Friday, Dec. 1, 2023

Judge My Rider: Jitterbug’s Critique Of Bipeds



Jitterbug is a world-renowned expert in human management and training and has long been respected for her wisdom and sharp eye, as evident in her well-read columns here on The Chronicle of the Horse. From time to time she receives specific requests for feedback from fellow quadruped trainers or especially enlightened bipeds. Today, she continues a popular new series honoring a long-held tradition in equestrian sport of judging others’ abilities based on photographs.

If you would like to submit a photo to Jitterbug for her expert critiques, please email the Chronicle at

Judge My Rider 1This Quadruped Instructor is clearly unafraid of testing the Human resolve when it comes to picking a jump distance. He has committed to the long spot and clearly has her well-trained to slip the reins in such a circumstance. This is not an easy lesson for Bipeds to process, as their typical instinct seems to be clenching all their muscles in mid-air like a dying fly clinging to a screen.

This tactic also has the advantage of showing the Human exactly where she is in her core and calf fitness. Too often, I find fellow four-leggeds blur the line between cause and effect when it comes to poor core or leg strength, allowing their Humans to flop this way or that off the shoulder until they plop to the ground, hoping it will occur to them that they should do more sit-ups. 

Spoiler alert, friends—it won’t. 

This Biped is keeping her upper body from flopping forward, but I would like to see her open her hip angle slightly. This can be achieved with a few bronco exercises on the other side of a jump like this one. Bum in the tack or bum on the ground, I always say!

judgemyrider2For some reason, farriers don’t often understand that they, too, must be trained. They must learn to politely request the lifting of feet, respect the exertion that lifting our feet requires, and for goodness’ sake, hammer those nails in as quietly as possible, please. This Quadupred Instructor has taken time out of what I’m sure was a busy day of training Humans over saddle to give this farrier pointers on her form.


This farrier is wearing a pleasing sunshine yellow shirt with matching gloves, which will make her easy to spot (and if necessary, move away from) when she’s in the Quadruped’s peripheral vision. Unlike mounted situations, the beauty of groundwork with Humans is that if they do something offensive, you can literally just walk/jig/side-step away. 

The Instructor is asking the farrier to move back by firmly grabbing her shirt between the shoulder blades and giving a gentle tug. This is the classically correct approach—grabbing a sleeve can be misinterpreted as a bite, and grabbing the jeans can backfire horribly. This Human is properly outfitted with a topknot hairstyle, which can serve as an emergency lever if she gets too ambitious with that file. One thing I would suggest—the Human does not appear to be listening to her teacher’s instructions, as she has her face turned away looking at the hoof (as if that’s the most important thing here, pfft). A good, slobbery sneeze is sure to make her pop up and take notice of her employer. 

Judge my rider 3 Shannon Brinkman photo

Shannon Brinkman Photo

Ah, the classic “halt and wave at X.” One of my favorite dressage movements.

The way you begin and end a test is critical to the judge’s impression of the Human. This movement has the advantage of showing off (or exposing) the Biped’s calf strength, as well as her reflexes. This Human’s reflexes are clearly in good form, as she is able to avoid grabbing a fistful of braids. I’d be curious to know whether she has broken her nose by leaning to one side, but this is how they learn. 

This Biped has been well-versed in proper tack care and grooming. The one area I would suggest her Quadruped work on is the Human’s lower leg strength. The best way to accomplish this, in my experience, is to drop her stirrups for her, which I imagine will be somewhat easier than usual after this maneuver.

If you would like to submit a photo to Jitterbug for her expert critiques, please email the Chronicle at

Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky.
Read all of Jitter’s COTH columns.
Follow Jitterbug on Facebook! Photo by Dark Horse Photography.





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