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This competitive horse and rider combination is doing a lot of the right stuff in this shot. They are both intently focused on their job and the rider is looking slightly to her left and forward which is probably the direction of the next fence.
The horse looks a bit sprawled and awkward due to the timing of the shot, but it’s good to see the way a horse moves in different parts of the jump in order to learn the dynamics of what they are trying to accomplish. Most shots are of the horse all tucked up nice to get his front end over the jump, but in the next instant after the jump is cleared the horse has to move his legs from the tucked up position in order to get them out in front of him for the landing. Otherwise he would land on his head.
At this part of his jump the horse is opening up his front legs and lowering the landing gear; at the same time his is swinging his back legs up and back so he doesn’t knock the pole. He doesn’t have a huge bascule or arch over the fence but he’s not flat either and he has the look of speed and stretch over the fence rather than the slow rounded jump of a hunter.
If you zoom in on the back legs, it looks as though he will hit the jump, but that’s not going to happen. Just a blink after this shot his back legs would have stretched out a bit more and lifted higher in the air to clear the jump. One week soon I’ll find a good shot of a horse a bit further into the jump to give you an example.
The horse has a wonderful, honest look, is well maintained, and seems the type who gives his rider everything she asks and sometimes a little more which is why she has the kind of bit she does. The rider has quite a tight hold on him, possibly due to his keen attitude and, since he doesn’t wear a dropped noseband or flash attachment, his mouth has opened a bit to relieve the pressure.
I love this rider’s attitude! She has an intent, happy look of anticipation and her eyes are glowing with excitement and confidence. It’s obvious that she loves the sport and is having a good time.
She has one of the best lines from shoulder, through hands, to the horse’s bit that I have seen, and her hip angle is also good. Her head is up and she’s looking forward to the next fence. However, as always, there is room for improvement.
First, as her horse’s front legs move forward, her lower leg should be swinging forward to keep her from on the horse’s neck when it begins to tilt down toward the ground. Instead, it is angled back and her heel is up. This probably means she’s supporting herself by pinching with her knees. If she keeps the hip angle as is and swings her lower leg forward so it’s horizontal to the ground she will have a much better basis of support and better balance. As it is, I think the hunched looking curve in her lower back is an attempt to compensate fro the lack of support in the lower leg. Also, if she has that support and balance she can stretch her hands another inch and let her horse have more freedom of his head without losing her own balance and falling forward.
This rider could use an exercise program for strengthing the entire back as I mentioned about the rider last week, but her main concentration should be on the lower back. Also, if she stands with her heels hanging over a stair step and bends forward with her hands out I think she’ll get the feel for where her lower leg should be. Practicing slowly going into that position a few times a day will help her muscle memory to form new paths pretty quickly.
Having said all that, I have to add that I really like how close she is to the saddle. In spite of her leg slipping back, she is not thrusting herself out of the saddle and forward as I see many riders doing.
Last, this pair’s overall look is not very tidy. There are loose straps flapping all over the place. The end of the stirrup leather is sticking out behind her leg, the end of the breast plate strap is hanging behind the girth, and the supporting strap running from the breast strap to the top of the saddle is long and flapping about, her number is pinned on crooked, and there is loose hair sticking out behind her helmet.
Notice that I have not mentioned the unbraided mane. That is because, although esthetically more pleasing and neater, it is not a fashion requirement of the jumper ring and many riders do not braid their jumpers.
This team is doing a great job clearing a challenging fence.
By Vickie Kayuk for Back Home in Bromont