Monday, December 27, 2010

Schooling Classes

Schooling classes are used in the hunter and jumper rings in order to introduce horses to the rings outside of a regular division. They are judged either as hunter classes or jumper classes.

Jumper Schooling

Jumper schooling classes are almost always run in the same way. A course is set, generally slightly simpler and more welcoming than the courses to come later in the week. The jumps can either be set at one height for the entire class or the class can be run with a 'high' and a 'low' section (the 'low' is usually lower than the lowest division while the 'high' is the height of one of the lower divisions). The heights should be listed in the show's prize list, and either the prize list will say which height will run first if there are multiple heights or an announcement will be made at the show. If there are two heights offered, it is especially important to check in with the in-gate to let them know which height you intend to compete at in order for them to plan when to make the height adjustment. Since it is run as a single class, the entry will not indicate which height each horse will compete at.  Additionally, a horse cannot be entered in both the high and low sections if both sections bear the same class number (some shows might allow entries to go hors concours a second time with the judge's permission).

Many shows will offer a clear round ribbon in the schooling jumpers, generally a miniature version of a first place ribbon, to anyone who completes the course without any jumping or time faults. While the class is judged to determine who has gone clear, there are no placings. This type of class will require show attire (though a polo shirt will generally be allowed in place of a jacket) and, as with regular classes, only one rider will be on course at a time.

Rarely, the jumper ring is left open for unjudged schooling. This is not a common practice, but it should be described in the prize list if it is offered.

Hunter Schooling

Hunter schoolings generally vary more in the way in which they are run than do jumper schoolings. First, they can be either judged or unjudged.

Unjudged hunter schoolings generally take place during a set time period either at the beginning or at the end of a show day. Multiple horses will usually be allowed in the ring together, and coaches often accompany riders into the ring, raising or lowering the jumps as needed. Formal attire is not likely to be required for such classes. Because of the informal nature of the class, riders can jump the course in a variety of ways and not worry about circling or disobediences. The number of horses allowed in the ring at one time can be limited, and it will probably be necessary to sign in with an in-gate (both to organize the number of riders and to ensure that you have paid if there is a schooling fee). If there is a fee for an unjudged schooling, it should be listed in the prize list. Because the schooling is unjudged and therefore not a competition, no ribbons or prizes are awarded.

Judged hunter schoolings are run as formal classes with only one horse on course at a time. They can be run either at a set point in the schedule (generally at the beginning of the day) or as an open card. If it is run before other classes, all of the horses must complete the schooling class before any of them can compete in their later classes. When a schooling is open card, the class is kept open throughout the show day and each horse can compete in the schooling class at any time of the day before their division, even jumping the schooling course immediately before the first class of their division. This practice keeps the horses from having to warm up multiple times and keeps the ring running smoothly. It also allows the schooling class to run at the different heights of the day's divisions, although a horse is not generally required to school at the same height as its division. Judged schooling classes at rated shows require full formal show attire.

The judged hunter schooling can be pinned in one of two ways. The first is to pin the class the same as you would any other hunter class: first, second, third, fourth, etc. The second is to use a method similar to the clear round ribbons of the jumpers. All rounds that receive a set numerical score or higher are awarded miniature first place ribbons. Those whose scores fall underneath that score but above a set minimum receive a miniature second place ribbon, while those underneath the minimum receive nothing. The prize list should outline the method that will be used.

Most schooling classes are open to all riders. Expect this to be the case unless the prize list or schedule reads otherwise. 

Do not expect prize money from schooling classes. Riders who wish to have the opportunity to win back some money while schooling around the ring will usually enter one or more classes from a lower division before their main division rather than enter a true schooling class.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hunter Braiding: Choosing a Yarn Colour

Once you've perfected your technique for creating hunter braids, you might be wondering which colour of yarn you should use when it comes to show time. There is a rainbow of colours available, but that doesn't mean that you should make use of all of those colours!

While it might seem tempting, keep the pink yarn for practice or for your in-barn fun Valentine's Day show. Hunters should be turned out conservatively, and bright, colourful yarn will detract from your performance. Some riders like to have a "lucky braid", one braid that is done in a different colour, usually at a specific location on the neck. If done tastefully, this is acceptable in the show ring.

The ideal colour will be about the same as your horse's mane. If your horse's mane is a blend of colours, or if the ideal colour isn't available, a darker yarn will usually look better than a lighter one. If you will be braiding a pinto with white in its mane, have two colours of yarn handy so that you can use the one most appropriate for each section of hair.

If you will only be braiding one horse, you can choose the colour that is best for that particular mane. If you braid many horses or don't know the horses that you will be braiding, it can be easier just to keep a stock of limited, multi-purpose colours. Most manes can be done in black, off-white or a medium/dark brown. Off-white is usually a better choice than bright white because even when clean, most light-coloured horses are not truly white and can be made to look yellow by a too-white yarn.

The table below shows the most common horse colours along with the colour of yarn that I would choose for each one. All of the yarns shown are from my favourite brand, Bernat Satin. The middle column shows the best-matched colour from that collection while the column on the right shows only black, off-white and medium/dark brown. I like the strength and amount of stretch of the Bernat Satin, but you should try a few different brands to get a feel of what works best for you.

Some braiders will use a very dark navy in black manes to make it easier to distinguish between the mane and the yarn when removing braids. If it doesn't stand out, this is acceptable.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Mini Prix

On some prize lists, you might see the words "mini prix" beside the name of the last class of certain jumper divisions (generally the jr/am ones). A mini prix is a smaller version of the grand prix, the biggest and most lucrative class of the show.

The mini prix will have a higher entry fee than the other classes of the division in order to allow for greater prize money. The course will also generally be longer than your usual jumper course, consisting of about twelve numbered obstacles compared to ten in other classes. In addition to the increased length, the level of difficulty will generally be a bit higher, with a triple combination in most cases and sometimes spookier jumps as well as more technical questions.

The mini prix will almost always be run with a posted order to make things fair. While the jump-off is usually delayed like in a regular grand prix, some shows will use an immediate jump-off so that the day will run quickly.

There is generally a formal ribbon presentation on horseback with a victory gallop for all of those who have placed. The number of awards given out is usually two more than are given for the regular classes of that division (i.e. if a show usually gives six ribbons in regular classes, the mini prix might be pinned to eighth, while a show that normally pins to eighth might extend the ribbons to tenth for the mini prix).  

Be prepared to wear formal attire for any mini prix. It is quite common to braid for such a class, but it is not required.

Typical alternatives for the term 'mini prix' are classic, grand prix (combined with the name of the division to distinguish it from the grand prix) or stake.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Keeping a Clean Horse From Rolling

You've scrubbed every inch of your grey horse, put him in his stall to dry and then left the barn to go check on the show ring. You come back, ready to tack up and get on, only to find that he is suddenly covered in shavings and stains! How can you prevent yourself from being stressed out and late for your class in the future?

Whatever you do, keep your horse's stall clean. You might be tempted not to clean it repeatedly throughout a show day, but a dirty stall will make for dirty legs!

Here is what I do for horses that are known to roll after their baths:
  1. Only bathe shortly before the class, allowing just enough time for the horse to dry. Bathing too early will force the horse to stand around for longer than is necessary, which isn't fair if he needs to be tied up.
  2. Tie the horse up in its stall immediately after the bath. I like to tie a loop of baling twine to the stall for safety purposes and then tie the lead rope securely to that. Horses can untie quick release knots, so I tend to let the baling twine and halter act as safety devices and use a more secure knot. Make sure that the lead rope is short enough that the horse will not be able to get caught up or lie down and roll, but long enough that he will be able to reach his water. You might also want to unclip the throatlatch of the halter for safety (clipping it back on itself will prevent it from swinging around).
  3. Give him a hay net. This will keep him happy and occupied. I like to tie everything so that the horse is between the hay net and his water buckets, allowing him to reach everything without leaving the lead rope too long. If you do provide a hay net, be aware that hay can die a wet, white face green! Be ready with alcohol and a towel before you tack up to solve that problem.
  4. Do not leave him untied at any point before his class! You might be tempted to let him loose once he has dried but you still risk him rolling. It is for this reason that I try to bathe as close to the time of the class as possible, since it is unfair to ask the horse to stand tied for half the day. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Handy Hunter

While most of the time, hunter classes are labelled simply as "over fences" or "under saddle", there are some different types of classes to look out for in the prize list. One of these is the Handy Hunter class.

If it is offered, it will usually be just one of the classes in a normal hunter division.

What can you expect from a handy hunter course? It will vary from your usual inside-outside-diagonal-outside-diagonal hunter course in that it will require the horse to be more "handy". A handy horse is one that is very easy to maneuver around a course. The judge will want to see a horse that can handle tighter turns more easily and take some chances while being very responsive.

Different elements that might be seen in a handy hunter course are gallop jumps, rollbacks, trot jumps, a gate to open and/or close from the horse's back, etc. You might even be asked to dismount and lead the horse over a jump. The judge might also want to see you take chances by riding a rollback turn that isn't specifically asked for on the course diagram, the same as you might see in an equitation class where there is a clear option between going inside a jump to make the turn or going all the way around for what would be a more typical hunter turn. Additional risky elements that should be rewarded if done well are heading straight to the first jump without circling, and easily coming down to a walk before the in-gate at the end of the round without circling.

Here is the official EC rule concerning handy hunter classes:

May be offered as one class per division. Course should vary from the normal hunter class routine to include elements that show rideability and handiness. e.g. turn back, trot fences, option lines. Not recommended for green horses or novice rider classes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Happens if a Jump Blows Down?

Imagine that you're on course on a windy day, approaching your next jump when part of it blows down! What do you do?

If the judge notices the problem immediately, the bell will be rung and you can stop or circle until the obstacle is rebuilt and the bell is rung again to signal you to resume your round.

If you notice the problem before the judge does, stop and point in the direction of the jump. The clock will be stopped and an adjustment might be made to your time to account for any delay. Wait until the bell is rung before you take the jump.

Here is the official EC rule:

1. In the event of a competitor not being able to continue his round for any reason or unforeseen circumstance, the bell should be rung to stop the competitor. As soon as it is evident that the competitor is stopping, the clock will be stopped. As soon as the course is ready again, the bell will be rung, and the clock will be restarted when the competitor reaches the precise place where the clock was stopped.
2. If the competitor does not stop when the bell is rung, he continues at his own risk, and the clock should not be stopped. The Ground Jury must decide whether the competitor is to be eliminated for ignoring the order to stop, or whether, under the circumstances, he should be allowed to continue. If the competitor is not eliminated, and is allowed to continue his round, the scores obtained at the obstacles preceding and following the order to stop will count whether they are good or bad.
3. If the competitor stops voluntarily to signal to the Ground Jury that the obstacle to be jumped is wrongly built or if due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the competitor, he is prevented from continuing his round under normal circumstances, the clock must be stopped immediately.
3.1. If the dimensions are correct and the obstacle in question has been properly built or if the so-called unforeseen circumstances are not accepted as such by the Ground Jury, the competitor will be penalized as for stopping during the round (223.1) and the time of his round will be increased by 6 seconds;
3.2. If the obstacle or part of the obstacle needs to be rebuilt or if the unforeseen circumstances are accepted as such by the Ground Jury, the competitor is not penalized. The time of the interruption must be deducted and the clock stopped until the moment when the competitor takes up his track at the point where he stopped. Any delay incurred by the competitor must be taken into consideration and an appropriate number of seconds deducted from his recorded time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Recommended Reading #2

101 Jumping Exercises: For Horse and RiderIf you're looking for a book that focuses more on at-home training than on horse shows, one book that I have found to be very useful is 101 Jumping Exercises: For Horse and Rider by Linda L. Allen.

If you've gotten into a boring gymnastic rut, you are sure to find some new ideas here and the exercises can be built upon to go beyond what is in the book.
I would recommend this to anyone who does any pole work or jumping outside of lessons because there is a lot to be learned from some of these gymnastics. Following a written exercise can also show you any weaknesses that you and your horse might have that are not evident in lessons designed for your own personal strengths.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What Constitutes a Knock-Down?

You might think that dislodging any part of a jump on course would count as a knock-down, but that isn't necessarily true!

If, while jumping a vertical in a jumper class, you dislodge a lower rail without dislodging the top rail (it can be done, as I know from personal experience), you will not be penalized for the rail according to EC rules.

For hunters, here are the official rules regarding knock-downs:

2. An obstacle is considered knocked down when its height is lowered by the horse or rider.
3. If the height of the jump is altered as a result of a horse or rider contacting a wing or post it will be scored as a knockdown.
4. If a jump falls as a result of a horse or rider contacting a wing or post it will be scored as a knock-down.

And the rules for jumpers:

1. An obstacle is considered to have been knocked down when, through a mistake of the horse or competitor:
1.1. the whole or any upper part of the same vertical plane of it falls, even if the part which falls is arrested in its fall by any other part of the obstacle (218.1);
1.2. at least one of its ends no longer rests on any part of its support.
2. Touches and displacements of any part of an obstacle or its flags, in whatever direction, while in the act of jumping, do not count as a knock down. If in doubt the Ground Jury should decide in favour of the competitor. The knock down or displacement of an obstacle and/or a flag as a result of a disobedience is penalized as a refusal only. In the event of the displacement of any part of an obstacle, (except the flags), as a result of a disobedience, the bell will be rung and the clock stopped while the displacement is re-adjusted. This does not count as a knock down and is only penalized as a disobedience and corrected by time in accordance with article 232.
3. Penalties for knocking down an obstacle are those provided for under Tables A and C (236 and 239).
4. If any part of an obstacle, which has been knocked down is likely to impede a competitor in jumping another obstacle, the bell must be rung and the clock stopped while this part is picked up and the way is cleared.
5. If a competitor jumps an obstacle correctly which has been improperly rebuilt, he incurs no penalty; but if he knocks down this obstacle he will be penalized in accordance with the table in use for the competition.

1. When a vertical obstacle or part of an obstacle comprises two or several parts placed one above the other and positioned in the same vertical plane, only the fall of the top part is penalized.
2. When a spread obstacle which requires only one effort comprises parts which are not positioned in the same vertical plane, the fall of one or several top parts only counts as one fault whatever the number and position of the parts which have fallen. Trees, hedges etc. used as filling are not liable for penalties.

In short, lowering the height of the jump will result in a knock-down while dislodging any filler (lower rails or decorative filler) will not.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Happens if I Fall Off?

The answer to this question really depends on the rules of your national federation. If you check any rule book, it should probably come under "Falls". Some federations will not allow you to remount in the show ring due to safety considerations while others will allow you to remount and ride out of the ring.

If you fall off during a class, Equine Canada rules state that you are eliminated and can not get back on the horse in the show ring:

After being eliminated for a fall, the rider may not remount in the ring. Any rider who does remount in the ring after a fall will be eliminated from all classes in that ring for the remainder of the day. A rider who remounts after a fall and takes another obstacle will be disqualified from the remainder of the competition.

If you fall off and you are able to keep a hold of your horse, lead your horse out of the ring at the walk. If you fall off and your horse runs away, either stay where you are awaiting medical assistance or help to catch your horse. Once he has been caught, you or someone else can lead him out of the ring. Once you have left the show ring, you can remount in the warm-up area and continue to ride.

Keep in mind that the rule refers to falls in which the horse is eliminated. If the fall occurs before the start timers in a jumper class, the horse is not eliminated and the rider can remount (Disclaimer: I have not seen this happen in several years so the general interpretation of the rule might have now changed):


1.2. [...] Disobediences, falls etc. occurring between the signal to start and the moment the competitor crosses the starting line in the correct direction, are not penalized.

You may be given a leg up by a third party (i.e. a member of the jump crew) provided you have not yet crossed the start line:

1. Any physical intervention by a third party between the crossing of the starting line in the correct direction and the crossing of the finishing line after jumping the last obstacle, whether solicited or not, with the object of helping the competitor or his horse is considered to be unauthorized assistance.

For hunters, here is the specific EC rule:


5. Horse and/or rider falling while in competition incurs elimination, and a rider may not remount in the ring. A competitor is considered to have fallen when, either voluntarily or involuntarily, he/she is separated from his/her horse, which has not fallen, in such a way that he/she touches the ground or finds it necessary, in order to get back into the saddle, to use some form of support or outside assistance. A horse is considered to have fallen when at the same time both its shoulder and quarters have touched either the ground or the obstacle and the ground.

For clarity, here is the definition of a fall:

1. A competitor is considered to have fallen when, either voluntarily or involuntarily, he is separated from his horse, which has not fallen, in such a way that he touches the ground or finds it necessary, in order to get back into the saddle, to use some form of support or outside assistance. If it is not clear that the competitor has used some form of support or outside assistance to prevent his fall, the benefit of doubt must be given to the competitor.
2. A horse is considered to have fallen when the shoulder and quarters have touched the ground or the obstacle and the ground.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trainer Conflicts

When there are several rings running at a horse show, it can be difficult for a coach to get to every ring on time. This results in what we call "trainer conflicts".

You are not expected to warm up and enter the show ring without your coach being present. The in-gate person will generally try to accommodate you in the order, provided you have informed them of the conflict and tried your hardest to get there on time. If you are ready and at the ring, the show management will be more likely to help you out than if you and your horse are absent and not ready to go at a moment's notice.

If the conflict drags on for too long or if you are taking too long to prepare once the conflict has been resolved, the show could institute a time limit for you to enter the ring. In order to avoid this, be organized and plan your day as well as you can!

It's always a good idea to find out which ring has the highest priority of the show. This ring usually has the most important classes, the most classes, or a posted order. Because the show wants this ring to run smoothly, long waits are less likely to be tolerated and trainers should make sure to be on time for that ring.

The lowest priority ring is likely to have longer waits and be more lenient because some trainers must be at the higher priority rings. If you will be showing in a low-priority ring, prepare yourself to wait through conflicts and try not to stress out when it seems as though the conflict will never end. As long as you keep in touch with the in-gate person, the class is not likely to end without you.

Communication is key!

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Happens if I go Off Course?

Hopefully, you will never make the mistake of going off course during a round, but what happens if you do? Regardless of whether you are competing in the hunters or the jumpers, going off course incurs elimination.

Going off course includes jumping the fences in the wrong order, jumping a fence that is not part of the course, omitting a jump, etc.


If you are aware that you have gone off course:

Once you know that you are off course, you should stop jumping immediately and exit the ring promptly.  

If you are not aware that you have gone off course:

At most shows, you will be asked by the announcer to leave the ring: "Rider in Ring _, you are excused." Once you have been told to leave the ring, you need to stop jumping immediately and exit the ring.

At some shows, you might be asked to leave by the in-gate person instead. In such as case, as soon as you hear the shouting from the in-gate, you need to stop your round.


As soon as the judge notices that you are off course, the bell will be rung repeatedly to indicate that you have been eliminated. Once the bell has been rung, you should not continue on course.

Going off course in the jumpers includes not crossing between the start timers and missing a mandatory turning point (generally seen on banks). Carefully checking the course diagram before the class can prevent some of these errors of course.

You can correct your deviation as long as you make a change before jumping the first wrong jump. Circling back or crossing your path when you notice that you are about to go off course will incur four faults but you will at least avoid being eliminated. Once you have taken a jump backwards or in the wrong order, no corrections can be made to avoid elimination.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


You might be tempted to wear some flashy clothing or tack into the show ring to get noticed, but are you allowed to have "bling"?

Here are the EC rules that apply to this situation:

2. [...] Only approved helmets (see Article G102) of a conservative color are allowed.

1. While exhibitors and judges should bear in mind that entries are being judged at all times on ability, it should be noted that neatness is a first requisite regarding rider's dress.
2. Jacket - conservative colour; Jodhpurs or breeches; ties, stocks or chokers must be worn; boots; black or brown smooth leather half chaps are permissible providing they match the boot colour.
3. Conservative-coloured protective headgear (as per Article G1004) with no additional adornments.

Conservative coloured protective headgear (as per Article G1004) with no additional adornments.

7. Browbands: All leather of any description but not coloured or jeweled.

Horse-wise, in the jumper ring, you can use as much "bling" as you'd like and you will still be allowed to compete.  

In hunter or equitation classes, any "bling" on the horse is not appropriate. The bridle should be plain brown (or black) leather with no metal clinchers or jewels on the browband (or on the noseband, for that matter). The padding should also be brown or black, not coloured. It should be the horse that is flashy, not what you've put on the horse! Some riders will put a small charm in one of the braids. This is a personal choice, but make sure that it's subtle if you choose to do it.

The official Equine Canada rules really only take into account flashy helmets as far as the rider is concerned. In all rings, including the jumpers, helmets must be of a conservative colour. In equitation and medal classes, there must be no additional adornments, either, which means no jewels and no coloured stripes.

In equitation classes, jackets must also be of a conservative colour. You should be fine as long as you don't stray from the standard colours (navy, black, grey, dark green, etc.). While most riders will wear a white show shirt for equitation classes, there is no rule requiring it.

Belts with bling are also quite popular. These should not be worn for equitation classes, and judges for the hunter ring might also disapprove if they find the belt to be distracting. There is nothing to stop them from being worn in the jumper ring.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tack Boxes

Tack boxes are very handy for getting your equipment to and from each show while keeping it all neat and organized. They come in all shapes and sizes and which type you use will depend on your budget, available space and preferences for weight and style.

Most tack trunks fall under one of the following categories:

Vinyl Trunks - These are usually the most stylish option, often made with custom colours and the rider's name or initials printed on the trunk. They are available in a variety of sizes and the largest ones can generally fit anything that you'd like to put in there. The downsides to this option are their space requirements and their weight. The larger models can be very wide and therefore don't fit in the more narrow tent aisles. In such a case, you would be forced to put the trunk outside or in a tack stall (it will take up a lot of space in there!). They can be difficult to carry around even for two people, so they are not a good option if you'll be doing most of the loading or unloading yourself. They are also very expensive.

Wooden Trunks - These also look very classy when they are done well. Again, they can come in a variety of sizes but I have found there to be a lot more narrower widths available than in the vinyl category, which makes fitting them in tent aisles much easier. They can be quite heavy, so again, usually two people are required to move them around. The cost varies depending on the size and quality. If you can build one yourself, it can be a very inexpensive option.

Plastic Trunks - These provide a lighter alternative to the vinyl or wooden trunks while still providing some bigger sizes to fit all of your equipment. They tend not to look all that nice and a lot of riders will use a special trunk cover to improve the look. They are generally a bit cheaper than wooden trunks. The Stanley brand is very popular.

Rubbermaids - This is my tack box of choice! They are inexpensive, very light and come in a variety of sizes. They tend not to look all that attractive, but they are practical. One strong person can often lift even the larger ones without help, so they are great if you will be working solo. I also like being able to empty some of them into the tack stall and then just tossing them back into the trailer for storage. Not necessarily the best choice if you're worried about looks. 

Whichever type you choose, make sure that the box will fit through the tack room door of any trailer that you will be using. Some of the wider trunks will not fit through your average trailer tack room door and therefore need to be transported specially!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jumper Tack: Reins

As far as reins go, anything goes in the jumper ring! You can use whichever combination of whichever reins you'd like and be perfectly legal.

The most popular are probably rubber reins due to their excellent grip. If you use them, make sure that you don't use saddle soap or any sort of conditioner on them as it can make them grungy. The rubber will eventually wear down over time with use and you will need to either get them re-coated or buy new ones.

Some riders prefer to use web reins. They are not as bulky as rubber reins and are less likely to become slippery when wet than leather reins.

Leather reins, laced, braided or plain, are always an option. They provide a thinner alternative for a curb rein but don't tend to be as grippy as the other choices.

If you are using a running martingale, make sure that your reins have rein stops on them (seen on the reins in this photo). If either of the rings gets stuck on the end of the reins or on the bit, your horse is likely to panic and using rein stops between the martingale and the bit will prevent that from ever happening. Most rubber reins tend to come with leather rein stops already attached, but if your reins don't have them you can buy rubber ones that are quite easy to slide on to the reins. It really is important for your safety not to use a running martingale without them.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hunter Tack: Reins

Hunter tack tends to be very limited in its options, and reins are no exception. The rules state that the reins must be made entirely of leather, so that means that rubber or webbed reins are definitely out (unless rubber reins are allowed in bad weather, which is extremely rare).

The EC rule:

6. Reins: entirely leather of any description, buckled, studded or sewn; single rein pelham and pelham converters are only allowed in junior and amateur classes in 3’ (0.90m) or below. In the case of bad weather, at the discretion of the judge, steward and/or competition committee, rubber reins may be allowed.

So which reins can you use?
Laced reins

The most commonly-seen reins in the hunter ring are laced reins. Each side is made of a long piece of leather that has two narrower strips of leather woven through it for grip. They are relatively easy to keep clean and, while they are not as grippy as rubber reins, they are easier to hold on to than plain leather reins.

Braided reins are not as popular as laced reins, but they are made entirely of leather and are allowed in competition. Rather than having a solid piece of leather down the entire length of the rein, braided reins consist of a length of braided narrower strips of leather.
Plain reins

Plain reins are just a solid piece of leather and are generally used as a curb rein because they provide less bulk and allow the rider to feel the difference between the two sets of reins. They are less grippy than the others and so are not generally used as the main reins. Plain leather reins with rubber on the inside for extra grip are not entirely made of leather and are therefore not legal.

Whichever type you choose, the key is for the reins not to stand out. They should be the same colour as the rest of your bridle. Whether you go with a buckle attachment or a stud attachment is your choice, but I find that the stud attachments blend in better and provide a cleaner picture.

Most reins are available in different widths, and because there is no rule about rein width, you should just choose whichever width feels best in your hands.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jogging for Ribbons

In sanctioned or rated hunter divisions, horses are required to jog for soundness before receiving ribbons. In schooling divisions or unsanctioned divisions, jogging is done only at the judge's discretion, which is very rare!

In order to jog, you will need to remove your horse's saddle and martingale completely (detaching the martingale from the girth and keeping it around the neck is not acceptable). If you have the time, try to remove any saddle marks. Keep the bridle on and done up completely, and then use the reins to lead the horse.

The in-gate should have a standby list near the end of the class with the numbers that are expected to be asked to jog in for ribbons. This list can, of course, change as the last riders complete their rounds, but you should be prepared to jog regardless if you are on that standby list. After all of the horses have finished, the in-gate will call the numbers of the horses that need to jog and you must enter the ring in that order. 

If you are jogging in second place or lower, all that you will need to do is follow the first rider's path through the ring. If you are jogging in first, ask the in-gate where you should jog to if you're not sure. You will generally jog diagonally across the ring from the in-gate to the far end, passing in front of the judge and then circling back and coming to a halt before you obstruct the judge's view of the other horses. The horses should remain lined up in the same order in which they were called.

For a more in-depth look at where you should jog to, see How to Jog.

Wherever you end up in the line, ensure that you leave enough room for all of the horses to jog and line up. If the first horse doesn't go far enough or if the horses are too spread out, the last horses might not have enough space to get a jog going.

If you are not sure whether your horse jogs well, practice at home. It helps to have a crop in one hand at first so that you can give the horse a little tap on the side as you begin to jog rather than trying to pull him forward with the bridle.

The rider should be dressed completely while jogging, including wearing a helmet (absolutely necessary for junior divisions) and number.

If you are showing multiple horses in the same division, you can have another rider jog one of your horses for you. For amateur classes, that spare jogger must be an amateur, and for junior classes they must be a junior.

Here are the EC rules relating to jogging a hunter for soundness:

5. In all hunter classes except miscellaneous hunter, horses and ponies must be jogged for soundness (see Article G406.2). Juniors showing any horse in a jog for soundness must wear approved protective headgear with the attached safety harness fastened.
6. All horses and ponies showing in junior classes must be jogged by a junior.
All horses and ponies showing in amateur classes must be jogged by an amateur.

2. Horses must be serviceably sound in eye, wind and limb. Horses are required to jog for soundness in all except miscellaneous hunter classes.

1. When required to return to the ring for conformation or soundness, entries will be refused an award unless they return in the complete bridle in which they have shown.
15. Bandages and Boots: No bandages or boots are allowed; in the case of bad weather, at the discretion of the judge, steward and/or competition committee, tendon, ankle and bell boots may be worn in hunter classes but boots must be removed before the horse jogs in front of the judge for conformation and/or soundness.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Numbers Worn on the Back

In the hunter ring and for equitation classes, the number must be worn on the rider's back. This allows it to be seen from both sides in any classes run on the flat while at the same time being neat and inconspicuous.

When you are competing over fences, the number should be centered in the middle of your back. In an under saddle or flat class, enter the ring with your number centered and then adjust it to one side or the other before the class begins. If the judge is sitting outside the ring, she will most likely ask you to move your number slightly to the outside. If she is standing inside the ring, she will ask for it to be moved slightly to the inside.

Moving your number slightly is very important. The judge must be able to take a quick look at any horse in the ring, and there is not time for her to watch you long enough to try to catch a glimpse of your number as you go around a corner. When you turn your number, make sure that you don't turn it so far that your arm covers the number!

The string that you should use to tie the number around your waist is generally a dark shoestring, available at the show office when you pick up your number.

There is a definite wrong way to thread your number; passing the string over top of the number is a big no-no:

There are two possible correct ways to thread it.  One way allows the number to move along the string, which is useful if you hide the knot in a buttonhole on your jacket, making the string itself impossible to turn during a flat class:

My preference is to thread it so that the number is centered on the string and cannot move. This is done by first threading it through as seen in the two photos above. The next step is to ensure that the number is centered. This can be done either by holding the two ends of the string up together and moving the number until it hangs parallel to the ground or by stretching the two ends of the string out together and measuring by eye:

The next step is to then take each end of the string and thread it back through the hole it originally came through (in the same direction):

This creates a tight loop of string around the cardboard at the edge, keeping the number from sliding along the string. After securing both sides, the final result should look something like this:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hunter Tails

In the hunter ring, horses' tails are generally left longer and more natural-looking than the banged tails of the jumper ring.

There is actually quite a variation in the tails seen on hunters, with some riders not trimming the tail at all while others do bang it (albeit leaving it longer than most jumpers would). My personal preference is something in between the two extremes: trimming the tail to a length that suits the horse without leaving it with such a square bottom.

Lengthwise, you should be aiming for the tail to finish no higher than just above the fetlocks. The horse's conformation and the thickness of the tail determine how much longer I will trim it.

I find that a thin tail looks better if it's slightly shorter because increased length will just make it look thinner by increasing the length to width ratio. Fake tails are available to supplement a thin tail and they are legal in the hunter ring. Sometimes the fake tail will help to balance out the look of the horse as some horses look very heavy on the forehand with just a thin tail.

A thick tail tends to look a bit too blunt if it's cut too short, so those ones are best left longer.

When I trim a hunter's tail, I tend not to cut straight across, but rather I make multiple small cuts on an angle to create a slight variation in hair length. This keeps the tail looking more natural than it would if it were banged.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Numbers Worn on the Saddle Pad

There are multiple ways of wearing your number in the jumper ring. These include wearing it on your back, attaching it to your saddle pad, attaching a small number to your martingale or breastplate, or attaching a small number to your bridle. The most popular is, by far, pinning it to your saddle pad.

The choice of which side to put the number on is not yours to make. The number is there for the in-gate person to see as you enter the ring and it should therefore be on the side of the horse that faces the in-gate person while you're on deck.

Whether you choose to attach it horizontally or on an angle is up to you. Just make sure that the number is entirely legible!

To pin your number to your saddle pad, you will need a square pad and two or three large safety pins.

Most cardboard numbers come with one hole punched on each side and then a couple of holes punched at the top, as shown in the diagram on the right. While it's possible to attach the number using just these holes, I find that it makes for a loose number, and those sideways pins on the sides aren't very attractive, either!

Instead, I like to use the pin to create an extra hole on each side. In order to create a nicer picture, I like to run the pins through from underneath so that the bulky parts of the safety pin are hidden beneath the number. When done this way, only a thin strip of metal is visible between the holes.

To run the pin through from underneath, start by positioning the number where you would like it on the saddle pad. Insert one of the large safety pins up through one of the original side holes from the back of the number to the front, piercing the fabric of the pad slightly as you begin. Run it about an inch straight down across the top of the number and then pierce the cardboard, pushing the safety pin back down and into the saddle pad.  Once you've pierced enough fabric to hold it on well, close the safety pin and repeat for the other side.

It will take some practice to get the correct amount of fabric on both sides to make the number completely secure. If you've done it correctly, the bulk of the safety pin should be under the number like in the photo below.

If you are worried about either of the side pins coming undone, you can run another safety pin through the top holes. Again, try to hide the pin behind the number. This time, you won't have to pierce any extra holes because the two at the top should be close enough together.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Banging the Tail

In the jumpers, most horses are shown with their tails banged. A banged tail is one that is cut straight across at the bottom to make it shorter. The bottom of the tail is not actually horizontal relative to the ground when the horse is at rest, but is cut to be horizontal when the horse raises its tail during work.

The length of the tail is really up to personal preference. Most jumper tails end somewhere between the fetlock and halfway up the cannon bone.

I'm going to show you today how I, personally, bang a tail to mimic the lift of the tail while the horse is ridden. I am right-handed, and the white circle represents my left hand while the red circle represents my right hand.

Step 1 - Put your scissors in a place where they will be easily accessible to you, such as in a pocket. Grasp the tail with your right hand right under the dock.

Step 2 - Lift the tail up to about the average carriage that you have seen when the horse is worked.

Step 3 - Keeping the tail held up with your right hand, wrap your left hand around the circumference of the tail just below your right hand. Squeeze the hairs of the tail together with your left hand as you run that hand down the tail to just above the height that you want to cut it at.

Keeping the tail held up while you do this step is very important!

Step 4 - While squeezing very tightly with your left hand so that no hair slips, let go of the dock and grab the scissors with your right hand. Cut straight across right below your left hand. You can cut straight across at this point because now the difference in hair length to account for the raised tail is above your fist rather than below it.

Step 5 - You're done! Lift up the tail by the dock again just to make sure that you've gotten it right (if you have, it should appear pretty much straight across when it's lifted as you see in this diagram). If it doesn't look perfect, just try again and take off the minimum to keep the tail from getting too short.

Some riders like to put something like a towel under the dock to hold it up while you cut. I believe that this just complicates things unnecessarily if you're able to keep the hair squeezed at the correct length with your fist, but use whatever works best for you.

Hunter Striding

A very big part of being successful in the hunter ring is learning what the ideal stride length feels like. Adding or subtracting a stride in a line is a major fault so memorizing what is expected of you at each distance is a must.

Rather than standing at the in-gate attempting mental math, it really is best just to memorize the striding. If you are showing a horse, memorize the most common line lengths (usually four, five or six strides) for a 12-foot stride. That's just three numbers to remember and the math to determine how short or long those lines will ride is easy! If you're riding a pony, memorize the most common line lengths for the ideal stride corresponding to your pony's size category.

Most courses are set for a 12-foot stride, so that is what you should aim to get a feel for at home. Some novice classes at schooling or 'B'-circuit shows will be set using an 11- or 11.5-foot stride to account for smaller jumps and less experienced riders. The higher hunter classes on the 'A'-circuit, on the other hand, will be set for a longer stride due to the bigger jumps. Because the distances will be written on the course diagram between the fences, there will be no surprises while you're on course!

There is a great chart here showing the distances for horses and ponies for each number of strides and at almost all stride lengths (check out GrandPrixDesign's main website for many more course design tips).

The course designer's aim for the hunter ring is to make each horse look as good as possible. This is why you will find that the distances in lines heading away from the in-gate will be shorter than the distances in the lines heading towards the in-gate. Horses will generally lengthen the canter slightly when they're coming towards home, so this will make all of the lines ride roughly the same.

Keep in mind that getting the striding in the lines alone is not enough; the judge does not want to see a slow, relaxed canter around the corners and then a rushed canter in the lines to make the distance. Keep your canter the same throughout the course by having every stride you take be the ideal length for your class.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jumper Boots

The seemingly wide variety of boots worn by jumpers can make choosing a set for your horse a daunting task. Luckily, the basic boot is essentially always the same, with the styling, materials and colours varying.

Because jumpers need to be careful, we don't want the horse to have a lot of padding on the front of any of the legs. If the front of the boot is padded, the horse will not be able to "feel" any rubs and might become careless. For this reason, we almost always use open-front boots. Open front boots protect the tendons at the back of the legs from the horse over-reaching and protect the inside of each leg from the horse hitting itself.

While we are focusing on boots for the front legs, open-front boots are also available for the hind legs should your horse need protection there, too.

Here you can see the difference between an open-front boot (on the right) and a closed splint boot (on the left).  The open-front boot leaves the front of the leg exposed except for the leather straps while the splint boot has neoprene wrapped around the entire leg to cover the front as well. Note that this horse is also wearing bell boots. These are not often used on jumpers unless they are absolutely needed because, again, the horse might not feel rubs with them on.

There are many different styles of open front boots available depending on your preferences and your budget. The most expensive, and nicest-looking for the show ring, are usually the leather ones while those with hard plastic outer shells and neoprene lining are usually the cheapest.

Here are the standard materials used for the boot itself:

Leather - While leather boots look very nice, keep in mind that the narrow leather straps can dig into the legs of some sensitive horses. They do tend to require a thorough cleaning after each ride because the inside of the boot will acquire a coating of grit and sweat. There should be elastic incorporated into the straps to allow some give. Leather boots are also available with sheepskin linings, which, while gentle on the horse's legs, can be difficult to keep clean.

Plastic Polymer With Neoprene - These boots have a semi-rigid plastic shell with a neoprene lining. The hard shell protects against cuts and knocks. Since the shape of these boots is not adjustable, they can rub some horses' legs. Certain horses react poorly to the neoprene, in which case these boots can be used with a sheepskin lining instead. While they are available in almost all of the colours of the rainbow, they really should be black, brown or white for the show ring.

Plastic Polymer With Memory Foam - These boots have a similar semi-rigid plastic shell for protection but conform to the legs better than neoprene due to the memory foam lining. They are also an option for horses that are allergic to neoprene.

Another factor in choosing the right set of boots for your horse is the type of closures. Here are the basics:

Buckle - Buckle closures stay done up very well but some horses can't tolerate those narrow straps. If the straps have many tightly-spaced holes, the boots will fit better than a pair with fewer, widely-spaced holes that might not correspond exactly to your horse's leg circumference.

Tab/Stud closures - These boots have tabs with keyhole-shaped holes that hook over metal studs on the boot. While these closures tend to stay on very well, I have found them not to fit most horses as well as I would like. There are usually only two or three different tightness options and the boots will be too tight or too loose if your horse is not one of those three sizes!

Velcro - Velcro on elastic is, in my option, the best in terms of fitting because there are no set sizes. The downside to using velcro is that it can come undone more easily than the other closures, especially in muddy conditions or on horses with a lot of knee action. If your horse tends to lose boots, sometimes wrapping Vetrap or tape once fairly loosely around the boot is enough to keep the velcro secure. Velcro straps come in different widths; the elastic is thin enough that it really doesn't matter how much of the leg they cover.