This handsome combination of horse and rider as good an example of show ring presentation as you are likely to see. Both are buffed and shining from front to back and they are focused on the job at hand. The horse sparkles with good health and spirit while the rider is tastefully and conservatively dressed. A dark jumper pad with white piping has a small logo of the farm he represents and reflects the colors of the rider making a great first impression wherever they go.
The horse has her ears forward in anticipation of the landing and is just on the point of starting the tilt down to the ground, but there is no sign of a bascule, even over this rather large jump, and even though her front legs are beginning to open up for the landing. Her head is still high in the air and her back is still flat which will make it more difficult for her to lift her hind legs over the fence. She has the look of an exceptionally keen horse so perhaps she is one of those horses that flip their hindquarters into the air to clear the rail. Since I can’t see her hindquarters I can’t really say.
It’s impossible to tell from the photo what the actual size and shape of the mouth piece of the bit is, but the structure of the side rings makes it stronger than a simple snaffle. The horse is also outfitted with a flash attachment so it can not open its mouth. This is common for many jumpers because they get so keen in the ring.
At first glance I thought the rider was slightly behind the movement but, if memory serves me correctly, I think the ring tilts down slightly in the direction he is moving and that has forced him to swing his lower leg forward in what appears to be an early position. From the look on the rider’s face I would say that he is either very concentrated or not happy about something and his position on the horse at this stage of the jump makes it look as if he may have been trying to adjust the size of the landing. The direction of his gaze indicates that this fence is part of a line so that would make sense. It’s very easy to get a bigger stride than you want when you’re riding slightly downhill, especially in a tight line. Backing up this theory is his hand position. Although he shows excellent balance and it looks like he was prepared for a natural release where his hands would drop down below the straight line from shoulder to bit, his elbows are at a sharper angle which gives me a feeling that he has taken back some of the release and is attempting to tactfully shorten the stride.
If you look at the shadow on the horse behind his lower leg, it would appear that his leg is off the horse and that he’s riding on his knee. If this was the case it would be near impossible to hold his lower leg in that position and, even though the angle makes it difficult to see, his heels are definitely below the level of the stirrup. I would say that he’s taking special care not to touch the horse with the spur. At the same time, he is staying off his horse’s back to allow the back to come up and clear the fence.
The rider’s left hand is flat with the thumb toward the withers of the horse and the right hand is slightly higher with hand tilted so the thumb is more up. His crop is in his right hand so he may be pressing it on his horse’s shoulder to keep the horse to the center of the jump, especially if he wants to keep her straight down a line. That could also be why his left leg seems to be off the horse. He is offering her space to move into.
This is a great combination of an actively pro-active rider on a keen horse. The small correction I would suggest is some exercises to strengthen the rider’s back. If he could get the rounding out of his back and flatten it, he would have a lot more freedom in his shoulders and neck which would improve his balance even more and which would, in turn, allow him to fold down closer to his horse without dropping his seat completely into the saddle.
by Vickie Kayuk for Back Home in Bromont