Review number 8
The athletic horse appears in tip-top condition and is clearing this fair-sized fence with room to spare. Front legs have opened considerably from the photo of the gray in Jump Review #7 and you can see that the horse will be landing on the right lead which is the direction the rider is looking for her next jump. The horse is a real keener and I like everything about the look of willingness and interest in the expressive face. The tack is nicely fitted to the horse and all straps are tucked in for a tidy look.
Take a close look at this photo because it is an awesome photo of a horse/rider team following through on the landing side of the jump arc and you will be hard pressed to find a better balanced or more proactive rider.
Starting with the base of her support and balance, notice the leg is parallel to the ground with an equal distribution of her weight between her hips and shoulders. If the horse was to suddenly get beamed up to Scotty she would have a very good chance of landing on her feet and staying there. She’s pressing her lower leg against the horse to ask for a bend to the right in order to get the correct lead for the next jump and to make sure the horse knows where they are going before landing. From the angle of her foot and the horse’s ears I would say she’s adding a little spur to her request. I would like to see the heels down a bit more but often the foot angle gets pointed more flat or even down when the spur is being used.
Another indication of the turn to the right and the keenness of her horse is the placement of her hands. Her left hand is braced against the horse’s neck with the thumb steadying it so the horse can’t pull her the rein forward while her right hand is out from the neck and back as she turns the horse’s head to the right. This gives me the feeling that the next jump is coming up fast and she wants to save time by cutting as much of the curve out of the distance as possible.
Even her shoulders–right slightly up and back and left more forward and down–and the resulting slight twist in her back are an indication of the direction she’s turning. And, of course, her head is up and turned to the right. Turning a horse over the jump is something that experienced riders do as a matter of course in the high speed drama of the jumper ring but it rarely happens in a hunter ring because the object of the ride there is not speed but balance, rhythm, and controlled gymnastics. It’s similar to the difference between ice dancing and pairs skating for those of you who are into winter sports and some people describe Hunters as Dressage over fences.
Now for the few and small corrections to make this the ultimate photo…
Once more we see a rider with a back posture issue and the resulting tilted pelvis, rolled shoulders and restricted head. If we forget the heel position and simply straighten the back it would solve a lot of lower back pain issues and shoulder/neck stress and tension. Consider this, the weight of the hard hat, head, extended arms and upper body is considerable. The rider is asking the lower back and stomach muscles to support all that weight on and off, on and off, on and off through every ride and every jump course. Without a regular exercise program specifically designed to strengthen those areas and stretch the muscles out, it’s almost impossible NOT to collapse. Now picture the lungs, digestive system, reproductive organs and other hard working body parts being squished every time you ride. Heart, lungs and spine are especially important and a flat back puts far less stress on them.
Normally I would comment on her elbows being out and her right thumb being down and toward the horse rather than up, as it should be, but she’s not riding in a straight line. She is opening the rein out so her horse will turn more efficiently and it requires strength. Human anatomy is designed to give us strength to pull something in toward our chest but not so much to pull something out to the side. A horse is multiple times stronger than a human so she has tilted her hand down and lifted her elbow out a little to gain extra strength to control the turn.
Just a note about her apparel: many of the teams I’ve been critiquing have been from the same show and in the summer heat the judges and show officials have excused riding jackets to prevent overheating of the riders. Overheating can be a real problem in some areas and I have seen riders with heat stroke fall off their horses in the ring. However, this rider seems to have removed her belt as well.
In conclusion, I really like this team. The attitude of both both is fresh and exciting and the rider is showing an intuitive and instinctive way with the horse. I hope to see them at Bromont this summer.
Vickie Kayuk, Back Home in Bromont