lot of contact but he’s not against the horse’s mouth.
This is a very cute horse. His front knees are way up by his chin, though the left is a little looser. But he looks careful and he’s a foot over the jump. He’s a flat, hollow-backed jumper—from his poll to tail is very straight. I’d like the rider to invite this horse to be rounder, to drop his head and neck more so his back can come up. Trotting to the base of a small fence, the rider could try shortening his reins a little but giving with his hand more in the air—not throw the horse away but follow his mouth more with a lighter hand.
This horse is beautifully cared for with a good coat. He’s in a hunter clip, where his legs aren’t clipped, though the coronary band is trimmed to protect from water and mud. It’s very practical for horses in the winter, though it’s not so attractive for the show ring. I like their conservative turnout.
This article appeared in the August 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.