Amanda Dawn Garlitz and Ali—June 22, 2012
From: Judge Carol Dean-Porter
First thing I notice is the extremely long distance to this small oxer. Ali has reached the top of her arc but her toes have not yet cleared the front rail. Amanda needs to ride to a closer distance.
Ali’s legs are up well and she tries hard. She is a bit flat with her neck and back, partly due to the very long distance and partly due to Amanda’s short left hand release. You can see the bit pulled well back in Ali’s mouth. Ali has a very focused expression.
I also notice the bight of the reins on the left side, most riders and judges prefer the bight to fall on the right. This is a minor point, but noticeable.
Amanda would greatly benefit by adjusting her saddle placement and checking her girth tightness prior to walking in the ring. The saddle has slipped back substantially which puts her behind Ali’s center of balance, despite Amanda’s good lower leg position and good body control. Her right hand is placed well, about even with her face. Her left hand pulls back on the rein and her elbow is pointing back towards her thigh instead of down. I am not sure why she pulls on that rein, because Ali is slightly to the left of center of the jump already.
This pair is well turned-out with properly fitting tack and attire. Ali’s coat gleams nicely and I can see that her tail is combed and trimmed at the bottom.
From: Judge Rob Gage
This horse is perfectly square with his front legs. Maybe she could fold her lower legs a bit tighter….but I’m not complaining.
I want you to take a very close look at the back of her lips. I know that’s a funny thing to ask, but I think you will see how the bit has made her “smile”. I really think Ali would like to stretch her head and neck down and forward more…..if Amanda would just let her. She doesn’t need much more, but I think she should reach her hands up along Ali’s mane….just a couple more inches. Relax through her shoulders & elbows more, to allow her arms to “follow Ali’s mouth”.
Although I can’t really see her leg, I can see the toe of Amanda’s boot, and I can tell, her foot slipped back, but only a little. Her posture is beautiful. Her equitation is sooooo close! I think if she would just work on beginning her release a moment sooner, she’d have it.
Follow up questions from Amanda:
#1. The first of my two questions is on saddle placement. I’ve struggled a bit on finding the best placement for Ali’s saddle. I’ve tried to live by the rule two fingers behind the point of her shoulders but her shoulder seems to slant back more than I’m used to. I know her movement improves when I keep the saddle back further, but I can also see in the picture how her saddle does look behind her motion here. Any thoughts on the problem movement vs. balance?
#2. My second question if either of you have any advice or exercises you use when teaching a horse flying changes. We are working with a trainer and have been making steady progress with Ali’s changes, but it remains a difficult skill for her and I’m always “picking people’s brains” for ideas or things that have worked for them. She gets them the best in open fields where she can essentially gallop through them, but in the ring, she lets her butt trail out and only swaps the front. Thanks so much for taking the time to critique Ali and I and answer our questions!
From: Judge Carol Dean-Porter
Question #1: Saddle placement should position the rider over the horse’s center of balance (shoulders and neck) while in the air. A long sloping shoulder is a good thing as it permits a long stride. If your saddle pinches the shoulder, it does not fit correctly. Placing it farther back on the spine will only lead to problems. Have a saddle fitter take a look.
Question #2: Regarding lead changes, you can ask the horse to land on one lead or the other, use an opening rein technique, separating your hand out away from the neck about 6 inches instead of using the direct rein and pulling straight back. Practice changes over a pole on the ground, which causes her to lift her feet higher and simplifies the lead change process. Ideally she should begin her change behind.
From: Judge Robert Gage
Question #1: I like my saddle to sit UP on the withers. If you accidentally put the saddle too far forward, it will slide back to the correct position. If you accidentally place it too far back, it will not slide forward. Check the position of the girth, it should be no farther back than 2 inches behind the point of the elbow.
Question #2: Regarding lead changes, when a horse does a flying change, he has to skip UP off the ground an extra couple of inches. You need to artificially help him get up into the air. Here is what I do: place two poles diagonally towards the fence line or wall about 15 or 20 feet away from the wall. They should sit on about a 45 degree angle to the wall. Keep the poles about 1 to 2 feet apart from each other. Now place 2 more poles near the first two poles so it ends up with the 4 poles looking like the V with the center point of the V closer to the wall. Approach from the right lead and jump the left side. Turn around and canter on the left lead over the right side of the poles. At first your horse will be confused. As he starts to figure it out, he will anticipate the upcoming turn forced by the wall and will actually turn while he is jumping the two poles. That will start to teach him the mechanics of a flying change.