This is a very exciting picture: a very good rider on a tasty horse, in a beautifully photographed effort. The rider has a firm grip on her horse--and even though some might think she has let her lower leg slip back, this is a different matter altogether.
I have great confidence in this rider and her leg; a leg sliding back a bit is not unusual when a horse has such an enormous bascule. She's right with him: Her seat and thigh are thrust out of the saddle, but she is not in any way ahead of him; nor is she in any danger of getting shaken loose.
She has a relaxed, soft back (the slight roundness we see between her shoulder blades is her protective vest), and she is looking toward the right, presumably for her next fence.
Her crest release, somewhere between short and long, is wonderfully placed to allow her horse maximum freedom with his head and neck. She is a good enough rider to use the advanced technique known as the automatic release, in which the hand is independent of the neck and there's a straight line from bit to elbow--but there is nothing wrong with her hands here.
Her horse is a round, powerful jumper who's making a spectacular effort. He's not a horse for a layman; he needs the skill of an experienced rider, as he's a bit of a "fooler"--by which I mean that although he is very tight with his front end, he is also pointing his knees down toward the ground. My own jumper, Rio, on whom I won the Spruce Meadows Masters, had this same style. A horse who has heart can get by with it--but he needs the support of a rider's skilled hands and skillfully placed weight to avoid getting in too close, getting tangled and falling down.
The horse is clean, is in good flesh, as is in the gear used for cross-country. His rider is similarly attired, and they both look neat and polished.
Reprinted from the December 2002 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.
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