This talented rider’s style is typical of the Pennsylvania-Maryland area. While I don’t know who she is, she rides a lot like Elizabeth Solter, the gifted rider of the fantastic hunter mare Rox Dene. And as with Elizabeth, I’d like to work with her for about three days to put a polish on her effective but regional style.
The first thing I’d have this rider do is shorten her stirrup. That almost-straight line from her hip to the point of her heel tells me her iron needs to come up at least a hole. Reaching for the irons causes a rider’s toes to turn either out (as we see here) or down. Toes need to be out between 15 and 45 degrees to keep the calf in the proper contact with the horse’s side; her toe is so far out that her leg has rolled away from her horse. When she shortens, she’ll find she can keep her buttocks closer to the saddle because she’ll be able to use the iron for support. She won’t feel she has to throw her body to stay with him. (Riding without stirrups would further tighten her leg).
Her lower back shows some roaching, but her eyes are up. She’s using a long crest release and has a nice soft contact with her horse’s mouth, but I’d want to see her hand an inch or two lower, alongside his crest, providing support for her upper body.
Her flashy chestnut horse has a lovely expression and a beautiful front end. He’s less great with his body; he’s going to scrape his belly over the back rail of this oxer. I wonder if he’s what I call a “sucker” horse: You fall in love with his dramatic, flashy front end but grow out of loving him when you find he always uses those knees to compensate for not using his body–and gets beaten out of the ribbons in top competition.
There’s not much this team could do better in turnout except possibly put gloves on the rider. The horse gleams, has a beautiful braid job and wears clean, well-fitted tack. The rider is dressed in a conservative, workmanlike fashion that does nothing to distract from her horse.
Reprinted from the August 1999 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. Is this photo of you? Email Practical.Horseman@EquiNetwork.com, and we’ll identify you.