This very capable horse and rider combination is making a massive effort over this big oxer! And I love the way the rider is stretching to give his horse plenty of rein to make it to the other side.
The horse looks slim, athletic and in good muscle with ears so forward I think he’s already plotted the course. There’s not much of a bascule, but that’s typical over a wide-spread like this and the photo gives the impression of speed so it could be the jump-off. The keen horse is at the height of his effort and it looks as though he’s just beginning to unfold his front legs for the descent back to ground which will lift his hindquarters over the fence handily.
The rider is doing everything in his power to help his horse along. He’s up out of the saddle, well-balanced and is giving rein for all he’s worth. Although it may look as if he’s too far back over the saddle, in actuality he is in the perfect place for this moment in the jump. As the horse surges forward the rider has a little more weight behind his heels both to keep his place over the horse and to counterbalance the weight of his head, shoulders and arms. His legs are tight against his horse’s sides but the angle of his foot prevents the spur from hitting the horse unless he deliberately uses it.
In less time than the blink of an eye the rider will be swinging his lower leg more forward and shifting his weight back a bit as his horse angles down toward the ground, lifts its head, and its hindquarters swing up. This will allow him to brace in his stirrups and remain balanced for the landing. This is a fine example of the ‘natural release’ I’ve been talking about in the past few critiques. If his hands were braced on the horse’s neck it’s likely that he would be leaning forward weighting the front end of the horse down and they would have knocked this fence already. As it is, they are skimming over the fence with what looks like good speed.
Since no one is perfect, there are a few small adjustments I would suggest. Starting at the base, there could be a little more flexion in the ankle. The heel in this photo actually looks like it’s up higher than the toe. If he loosens his ankle a bit, the heel will drop, the knee angle can open a little and his knee can slide a hair closer to the front of the saddle while the angle of his hip becomes just a bit tighter and he’s like a burr on his horse’s back. His hands look like they are almost wide open with the reins slipping through his fingers. If his hands come down the side of his horse’s neck an inch it will give his horse more reign without letting to of the reins and will bring his hands in line with the bit and shoulders. And last, there is a slight roach in his back. This is causing his shoulders to round and restricting his head and neck movement. It could, in part, be caused by what looks like a bulging cell phone in his back pocket. If he falls on that thing he could end up with both a broken cell phone and a broken hip. The jumper ring is no place for a cell phone.
I know the last paragraph sounds very picky, and it is. This rider is one of the best I’ve seen and these are all very minor adjustments to make in order to be perfect, but he strikes me as a rider who strives for perfection. All things taken into consideration, he is an example that almost any rider could be proud to match.
by Vickie Kayuk