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Photo Critique

Updated on December 6, 2018
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

Show jumping phase at one of our early events.
Show jumping phase at one of our early events. | Source

Over All Impression...

At first glance, I get a generally good impression of it. I don't look at myself and say "oh my gosh I can't believe that I'm putting this photo online"! Zelda looks interested and willing( which those of you who know her will say that she was not always that way! ) I think that I look focused as well. We look like we are working as a team. Again, I will be the first to say, she is my heart horse, but we did not always get along so well.

Lower Leg Position

Not the greatest angle, but I can see that my leg has slid back at least a bit.
Not the greatest angle, but I can see that my leg has slid back at least a bit. | Source

My lower leg should be at the girth and not behind it. Back in this stage of the game, Zelda tended to need a lot of pushing to the jumps, which sometimes caused me to anticipate her taking a flying leap. Needless to say, I went through a phase where I was jumping ahead in anticipation quite a bit.

Part of my bracing for her launch, besides getting into two point too soon, was to pinch my knees into my knee rolls. Another bad habit, because it caused my lower leg that already tended to be behind me to pivot to the back even more.

I do like how I have my heels down and ankle flexed to absorb the shock on the landing side. Though, again, my whole leg would have been much more effectively positioned with stirrup even to the girth, rather than slid so far back.

I was jumping ahead again.
I was jumping ahead again. | Source

I can tell not only because of my leg position that I was jumping ahead but also by the way that it looks like my hips have come unnaturally too far forward in the saddle. They are almost past the front of the saddle.

I should have allowed the feeling of her jump to naturally bring me up into two point as she lifted and folded when she went over. This was a struggle for me at this point because I mentioned before she was tense in show jumping, and it was hard for me to keep her in a steady canter rhythm. That being said it was hard for me to naturally follow her body over the jump by folding my body as she went. The lack of rhythm in the canter made that next to impossible, which is what caused my anticipating and jumping ahead of her motion.


I have to say that this part if my favorite part of my riding in this photo. I really like how my hands followed her head over the jump in an automatic release as she went over. I have a good connection with her mouth. Soft and following, just as it should be. Though it would have been easy for me to revert to dropping my hands and leaning on her neck in a crest release position, I managed to keep my arms soft and gently follow.

I was just advancing to learning the automatic release at this point so I'm proud that I managed to get it done, at least over this one jump!

You can also see my flat back, and eyes up and ahead to the next jump, all positive things that I'm glad I managed to pull off despite getting up into two point too soon!

Good jump Z !
Good jump Z ! | Source

You can see what I mean about her being green over the jumps from this photo. Her knees are tucked nicely, but look how much extra clearance we have over the jump! At this level, the jumps were less than three foot high and she was obviously a little overzealous in her jumping effort.

She was a very athletic mare, and despite the fact that we were having trouble with rhythm and staying in front of our leg at this point in our time together, she naturally had a powerful jump, and rocket shipped over a lot of them at this point, really overdoing it. Makes for a pretty picture, but a hard ride when you are already anticipating her jumping too soon and your base of support( lower leg ) is slid back behind you instead of at the girth where it belongs.

Awful braids :-)
Awful braids :-) | Source

The arrow in this photo is pointing to the awful braids in Zelda's mane. I was a working student at the time this was taken. Since I had a lot of responsibility the day before the event and on the actual competition day, I always braided the night before.

I was a rubber band braider at the time. Zelda's mane was very fine and rubber bands would hardly hold it together long enough to compete, let alone overnight and a trail ride to the show. As you can sort of see, I tried to fix them when we got there to no avail. Which is why she has those awful lump looking things sticking up off her neck! Do as I say, and not as I do, braid your horse with yarn! It is harder and takes more skill, but totally worth the trouble.

It was super hot the day of this competition and jackets were excused, which is why I wasn't wearing mine and had my sleeves rolled up. My personal turn out without the jacket would have been to wear a short sleeve show shirt instead of having my sleeves all scrunched up.

It also doesn't look like I had a belt on, which would have made me look less disheveled I think. Wearing a belt at a horse show should become part of your routine because it just looks nicer.

It looks like my hair was coming out of my hair net at the back of my helmet. I later learned that with having as much hair as I have, to have two helmets. The show helmet a size larger so that I could pile my hair up inside the helmet and the put a hair net over it. Sounds crazy, but it was much more effective and easier for me to contain my hair this way at shows.

On a side note, I was competing in eventing, which is a bit more lenient with things like loose hair and forgetting belts than say the hunter world is. We work so hard to prepare for our competitions with our horse, so we should strive to look our best, even if we would be able to get away with less than top-notch turnout!

Wrapping It Up

I hope that my description of my mare, her stage of training and my ability level at this point will help some of you to pick up some pointers to help your own riding. Sometimes I think seeing things makes it easier to learn! Not to mention I think it is fun honing my skills by picking myself apart!

Remember, horsemanship is a journey, just keep on working on it!


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