This is a lovely young mare. She is still quite low, although not heavy, on the forehand. She seems well-focused with her ears turned softly back, “listening” to her rider.
Although, a little big for this young mare, the rider looks very competent, quiet and “soft” with his hands. He is in good balance with the mare’s center of gravity. The seat of the rider is quite correct with particularly nice elbow-to-bit contact and nice leg position. His upper body is slightly slumped—a common side-effect of riding many young horses.
The owner writes that the horse is a young mare at her first show. Taking young horses to show grounds for the exposure is a good thing to do, but actually competing them is a debatable undertaking. Also, this mare appears to have quite a lot of growing to do. I would prefer to see young horses allowed to grow more and work less.
There are two other indicators of this mare’s need for time to develop. The first is the way she holds her tail. She holds it close to her buttocks rather than up and out. This indicates that her topline musculature, particularly in her back, is not strong and relaxed enough to carry the tail properly.
Secondly, if you were to measure with a string the length from her front fetlock to her elbow, and then take that exact length of string and measure from her elbow to the top of her withers, I think you would find that the string would extend several inches higher than her actual wither height. In other words, she may have several more inches to grow. And although this is not always 100-percent reliable, it is remarkably consistent that the two measurements become equal when the horse has reaches its full height. There is no need to wait until a horse is fully grown before starting it under saddle. However, when an individual is somewhat immature for his or her age, then I feel that the work should be kept lighter than for a youngster who is more physically mature.
This article first appeared in the June 2000 issue of Dressage Today magazine. Please note that in all current issues, we require all riders to wear helmets.
An American Horse Shows Association “R” dressage judge, Cindy Sydnor lives in Snow Camp, North Carolina, where she teaches, trains and competes. She is an examiner for the United States Dressage Federation Instructor Certification Program and a popular clinician. She has trained with H.L.M. van Schaik, Egon von Neindorff, Karl Mikolka and Col. Bengt Ljungquist. She was long-listed for the 1975 Pan-American Games and the 1976 Olympics.