This is a very tight, secure rider with a beautiful release. Her heel is down and her ankle is flexed. Her toes are turned out, close to the acceptable maximum 45 degrees. This allows for a viselike grip in the calf, but more recently we’ve modified the leg for more suppleness. Also, her stirrup iron is more in the middle of the ball of her foot, instead of the more typical one-third of her toe in the iron, though this is acceptable on cross country.
She is dropping back with her buttocks a little close to the saddle. Her seat should be slightly more out of the saddle so that she can maintain her balance throughout the arc of the horse’s jump. Her posture is beautiful, and we can see a slight hollow in her loin, which makes it firm and strong. She has a straight line from her horse’s mouth to her elbow, adhering to the term my trainer Gordon Wright phrased so brilliantly—the automatic release. The philosophy behind this release is “what the horse takes with his head and neck, you give”—not more (the throwaway release seen in the hunter ring these days) and not less (planting the hands in the withers). This following arm gives the horse the freedom to use his topline, but the dropped-back seat mars this freedom by slightly interfering with his back.
This is a nice jumper, with a beautiful eye and ear, who looks scopey. His front end is satisfactory, though his right knee is a little lower than his left and he is a little loose below his knees. But he’s not a hanger. It looks as if he throws his hind legs over to the right a little.
My first impression of his appearance is that his coat is not in good shape. First, the rider needs to check to see if he has worms. If that is OK, then she should have his teeth checked and re-evaluate his feeding program. If his poor coat quality is not due to internal issues, then she needs to up her grooming program.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 Practical Horseman.