By: Julie Christie
In this image, we see a sweet Arabian mare ridden quite nicely. The rider is one of my former college students, now finishing 4-year degree (RCTC has one and two year degrees with many courses transferring to 4-year schools). I’ve been told that this picture was taken long before I met her, while she was competing in a walk/jog class. Apparently, this was her first time showing!
For her first time showing, this rider is very promising! She carries a poise and elegance that judges will love. Not to mention a fantastic smile.
I believe that this rider’s biggest strength is her seat and posture. Her feet are directly underneath her seat with her pelvis angled correctly on the horse’s back. This is rare – usually we see riders tuck under and round their back, or riders who arch their backs too much and lift their tailbone up.
The rider has a nice bend to her elbow but her hand should be about 1-2 inches lower. Another opportunity to improve is with the way her foot is in the stirrup. If you look closely at the shape of her boot, you can see that she is curling her toes down slightly. I would like to see her lift and spread her toes apart. Many instructors focus on telling students to keep the heels down, but it can be helpful to talk about the toes lifting up instead. If the toes are lifted and spread, the heel is generally down but without jamming the foot into the stirrup (which can cause stiffness in the knee or hip).
This horse appears to be well behaved and to be taking good care of her rider. What I especially like about the picture is that the horse is “on the vertical”. This means that her face is perpendicular to the ground and neither tucked behind (behind the bit) or out in front (nose poking).
In a walk/jog class we tend not to worry too much about the engagement of the horse’s hind end but for purposes of educating the reader, I will mention that it would be even better if the horse was reaching the hind leg further up underneath itself. Accomplish this by asking the horse to lower the hindquarters with the seat aids and engaging the hind end with the leg aids.
The tack and turnout:
The horse and rider have an attractive turnout with practical attire. Although the saddle likely is an appropriate size, I do wonder about the balance of the saddle on the horse. The rider should sit closer to the middle of the saddle than we see here. In the picture, you can see that the rider is sitting on the very back surface of the saddle and not in the middle. Generally, this isn’t a problem with the rider, but a saddle balance issue. It is possible that the saddle needed the back lifted slightly to adjust the balance point and to allow the rider to sit in the middle.