This rider’s leg is slipped back, but I think it’s more from habit than from being too loose or gripping with the knee. The angle behind her knee is too open; she needs to shorten the stirrup leather a hole so when she jumps, the angle behind her knee is 100–110 degrees. For a more supple and stable leg, I would like her to twist the iron so that the outside branch leads the inside and her little toe touches the outside branch. She then can work in two-point, jumping crossrails and keep her heels down to form a new habit.
She’s jumping ahead but not too badly—her seat is too high out of the saddle, which often comes from a too-long stirrup. She’s standing in her irons a little. She has very good posture and her eyes are looking up and ahead. She’s moved her hands a couple of inches forward and is pressing them into the horse’s neck in a good short release. The rein is a little slack with a broken line above the mouth, which are also hallmarks of a short release. A broken line below the mouth is unacceptable because it hits the horse in the sensitive bars of his mouth. There are different releases for different levels of riders and horses.
This horse has a very loose front end. His knees are up and his forearms are parallel to the ground, but he’s pretty casual below them, which will cost him points in the hunter ring. A jump like this forgives a horse who does not have a good front end because there is such a stepped ground line on both sides of the fence. It doesn’t separate a so-so horse from a really good one, like Touch the Sun from the 1970s.
I think this horse could use more time in the grooming stall being curried and brushed. I like that his mane is braided and he has a well-fitting saddle pad. But the rider’s boots could use more cleaning and polishing—before she goes into the ring, a friend could wipe them off.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Practical Horseman.