Driving Clinic Critique Driver #1 - By Suzy Stafford

Monday, April 13, 2020
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Driving Clinic Critique Driver #1

A take on the Practical Horseman Segment. You send a photo and I Suzy Stafford will evaluate what she sees. This is a fun way to enjoy other drivers’ photos and hone your eye. As we all know a photo is a split second of the overall picture, this is meant to be constructive and positive.


Driver 1

Overall: A lovely first impression. The unity within this team is evident. Horse and driver look focused and happy in their work. All the equipment and appointments are nicely proportioned to each other.

Lower Body: This carriage allows for a well balanced and correct hip and leg position. Her legs are adequately extended to easily reach the brake pedal and comfortably rest of the floorboards. Her knees are nicely tucked together without tension. It is important that your carriage fits your leg length and height. This allows maximization of body balance and engagement of your core and allows your upper body to be in a relaxed, non-braced position. To achieve this you would like your hip to sit above your knee. This allows for a lower center of balance point which in turn gives more upper body stability. You ideally want enough leg room that your knees are slightly bent while touching the angled floorboard. Your brake pedal should be comfortably accessible from this position.

Upper body: Her shoulder to hip angle is quite nice, making a nice straight line down through her hip bone. The leg position is in an optimal balance position with a slight bend in the knee and hips well above. Both feet are placed firmly on the floor. Her center of balance looks very stable.

Arms: At first it looks as though her elbow angle is a bit straighter that I would like. But if you compare the left arm to the right you can see an obvious difference. The left elbow/wrist/rein position is lovely. As shown here Ideally you would like a bent elbow around 45 degrees with straightness thru the wrist. The right arm position is in a “working” position. As you can see she is utilizing her whip to signal to the horse. therefore, her wrist is tipped downward to maintain contact during the whip que. Her head and line of sight looks well ahead of the horse. Its nice to be able to tell where the horse and driver are going from just a photo! Eye contact, whip position and posture of horse all points right. Well done!

Rein/Whip: I see a nice connection with the horse’s mouth with equal pressure on both reins. She is using the whip tactfully. I would like to see her with a slightly longer whip as it is appropriate for the lash to be able to reach in front on the saddle. I do believe if she had a slightly longer whip she could maintain a better elbow position as it looks like she is reaching a bit to make the whip contact she needs.

Horse: The horse looks in good shape with nice weight and muscling over the top line. He looks body clipped in the photo but still shows a nice shine to the coat. His frame looks nice an uphill appropriate for this level. He looks strong and supply over the back and through the withers. It’s hard to see from this angle but maybe would like to see the throat latch a bit more open. The use of the front leg is good with nice reach in the shoulder. I would like to see a bit more engagement under the body in the hind leg. This could have some relativity to the tightness in the throat latch not allowing the power completely thru. It looks like he is in mid stride but ideally you would like the hoof print of the hind leg to either track into or in front of the hoofprint of the front foot. Overall a wonderful example of a well-schooled, well cared for and appropriately prepared horse for this level.

Turn-out: The overall looks sends a clean, tidy and uniform look. The braid is impeccable, nicely accentuating the neck. The colors work well together with not one thing overshadowing the other. The drivers’ jacket and apron are neatly fitted. The color choices tie into the carriage well. Everything looks squeaky clean, well fitted and safe. I personally am not a fan of ear bonnets, but I do realize some horses are more comfortable in them. If you chose to use one be sure it fits well, with minimal distraction to the overall picture. I would rather see your beautiful horses’ expression. I would love to see a bit of jewelry, a subtle earing perhaps. A stunning visual overall.

If you would like to participate, please send a photo (doesn’t have to be a show photo) to my E mail ponydriverss@aol.com