I think most readers will recognize this rider as Mac Cone, and will know that he is one of the top riders in North America and he won this event, the 1.40M. This column is not to criticize a rider or a horse, it is to help riders learn from examples that all riders can improve and all have similar issues.
This team is not quite at the peak of a large oxer that looks deceptively narrow but is actually quite a wide spread. As with most competitors at this level, both horse and rider are in excellent physical condition and accessories for all are well fitted. This is another horse that really curls the front legs up in a tidy fashion and requires a widened girth to protect his belly from the possibility of bruising or cuts from shoes and studs.
Starting with the horse, he really does have a nice form over the fence. His front knees are high and his lower leg is folded back with the hooves curled up and even. He’s showing the beginning of a beautiful bascule as he begins to clear the rail and look for the ground on the other side. I can’t see his lower leg, but from what I can see, he will be just as even with his back legs.
The one thing that is a negative about the horse is his ears. The are pinned back and it’s hard to tell if it’s because he’s listening to his rider, has a discomfort, or if it’s an ear-flick habit caught by the camera. It could have something to do with what appears to be a gag bit the rider is using. The rubber rein that the rider has attached to the standard part of the bit is loose, but the rein attached to the gag part of the bit is tighter. This type of bit is generally reserved for a horse that doesn’t respond to a request for a downward gait change from a normal bit. From what I can see by zooming in, the mouth piece of the bit is a rubber coated full cheek snaffle style with rubber rings to help prevent damage to the soft tissue at the side of the mouth. Also, there is no flash or drop attachment below the bit so the horse is free to open his mouth to escape the gag effect, but he has not. That indicates that the bit is not uncomfortable.
The rider is well built to be an equestrian. His long leg gives him a lower center of gravity which helps him stabilize and balance over fences. Kind of like a highwire walker who carries a balancing weight that hangs below him. Unfortunately, this long leg can also cause it’s own problems.
In this case, the rider has braced a bit with his knee, in turn causing his lower leg to swing back a little. This very slight issue has become more exagerated above the knee. In trying to compensate his knee angle has become more open causing his seat to rise high out of the saddle. To correct this his hip angle has become more acute and his back is arched forward rather than remaining straight, making it more difficult for him to keep his head up.
All of the above issues originate from a simple gripping of the knee and can be easily corrected by loosening the knee on the saddle and allowing the weight to drop into the heel which will result in the lower leg swinging forward to catch the weight.
The line from bit to hand to shoulder is as near perfect as anyone could be and he is pressing into the top of the horse’s neck in a picture-perfect example of the way it should be done.
Vickie Kayuk, Back Home in Bromont.com