I’m going to suggest an exercise to this rider so she can learn to keep her leg in place instead of losing it to the rear as she’s done here. It’s quite simple: She needs to shorten her stirrup so that there is a 90- to110-degree angle behind her knee. This makes her stirrup short enough to use for balance. Then, she should walk, trot and canter over crossrails while in two-point position. In a matter of 12–15 efforts, she will find that her weight is in her heel, her toe is naturally out and the contact is distributed between her inner thigh, knee and calf.
Once she corrects her leg, she will no longer feel the need to jump up out of her saddle to stay with her horse: Her thigh is in a nearly vertical position, while her buttock and crotch are much too high out of the saddle. This fault is known as jumping ahead and is often related to a too-long stirrup and loose leg, particularly one with excessive grip in the knee.
She has very good posture, and she uses her entire upper body well. Her back is flat, her head is up and she is studying the way to her next fence. Her crest release is well done, with a soft feel of her horse’s mouth and the weight of her upper body pressing through her hand into her horse’s neck.
Her horse is very pleasant-looking and seems like a good match for her. He is useful and is doing his job with a good attitude. His left knee is lower than his right, but not dangerously so, and he is round enough over this low fence.
This rider is very well turned out for what appears to be the stadium round in a horse trial, but she could put more effort into her horse’s presentation. His forelock is fuzzy, and it is traditional to braid on the right side of the neck. In addition, while he is clean and in good weight, he looks rough-coated and fuzzy.
This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. Is this photo of you? Email Practical.Horseman@EquiNetwork.com, and we'll identify you!