In this occasional series, top riders in each sport evaluate our readers’ submissions.
Much To Like
There is much to like about the horse and rider combination in this photograph. My first impression of this horse is a good one, mostly due to his great expression. His ears are up, he is looking forward, and he really appears to be enjoying his job. I like the height this horse is showing us over this jump, and I also appreciate that his knees are both up and tight.
It appears to me that horse and rider have arrived at this jump at a bit of a close distance. As a result the horse has been forced to “tilt” or shift his front end off to the right side slightly. I would not call this a major fault, but certainly would note it on my card. He also appears to have shifted slightly to the right of center on the jump to help make room. All in all, this is a good jumping effort from a relaxed and confident horse.
Our rider also is giving us a nice effort. I love that her eyes are up and ahead, and that she has given her horse nice freedom to use his head and neck with her release. From this photograph I get some sense of her rushing her fence and her round. I think she has over-ridden her distance and gotten there a touch early. I also think she is ahead of the motion of her horse and is forcing him to jump a little out of shape, or to the side, to compensate. I would love to see her body a little back and her leg a little more forward so that she would be balanced more in the middle of her horse. I love the sense of forward, confident riding I get from this rider.
The turnout of both horse and rider is very good. The braiding of both mane and tail looks great, the coat and weight of the horse are nice, and the rider’s formal turnout very good. The bit and bridle are both nice and well fitting.
The two things that jump out at me about this horse from this photo are his great expression and the big effort he is making over this jump.
I think it’s important that a horse works with his ears up and looking forward to whatever is next. I really like a horse that enjoys his job.
In his effort to jump well over this fence this horse has brought his knees up very high, and he’s getting a lot of height over the jump. My two mild criticisms of the horse’s style are that perhaps his legs are a bit out in front of him reaching for the back rail of the oxer, and I also question how his jump will finish. It appears as though in spite of his great effort with his front end, that his back is a touch flat, and that his
bascule will lack a certain amount of roundness.
Any great jump needs the hind end of the horse to work as well as the front end. As the horse is landing with his front end, the back end should remain straight and kick up behind the horse in a beautiful follow-through.
For a hunter class, the rider is showing good style. With her arms and release she is allowing her horse all the freedom he would ever need to make a beautiful jump. At the same time she has a very solid base, and is very tight and secure on her horse all the way down her leg to a very deep heel. I think this is a difficult combination to achieve, and she has done it well. Both horse and rider are exceptionally well turned out.
I would emphasize again the great expression of this horse. In this day and age we are seeing fewer and fewer horses that are sound fresh and happy. This is lovely to see in this photograph.
Attention To Details
This appears to be a scopey jumper over a relatively low jump. While extra scope is almost always a good thing, sometimes it can get in the way of a stylish jump. The horse is giving the jump plenty of height, but because it’s so easy for him he’s gotten quite loose and sloppy with his front end. His knees are at least up, but his lower legs are neither tight nor even. While it‘s not a dangerous jump, it would not receive high scores on my judge’s card in a hunter class.
In addition, I would like to see this horse get lower with his head and neck in reaching for the ground on the landing. Without much jump, it does not appear that this horse is going to give his effort much follow-through with the hind end either. All in all, this is a sloppy effort for a top hunter.
I would like to see this rider work with a shorter rein. The position of her hands in her release is nice for a hunter class, but with the long reins her release has turned into an exaggeration. Anything exaggerated on a horse is probably wrong. Our job as a hunter rider is to present the horse to the best of our ability, and to keep attention off of ourselves. The rider’s leg is good, but with a slight “pinch” at the knee. I think her eyes are slightly down, her body is slightly ahead of the motion, and her base is a touch high out of the saddle.
I think both this horse and rider are probably talented, but I do think both need to do some homework and clean up some sloppy habits. Attention to details is what will make the difference.
I like this photograph of a young rider on what looks to be a nice horse. When judging classes with younger or less experienced riders, I think the manners and attitude of the horse are important. This horse is telling us so many things in this photo. Above all, he appears safe and willing. He is forward-thinking and appears to be athletic and capable. He has given this fairly unremarkable jump a lot of effort—he’s high over the fence, his knees are up and extremely even, and he’s making nice use of his head and neck. He looks as though he will follow through behind with a nice, straight, round effort. His expression is fantastic.
Our rider is also making a great effort. It’s obvious she has studied hard and practiced thoroughly. Her leg position is exemplary. Her heel is down, with her leg tight and beautifully underneath her. Her base is close to the horse and she’s exactly with the motion of the horse. She is showing us a great release—she has maintained a lovely, light contact in the air. All of her balance is held in her leg and her base, and none with her hands. If I was to be super-critical, I would like the stirrup iron slightly further forward on her foot, and perhaps a slightly flatter back.
This appears to be a horse that is beautifully suited to his job, and a rider that has great basics and a great work ethic. Their turnout also demonstrates great attention to detail. The weight and coat of the horse are great, and he has a beautiful braid job. The rider is also well dressed and well turned-out.
Geoff Teall, of Wellington, Fla., trains in the hunter, jumper and equitation division—with an emphasis on amateur and junior riders—and shows in the professional hunter divisions. An R-rated USEF judge, he has presided over the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals, USEF Pony Finals, USEF Pony Medal Finals and many prestigious horse shows such as the Washington International (D.C.) and National Horse Show. Teall also co-founded the American Hunter-Jumper Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association.