For some reason the stock horse industry decided to take a perfectly good sport, that had traditions, and standards, for hundreds of years, and turn it into a mechanical nightmare. Slapping an English saddle on a WP horse does not a hunter make. Instead it makes about as much sense as doing dressage on a Paso Fino. You’ve got no extension, no impulsion and no collection. And for those of you that read the western version and thought I was in favor of tight reins: you’re wrong. I want collection. Collection starts in the rear end, rounds the back, and lifts the shoulder at the base. Collection doesn’t even require a bridle. What is does require is a seat and good legs. A bridled horse collects with a touch and tension on the reins is an illusion. You ride a collected horse with your seat first and your hands only when finesse is needed. Let’s take a look at a few English Equitation standards. This first one is a handbook drawing.
This is from an actual equitation handbook. The rider is slightly forward at the trot, the heel and hip are in line, the shoulder and elbow are square and going straight to the rein. The rider has contact but the horse is not over bent. The eye is level with the withers. This horse could take two steps into a canter and head into a fence with no problem. This is what hunt seat is about. The intent is that at some point your hunter could pop over a fence. If your horse’s head is below level he’s not going to be able to elevate in order to jump.
Here’s a photo I like of an actual rider. The horse is relaxed and has great lines. It’s driving under itself and is working well on the bit. The reins are slack, but you can see the horse is collecting and pushing from behind. For the record the child is ten in this photo and the horse was bought as a 10 year old rehab that had chronic barn sourness and run away issues when the child started showing it. So we can forgive a few flaws, but overall it’s a nice photo and the child won the class of 18, over adult and more advanced riders. (those of you saying I don’t appreciate stock horse breeds can note that this is an Appaloosa, who also has Doc O’Lena breeding, so can’t get much stock horse than that) And for the record this mare has won high point at open and breed shows.
Here she is again coming into a downshift transition. She’s straightened up for the gait change, sitting deep, leg in line, heels down, hands nice and even, reins in contact but relaxed. Mare has her nose poked out a bit, but considering she was one of the worst rooters I’ve ever seen three months prior to this photo this is pretty good head set. Mare is rounded, working under herself to slow down without propping on the front. Nice relaxed photo. The child is even smiling, she’s enjoying the ride, hell the horse looks like she’s smiling too.
Now we drop a few levels in ability, and rise a few levels in expectations. We’re going to compare some top stock horse HUS riders on top bloodlines to a ten year old on a rehab horse.
Boy, sure love that foot jammed forward and the nice duck butt this gal has going. How about those slack reins but over flexed head? Can you say picked at so much this horse’s tongue is probably black? The head is at least level with the withers, but overall it looks strung out, downhill and uncomfortable.
First thing I find wrong is the fact the heels of the rider are up. WTF is the deal with that? You can see her entire knee is disengaged and her toes are down. If this horse propped or spooked her ass would be riding air. The horse has poor cadence. You can look at the leg angulations and see that the hind leg angle does not match the front leg angle on what should be the top of the stride, since both feet are flat on the ground. Mechanically I can tell you that the front foot of this horse hit the ground well before the hind foot did, making for a four beat trot. Yuck! Loose rein, way behind the vertical. There is a spur stop and a lot of plucking in this horse’s past.
Where do I begin? Leaned forward. This horse is walking, wtf is the rush to the fire? The heel is up. The head is too low. It’s like the hunchback took off from bell ringer duties and decided to take in a HUS class prior to matins. Horse has no collection, strung out, over flexed and not getting any relief from those heels digging in. Of course a quick buck would remove the annoyance from his back, because her seat is so weak she’d flick off like a booger from a redneck’s finger.
If this horse dropped his head below his withers and she ditched the vest this pair could just about win a stock horse HUS class. Heels up? Check. Bad posture? Check. Poor collection? Check. Ass bouncing out of the saddle? Check. We have a winner!
Dreck! Dreck! and more Dreck!