Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Memorizing Hunter Courses

Hunter jumps may not have numbers on them, but the courses are not as difficult to memorize as you would think. A well-designed hunter course has an easy flow to it, and once you know what the typical course design is like, you should be able to find your way around almost any hunter course just from knowing the first jump alone!

Most hunter courses start with a single vertical on the inside track. Occasionally, the single vertical will be placed on a diagonal, but the flow following the jump will be the same.

After the first jump, the course will go to either an outside line (or single oxer) or a diagonal line (or single oxer). Generally, a diagonal will follow an outside and an outside will follow a diagonal. The best part? Usually, there will only be one line of jumps to take from the proper direction after coming around the end of the ring!

One course might be inside, diagonal, outside, diagonal, outside. Another might be inside, outside, diagonal, outside, diagonal.

How should you memorize the course in the quickest, easiest way? Remember the first jump and the last jump. That's it! You should always run through the rest of the course with a ground person before you enter the ring, just to make sure that it follows the usual formula, but it's really no more complicated than that for most hunter classes. Even if the course includes a broken line or an in-and-out, it will still follow roughly the same track!

As you go around the course, make sure that you don't jump anything backwards. Check that there's a nice ground line in front of everything and you should be good to go (since hunter jumps have such large ground lines, the back of most jumps will have an almost false ground line since it is pulled out so far in front). It's very rare to have a line going from an oxer to a vertical in a regular hunter class, so if you see an oxer (likely facing the wrong way) as the first part of the line, it's most likely not the jump that you're meant to take. Keep going around the course until you've gone over that last jump that you memorized!

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to Befriend the Show Office Staff

There is a very good reason why you should be nice to the show office staff, besides basic politeness. If you try to make their lives easier, chances are that they will try to make yours easier, too. They can do everything from helping you do your adds more quickly, to contacting others at the horse show for you, to taking your word for it when corrections need to be made to your bill at the end of the show.

So what can you do to put yourself in their good books?
  • Be polite and friendly: You might be having a bad day, but put on a smile and say 'please' and 'thank you' when you're in the show office. In a sea of rushed and stressed-out competitors, a friendly face is a welcome sight.
  • Be patient: There can be a lot of waiting around at the busier times of the day, and pushing ahead in the line or getting upset about having to wait won't do anyone any good.
  • Have your memberships completed before the horse show: Doing it through the office makes for extra work for the office staff.
  • Get your entries in on time: There's a reason for the entry deadline, and sending your entries in late produces more unexpected work right before the show than they had planned for.
  • Provide all of the necessary paperwork (passports, memberships, Coggins test, etc.) and fill out your entries and stall order forms completely: There is a reason why everything is asked for and making the office do research or chase after you is extra work!
  • Be ready to pay at any time: Most shows require either payment up front or an open cheque before your numbers will be issued. Don't make the office staff's lives difficult by forgetting your cheque and expecting for them to make an exception for you (never expect to be given special treatment; just appreciate it when you are!).
  • Have all of the necessary information with you to do entries: If you don't know show names or exhibitor numbers, how will they? Don't make them search for information that you should already know.
  • Try to do your entries, bill payments and hay/shavings orders at quiet times: The show office is usually busiest at the end of the afternoon, as the classes are finishing or finished. On the last day, try to pay your bill in the morning if you don't have any afternoon classes.
Above all, be understanding. The office staff deal with hundreds of people every day and they do their best to get everything done efficiently and accurately. Mistakes are bound to happen and when they do, remember that the staff are only human. Most of us wouldn't last five minutes in their shoes when the office is at its busiest!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Memorizing Jumper Courses

If you're new to the jumper ring, you might be worried about memorizing the courses. Jumper classes usually take place in a large ring with at least ten numbered jumps, and the technical nature of the courses means that there will be a lot of different turns to get to those jumps. Thankfully, memorizing a jumper course isn't as difficult as it looks as long as you prepare yourself for it.

First, check the course diagrams in the morning before the first class starts (they will be posted near the in-gate). Look to see if any of the classes are using the same course. If your class shares a course with an earlier class, watch as many riders go as you can in that earlier class. This will put the flow of the course in your mind, help you memorize the striding as you subconsciously keep track of it in each line, and it will show you which options work best for the different horses and riders. You can even walk the course with the riders from the earlier class, but keep in mind that the course designer might tweak the course in between the classes so you might be in for a surprise if you don't walk it again with your own class!

While the course is being set or adjusted for your class, take a good look at the course diagram. Remember where the first jump is so that you will know where to start your walk, as well as where the last jump is so that you don't accidentally end your course walk too early, thinking you have reached the last jump when it fact you have not (it has happened more often than you might think!). As you look at the diagram, get a feel for the flow of the course. Does the course designer tend to use a lot of diagonal lines, broken lines, or rollback turns? Most course designers have their own easily recognizable style, and knowing what that style is will help you to remember what to do in the ring.    

When the ring is opened for the walk, go in immediately and start planning your round. Don't forget to think about how you will enter the ring and get to your first jump. Walk the entire course from start to finish, determining how many strides to put in each line and where to turn to each jump. Make sure that you walk every inch of that course, because you will remember the track that you walked when you're in the ring on your horse. Walking each line and turn will help you remember what to do.

Once you've walked the entire course, walk it again (that's why you should start your walk as soon as the ring is open!). This second walk will solidify the track in your mind, making it much easier to remember. It will also give you a chance to test yourself on the striding since you can try to remember the number and then walk it to confirm. If the ring is closed while you're still doing your second walk, don't panic. Leave the ring immediately and then continue that second walk in your mind.

Ensure that you have the first round course clear in your mind before walking the jump-off, and even then, keep the focus mostly on the first round. Look for where to turn, but don't repeat it too many times to yourself or you risk confusing the two rounds. Without that first round, there is no jump-off, and there will be time to go through the jump-off quickly in your head after the bell goes.

Between walking the course and competing, go through the course in your head as many times as you can. Imagine riding each jump in the entire course. If you can go through the whole course in your mind without looking at the real one, you're ready to go.

If you have prepared correctly, the course should come naturally to you once you're on course since you've already been through it so many times that you shouldn't have to think too much about it. The less you have to worry about it, the better you can ride!

Elimination for Disobediences

There are several different ways of getting eliminated from your class at the horse show, all of which are described in the rule book. Today we will talk about eliminations resulting from multiple disobediences.

In both the hunter ring and the jumper ring, horses are eliminated after their second disobedience. The jumper rule, however, goes into much further detail.


The EC rule for multiple disobediences in the hunter ring is simply:

6. Second cumulative refusal, runout or bolting on course results in elimination. When a horse avoids an obstacle he is supposed to jump, it constitutes a refusal or runout. The horse must be brought back and jumped over the obstacle or he will be eliminated.

This just says that if your horse has refused or run out once, you must come back and jump that obstacle successfully before continuing around the course. After a second refusal or runout anywhere on course, you are eliminated.


Disobediences are defined as:

1. The following are considered as disobediences and are penalized as such (236 and 239):
1.1. a refusal;
1.2. a run-out;
1.3. a resistance;
1.4. a more or less regular circle or group of circles no matter where they occur on the course or for whatever reason. It is also a disobedience to circle around the last obstacle jumped unless the track of the course so requires.

What 1.4 basically means is that you cannot cross your path between two jumps without it counting as a disobedience.

If you are unsure of what constitutes a refusal, run-out or resistance, they are defined in FEI Articles 221, 222 and 223, available here.

Here is the EC rule regarding elimination in Table A and Table C competitions:

1. Faults are penalized in penalty points or by elimination according to the tables set out in this Chapter.
First disobedience - 4 penalties
Second disobedience or other infringement laid down under Article 240 - Elimination

2. Penalties under Table C
First disobedience - None
First disobedience, with a knock down and/or displacing of an obstacle - time correction 6 seconds
Second disobedience or other infringement laid down under article 240 or both - Elimination

Once you have been eliminated in the jumper ring, you have the right to jump a courtesy fence according to the following rule:

2. The competitor has the right to jump one single obstacle, after retiring or after being eliminated, providing that obstacle is part of the course of the current competition. This however does not apply to elimination resulting from a fall.

You must leave the arena without delay after being eliminated, so if you choose to use your courtesy jump, you should select it carefully. It should ideally be located on your way back to the in-gate so that you can jump it on your way out without circling back. Never take any jump backwards, and choose a jump that you have already taken successfully in order to give yourself a better chance at avoiding another refusal (this is especially important because you have only one shot at your courtesy fence).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tent Stalls: Rolling Up The Flaps

If you are stabled in a tent, chances are you that will need to roll up the flaps at least once during the show. Even if it doesn't rain or get cold, the tents will often be put up with the flaps hanging down and are left that way until you arrive.

In order to put the flaps up, you will need something to stand on. Mounting blocks work very well but a shavings bag or hay bale works if that's all you have.

Stand inside the tent and look up at the edge. You should see something like this (I'm not showing the flap here), with a rope running along the inside edge of the tent between the end of the roof and the decorative border:

Adding in the flap, you will see that it is attached to the rope by a series of plastic clips. Depending on the age of the flap, there might be lots of clips or there might be many that are broken or missing. The fewer clips you have, the more difficult it will be to neatly roll the flaps up.

Now, to roll up the flap, stand on the mounting block inside the tent, almost right under the rope. Un-clip the clip that is closest to you (it is easier to clip onto the rope than it is to unclip. To unclip, you will need to push on the little finger and jiggle it away from the rope. To clip it back on, all you need to do is push the finger side against the rope).

Next, start to roll the flap up towards you, starting from the bottom and keeping that clip at the top accessible and centered. This might be difficult if the flap is new and thick or if you have a lot of clips fastened to the rope along the top.  If you're having trouble, un-clip the neighbouring clips, too. Your flaps won't be rolled as tightly, but it will still work.

Once you have it rolled all the way to the top, flip the roll around 360 degrees and clip it back onto the rope. This will keep it rolled up!

Now move one or two fastened clips down the flap and repeat.  This method works because you are alternating twisting one way (the original) and then the other (what we're doing here), so make sure that you always leave a clip or two between your rolls (otherwise when you flip the next one, it will just rotate a section of the flap and lose the tight fold).

To bring the flaps back down, just go along the flap and un-clip those twisted sections. They will unroll themselves and you can then clip back on to the rope or just leave those clips hanging if it doesn't sag too much.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Amateur Status

Possessing an amateur card will allow you to compete in divisions that are restricted to amateur riders (those divisions usually have 'amateur' or 'adult' in the name). If you are an adult, not having your amateur status will force you to compete in the open divisions against the pros. EC will take your word for it that you are an amateur once you have signed the amateur declaration unless someone complains to an official and challenges you.

Juniors are simply juniors and are not classified as amateurs or professionals.

Judges, course designers, stewards, grooms, etc. can all qualify as amateurs provided they meet the criteria. It does not matter that you are getting paid to do something with horses; it matters what you are getting paid to do.

In Canada, you must pay an extra $10 when renewing your Equine Canada membership in order to receive an amateur card. The amateur card is not really a card itself, but a ticked box on your EC membership card.

Who qualifies as an amateur? Let's check the EC rules:

1. All seniors competing in amateur classes at EC-sanctioned competitions must possess a current EC amateur card, which is purchased annually at the price listed in the EC Schedule of Fees. Competitors in FEI-sanctioned competitions must comply with the FEI definition of amateur.
2. A person competing in EC amateur classes must hold a valid EC senior sport license, have a current amateur card and adhere to the following guidelines:
a) Pilot Project: An EC amateur may hold an EC Instructor Beginner Certificate and teach within the context of the Instructor Beginner Certificate.
b) An EC amateur may accept remuneration for instruction of or coaching of the disabled.
c) An EC amateur may not accept remuneration for training a horse or for showing a horse at any EC-sanctioned competition. See Glossary for definition of “Remuneration”.
d) An EC amateur may not accept remuneration for coaching any person to ride or drive a horse, including riding or driving clinics and seminars.
e) An EC amateur may not train or show a horse, or instruct a rider or driver, when remuneration for this activity will be given to a corporation or farm which he or she, or his or her family, owns or controls.
f) An EC amateur may not act as an agent nor accept commissions for the sale, purchase and/or lease of a horse.
g) EC Amateurs may not use their name, photograph or any form of a personal association as a horse person in connection with any advertisement or article sold without the approval and signature of EC (e.g. product endorsement or advertisement of their activity as a coach).
h) An EC amateur may not enter into any form of sponsorship agreement that is in conflict with the provisions of this article.
See division rules for further information governing amateur status within divisions.
3. Persons who have not engaged in any of the activities in Article G108.2 (ag) during the preceding two (2) calendar years may request reinstatement as amateur competitors. Such requests must be sent in writing to EC.
4. Application for Equine Canada Amateur Status: 
a) Amateur status is issued by EC.
b) For EC members, certification of amateur status is issued annually on EC sport license cards.
c) All persons wishing EC amateur status must complete and sign the amateur declaration, which is on the sport license application/renewal form, affirming their eligibility.
d) Eligible amateurs who are not members of EC may receive amateur status issued by EC upon payment of the fee as listed in the current EC fee schedule.

In order to teach lessons or coach in exchange for remuneration and still compete as an amateur, you must possess an EC Instructor of Beginners Certificate (teaching beginners for pay without the certificate negates your amateur status) or teach only the disabled. Note that remuneration is not limited to money.

You may never train or compete on a horse and receive remuneration for it. 

If someone else gets paid when you coach, train or show, you are not an amateur.

You may profit from buying and selling your own horses, but you may not profit from finding or selling anyone else's horses.

You may not endorse any products unless you are given permission by EC. Sponsorship of the rider is prohibited..

In order to regain your amateur status after you have given it up for any of the above reasons, you must not have participated in any of those activities for a full two calendar years.

For clarity, here is the definition of remuneration from the EC rules:

1. For the purposes of these rules, remuneration is defined as any payment, either in cash or in kind, with the exception of gifts of token value.
2. Remuneration does NOT include:
a) payment made to any competition official
b) reimbursement for expenses without profit
c) winnings paid to a horse’s owner

If you do not believe that one of your fellow competitors is really an amateur and you wish to do something about it, you must follow the EC rules. Check out chapter 12 for the (lengthy) Dispute Resolution Policy.

7. If the status of an EC certified amateur is challenged, such challenge is subject to EC rules regarding official complaints. See Chapter A12, Dispute Resolution Policy for EC-sanctioned Competitions.

Tent Stalls: Flaps in the Rain

Tents stalls require a lot of work when the weather changes. Today I will go through what to do when it starts to rain, assuming that you are starting with the flaps hanging straight down. In another post, I explain how to roll and unroll the flaps.

First, let's set out some terms to use. I have labelled the photo on the right, showing tent stabling with the flaps rolled up in order to show all of the supports, with two terms.  

When I say 'vertical support', I am referring to the upright wooden or metal support at the edge of the tent that supports it from below.  

When I say 'angled support', I am referring to the rope or woven strap that holds the tent taut.

When the flaps are hanging straight down, like in the drawing at left, they should hang between the vertical supports and the angled supports. If they are hung to the inside (towards the stalls) of the vertical supports, you will not be able to pull them out away from the stalls when it rains to keep the water away. 

This drawing at right shows what you should do to the flaps when it's raining. If the flaps are not brand new, there should be small holes located along the bottom edge of the flap (the flaps don't come with them, so they have to be cut into new flaps unless there are loops of webbing in just the right place). Locate the hole closest to each angled strap and pass a piece of baling twine through that hole. Pull the flap out towards the angled support and use the baling twine to tie the flap to the support (if there is a loop near the bottom of the support strap, passing the baling twine through that loop will make it more secure by keeping it from slipping up the strap). Repeat for each angled support along the length of the flap.

Tying the flaps out allows the rainwater to run away from the stalls and it also keeps the flaps from flapping noisily against the stalls in the wind.

Complete your rainproofing by digging trenches under the flaps to keep heavy rain from flooding back into your stalls.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Adding and Scratching

When you enter a class that was not originally indicated on your entry form, it's called an add. When you remove yourself from any class, it is referred to as a scratch. There are two ways to do your adds and scratches at the horse show: the add/scratch sheet and the trainer add form.

The add/scratch sheet

Somewhere in the show office, you should find a pad of copy paper that will probably have the title 'Add/Scratch Form' written on it. It is a very short form, usually divided into an add column and a scratch column, with about five fields: the date, the horse's name, the horse's number, the rider's name and the class number.

The date is on there to determine whether or not the horse will be charged a late entry fee/scratch fee (it's not really important to fill that field out if you will be handing it directly to a secretary).

The horse's name and number are obviously important in identifying the horse. Make sure that you know the horse's number before entering the office in order to make life easier for the office staff.

The rider's name is important if you want to make sure that the correct rider is announced and credited with any results. It's also very important if you are entering any equitation classes.

The class number is, of course, one of the most important parts! The office should have extra copies of the show schedule available that you can check to find the correct class number.

Once you're done filling the form out and have signed it, hand it to the show secretary or place it in the designated basket  If you are adding or scratching the day of the class, you will be handed back a copy of the add/scratch form to bring to the in-gate so that you can be added to the class list there.

You will usually be charged an extra fee if you add or scratch the day of the class. If you add or scratch before the office closes the day before your class, you won't be charged any more than the class fee itself.

The trainer form

If you are adding or scratching multiple horses, individual add forms can be time-consuming. In such a case, ask the secretary if it would be possible to print off a trainer add form for you. These forms list all of the horses that are at the show with a particular trainer, complete with their show numbers and which classes they are already entered in. All that you will need to do to add or scratch is write the class number in the proper column (add or scratch) beside the correct rider's name (all of the riders from the original entry form should be listed). Sign it, hand it to the secretary and you're done!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Filling Out Your Entry Form

A big entry form can be a bit intimidating at first if you aren't used to filling them out. With everything packed onto a single page, fitting all of the required information in is often challenging.

Let's take a look at a typical entry form and then go through how to fill it out.

(click on the photo to enlarge)

The first field will be about your horse. It's very important to fill this out completely, especially if a passport number is asked for, so that your results will be attributed correctly. 

Following that, you should find a section about the horse's owner. Make sure to fill this out fully, too, because the owner needs to have certain memberships in order for the horse to compete and you don't want to waste the office's time by making them check for themselves. Make sure that you print very clearly and use a fine pen if space is limited!

You should also see a section about your trainer. This is important to fill out because entries will generally be grouped by stable so that when it comes to collecting the horses' numbers and splitting stabling/hay/shavings fees, things can be done quickly and easily. It will also make doing your daily entries easier because shows will often print out a 'trainer add form' that lists all of the horses entered under that trainer.

Next, you should see a section with room for multiple riders (smaller shows sometimes only allow one rider per entry form). It doesn't really matter which rider you put first if you're doing multiples as long as you are consistent with the numbering throughout the form. Be sure to fill out the membership numbers here, too, so that it's clear to the office that your riders are able to compete. Date of birth is not really necessary for those who are not entering age-restricted classes.

There will always be a waiver for you to sign at the end of the entry form; don't forget to sign it!

Different shows have different ways of putting the various classes on the entry form. Some forms will require you to put a mark beside the classes, circle the numbers of the classes that you would like to enter, or write in the class numbers in a blank space. Beside the class, write the number of the rider who will be doing that class (rider 1 or 2 from the rider information section). At some shows, you can write a 'T' if the trainer is riding.

It isn't necessary to add up the fees before sending in the form since the office will do that themselves and you are likely to add on extra fees during the show, anyway. The fee section is not the appropriate place to reserve a stall or a camper spot; that should be done on a separate stall request form.   

Now, why should you need to give the horse show your address? It actually benefits you to give it to them because many shows will put that address into a database and then send you their future prize lists by mail. The rider's home town is also sometimes announced at certain shows.  

If you aren't sure which classes you would like to compete in, you can leave that section of the entry form blank and it will be accepted for the majority of shows, provided you enter the rest of the information in full. Once you are at the horse show you can enter your classes by filling out an add/scratch form the day before you compete.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stabling Etiquette

Due to the compact nature of horse show stabling facilities, you will be spending a lot of time in close contact with your neighbours. For that reason, it's a good idea to be aware of good stabling etiquette before you get to the show so that you will still be on speaking terms by the end of it!

Unloading your trailer

Try not to block any roads (pull as far over as possible so that others can still get by). Do you best to unload quickly, without taking breaks, and move the trailer to the parking area as soon as you're done so that the next person can pull in. You don't need to set everything up as soon as it comes off the trailer; the most important thing is to get that trailer in and out of there quickly once the horses are settled in!

Setting up

Keep the aisles as clear as possible. Make sure that there's enough room left in a wide aisle for two horses (so that others can pass while you use the cross-ties) or enough for a horse to pass comfortably in a narrow aisle. The more you can keep off the ground, the better.

Keep everything in your own area. You can use the space in front of your own stall fronts, but don't overflow onto others' unless you are invited to. If you have any end stalls, you are entitled to use the space at the ends for storage, too. That end space is incredibly useful, so if you don't plan on using it, it's nice to offer it to your neighbours.

Cross-ties should be located so that any horse using them will be standing within your own area. If you are in a narrow aisle, it's best not to use cross-ties since any horse using them would block the aisle off completely.

Think hard about which horses will use which stalls. If you have an antisocial horse, try putting that one next to your tack stall or in an end stall so that he won't aggravate anyone else. If you are bringing a stallion, inform your neighbours about him and ask for their input on his housing arrangements, too (remember that any neighbours behind will be affected, too). If you have a horse that likes to chew on things, avoid putting him next to anyone's tack stall since some horses are capable of pulling things over the top of those short stall walls.

During the show

Make sure that other horses can pass through the aisle at all times (that means no leaving horses unattended in the aisle). Keep stall doors closed and make sure that any unfriendly horses are kept behind bars!

If you are allowed to bathe horses in the stabling area, make sure that you don't spray anyone else's stalls or equipment. This seems obvious, but when a horse is moving around a lot it can happen accidentally. Also try to keep the water shut off as much as possible or move your bathing area around so that you don't create a big mud puddle. If there are wash stalls available, don't keep your horse in one for longer than it takes you to bathe him so that another horse can use it without too long of a wait.

Leave everything how you found it. If you borrow a hose to water your horses, leave it neatly how you found it (it's usually safe to coil it as tightly as the owners do). The same applies for borrowing mounting blocks. After you've asked to borrow one, either use it where it already is or, if you must move it, ask someone on the ground to return it for you.

Keep the aisle clean. Any poop should be removed from the aisle or wash stall immediately and the aisle should be raked several times per day to keep it smooth and clean. 

Going home

The busiest time for trailers is the afternoon of the last day of the show because everyone wants to leave at the same time after the classes finish. Prepare by packing all of your things up in the morning so that everything can be loaded at once, without delays. Again, try to load quickly and then get out of there to make room for others.

If you are not comfortable navigating your trailer in tight spaces, don't attempt to pull up close to the barn during the busiest times because you might end up blocking others when you can't get back out! If you can't pull in nearby, try loading your things onto the back of a truck and then taking a few loads out to your trailer that way. If you have time, it can be much easier to just wait until your neighbours have left and then you can load at your own pace.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Hack Division

The Hack Division is not to be confused with the casual term, 'hack', often used to refer to the 'under saddle' class in a hunter division with jumping classes.  The Hack Division is not offered at every show but when it is offered, it is a great way to get young horses exposed to showing without adding jumps to the equation.

Here are the Equine Canada rules regarding hack classes:


1. The hack division has been created to show the versatility of a horse or pony on the flat. The well-rounded hack horse or pony shows the versatility to perform well and adjust his way of going in each of these classes.
2. Horses or ponies in this division may be any breed or combination of breeds, and must have natural action (i.e. not high and/or weighted).

1. All hack judges are subject to the general rules pertaining to all licensed EC officials in Rules of Equine Canada, Section A, General Regulations, Chapter 13, Officials.
2. Recognition, promotion, privileges and criteria are governed General Regulations, Chapter 13. Only hack division classes will be applicable for recognition and/or promotion.
3. The following seminars qualify as official hack judging seminars for recognition, promotion and upgrading upon approval of EC:
a) Arabian, Hunter or Morgan judging seminars offering a hack division segment
b) specialized hack judges’ seminars
4. The issuance of guest cards for hack judges is governed by the CAP (Competition Administration Policy).

1. Classes may be held for horses or ponies but combined horse-pony classes are not permitted; when classes for ponies are divided by height, such division must be made according to hunter pony heights. See Rules of Equine Canada, Section A, General Regulations, Glossary for definition of Pony.
2. Classes offered may be grouped according to the rider (i.e. the rider’s age) and according to the ribbons won by the horse (i.e. maiden, novice and limit).

1. English saddle of any type is required.
2. Bridles may be double, pelham, snaffle or kimberwick.
3. Martingales, breastplates, boots of any kind and/or bandages are not allowed.
4. Dropped and flash nosebands are prohibited.
5. Browbands shall be leather of any description but not solid white, coloured or sequined.
6. Spurs are optional.
7. Whips are NOT permitted in any hack class. See Rules of Equine Canada, Section A, General Regulations regarding the use of whips in the warm up areas.

1. Permitted attire: Black jacket or dark coat, ASTM or BSI approved helmets with safety harness correctly fastened (see Article G102). White or light tan breeches, jodhpurs, white hunting stock or chokers, black or brown boots; black or brown smooth leather half chaps are permissible providing they match the boot colour (see Article G109).
2. Prohibited: saddle suits and/or Kentucky jodhpurs.

Except as noted in Articles G1304 and G1305:
1. Horses to stand without stretching.
2. Mounting, dismounting and rein back may be required.
3. Judges may require horses to be stripped for conformation judging in any hack class.
4. Entry is eliminated by any fall of horse or rider during the class. See Rules of Equine Canada, Section A, General Regulations, Glossary for definition of Fall.



1. Type and Characteristics: Head neat, finely drawn and elegant. Mane must not be roached and may be braided; neck of sufficient length with a trim throat-latch; neck to blend into shoulders which are medium width and not too heavily muscled; medium high and well defined withers the same height as croup; chest well developed but in proportion; forearm not too heavily muscled; back moderately short but well proportioned with height; moderately deep girth and well shaped proportionate quarters; sloping pasterns of good length; feet of proportionate size. Show hacks must have vitality, animation, presence, balance and clean fine limbs showing supreme quality. Soundness is required and blemishes may be penalized. Braiding of mane and tail is optional.
2. Gaits:
a) The walk: straight, four beat and flat-footed
b) The trot: free, light and crisp, may be required as follows:
(i) On contact in a more upright frame
(ii) Collected with rider sitting
(iii) Extended - on contact - medium speed with legs moving forward with impulsion and the rider posting or sitting.
c) The canter may be required as follows:
(i) Collected
(ii) Normal
(iii) Extended
(iv) Hand gallop under control.
3. Class Routine and Judging:
a) Horses to enter ring at a walk.
b) To be shown at a walk, trot, canter and hand gallop; collected and extended gaits to be called for; To stand quietly; only 8 horses to hand gallop at one time. To be judged on 55% performance, 20% quality, 15% conformation and 10% manners.

1. Type and Characteristics: Head well shaped, attractive and proportionate; mane may be roached; natural (not set) tail; strong; well shaped neck with good length of rein; good strong sloping shoulders; medium high withers the same height as the croup; chest indicative of strength; moderately muscled forearm; back well proportioned with height; powerful across the loin; good depth of girth; well shaped proportionate quarters showing strength; sloping pasterns of good length; feet of proportionate size. The horse and pony must present an appearance of overall substance with refinement. Soundness is required and blemishes may be penalized. Braiding of mane and tail is optional.
2. Gaits:
a) The walk: straight, four beat and flat-footed with medium contact.
b) The trot: straight and true; may be required as follows:
(i) normal on light to medium contact
(ii) strong trot
c) The canter: normal on light to medium contact
d) Hand gallop under control
3. Class Routine and Judging:
a) Horses to enter ring at a walk.
b) To be shown at a flat-footed walk with a reasonably loose rein, trot, strong trot, easy canter and hand gallop. Only 8 horses to hand gallop at one time.
c) To be judged on 55% performance, 20% substance, 15% conformation and 10% manners.

1. Type and Characteristics: see Article G1302.1
2. Class routine and judging:
a) To be shown at a flat-footed walk, normal trot and easy canter; not to gallop; light contact to be maintained.
b) To be judged on 45% performance, 40% manners and 15% conformation.

1. Classes may be divided into Saddle Seat or Hunter Seat.
2. To be shown at a flat-footed walk, normal trot and easy canter; not to gallop; light contact with the horse’s mouth; to be judged on manners, performance, quality and conformation.
3. Tack and personal appointments to be appropriate to the seat being ridden.
4. If ridden by a junior, heights of ponies and age of riders to be the same as in pony hunters.

The general guidelines for riding the different classes are the following:
  • Show hack: You want to be forward and flashy with the horse in more of a dressage-type frame. You must be able to extend and collect the gaits.
  • Road hack: Less about flash and more about getting the job done with impulsion while being an easy ride.
  • Pleasure hack: The focus is on manners. The horse should look like absolutely anyone could get on and ride it without a problem.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jumper Tack: Figure-Eight Noseband

You might have noticed that a lot of jumpers seem to use the figure-eight noseband as opposed to a regular cavesson or a regular cavesson with a flash.

There are several reasons why a rider might choose this type of noseband over another. Sometimes it is used simply because it is popular and riders like the look of it. More often, it serves a genuine purpose that a regular cavesson does not provide.

The figure-eight noseband is similar to the flash noseband in that both keep the horse's mouth from opening too wide. This can be very handy on course when your horse gets strong and you need to keep him from going too far in evading you. The figure-eight noseband goes one step further and also keeps the horse from crossing its jaw because the top of the noseband is fastened much higher up on the face.

The figure-eight has an advantage over the flash because it allows the horse to breathe more freely. A tightly fastened flash noseband can often restrict breathing if the horse flares its nostrils while working hard.   Because the figure-eight crosses much higher than a flash would attach, it leaves room for the nostrils to expand. One downside of the figure-eight is that if you plan on using a standing martingale (allowed in some low jumper classes), you will need a regular cavesson to attach it to.

From personal experience, I have found several horses to actually prefer the figure-eight over a flash noseband or even just a regular cavesson. I can only imagine that this is because the figure-eight doesn't really squeeze around any teeth since the higher strap passes over a padded section of the jaw and the lower strap passes over the interdental space. A regular cavesson, on the other hand, passes directly over the premolars.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Entering And Exiting The Hunter Ring

Something that is often overlooked by coaches when it comes to introducing a rider to the hunter ring is what happens before the first jump and after the last one. At best, not knowing what you're supposed to do will make your round look sloppy. At worst, it will eliminate you completely.

The Equine Canada rule concerning entering and exiting the hunter ring is the following:

Article G407

7. Circling a horse once upon entering the ring and once after completing the course is permissible, but any other circling, except to retake a fence in the case of a runout or refusal shall be counted as a disobedience. If an audible signal is used, this rule applies from the time the signal is given.

This means that if you circle more than once before beginning your course, you will be eliminated. You may also only circle once upon finishing, so don't endlessly circle before doing your downward transition.

Most of the time, the course designer will create a course that finishes going towards the in-gate so that the ring will run efficiently. This usually means, given the usual hunter course set-up, that the first jump will also be headed towards the in-gate. This means that you have two options upon entering the ring: you can either enter the ring, trot diagonally across the ring, pick up your canter and then go directly from there to the first jump, or you can insert a circle at the far end of the ring before heading towards the first jump. Let's look at the various options:

Example 1

This is a good plan. When your first jump is headed towards the in-gate, there is really no need to circle since you've had lots of time while crossing the ring to pick up your canter and get going. Most hunter riders would enter the ring at the trot and then pick up the canter when they hit the outside track. The line of entry can be adjusted based on whether or not you want your horse to have a close look at any of the jumps on the way in as well as how much room there is between the jumps and the rail. You can also enter the ring at a walk instead of a trot or adjust the location of your canter departure.

Here, one full circle is completed before the horse exits the ring. This allows a smooth finish to the round without breaking any rules. It also gives you the chance to show your horse off a bit - loosen the reins at the canter and give him a small pat. Make sure that you exit the ring at a walk; leaving the ring at the trot or canter is dangerous!

Example 2

This course shows you what not to do. While it is legal, it will take away from your round rather than add to it. In this course, the rider trots in across the diagonal just like before, but this time she circles before heading to jump 1. Since the rider has already taken the time to get from the in-gate to the opposite end of the ring, doing a circle is unnecessary and will slow the day down for the judge and everyone else.

Here, after the last jump, the riders exits the ring immediately without circling at all. While this is, again, legal, it will give your round a very abrupt end and detract from your previous flow unless it is done for a handy round (and it needs to be done very smoothly to benefit you even then).

Example 3

We have established that it is best not to circle before starting your round if the first jump is headed towards home, but what happens if the first jump is headed away from the in-gate?

Here is an ideal plan for such a course. You will enter the ring, immediately put yourself on a large circle and do one circle only before heading to your first jump. This circle will give you the opportunity to establish your canter without taking a tour of the entire ring.

This also shows a good finish to the course. The rider comes off the last jump and does a single circle before exiting the ring at a walk.

Example 4

This is probably the worst course plan you could come up with if your first jump is headed away from the ingate (again, unless it's a handy round and done very smoothly). Because the rider has not circled, there has been no opportunity to establish the pace and the judge might even miss your first jump if he is looking down, expecting for you to circle! There is a time and a place for such entries, such as in equitation classes where you want to show off your ability to establish the pace immediately. There is no place for this sort of a start in regular hunter classes.

This course also shows the same abrupt finish that we saw earlier. Even if you have finished the last jump, you are still being judged and you should make the end of your round count.

Now that we know when to circle and how you should never do more than one circle at a time, how big should you make your circles? A general rule of thumb is to use most of the empty space at the end of the ring.  If you make your circle too big, you risk nearly knocking over a standard or two. If you make your circle too small, your course will lack flow. Usually the course designer will arrange the jumps in such a way as to give you plenty of room for a nice big round circle.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hunter Tack: Standing Martingale

The standing martingale is nearly ubiquitous in the hunter ring over fences. While both the standing martingale and the running martingale are both allowed by EC rules, the running martingale is almost never seen in the hunter ring.

The standing martingale consists of two crossed straps. One strap encircles the horse's neck while the other attaches at the girth, connects to the neck strap and then continues up to the underside of the noseband. It is used with a regular cavesson noseband only (the only noseband that is permissible in the hunter ring). The purpose of the standing martingale is to prevent the horse from raising its head too high. This has a safety aspect in addition to the aesthetic aspect in that it prevents the horse from potentially hitting the rider in the face when if it flips its head.

Most good hunters don't really need to wear a standing martingale since they carry themselves in such a consistently low frame anyway. Apart from the safety aspect, the standing martingale can also finish the look of a hunter. Some horses, especially those with big shoulders and/or long necks, can look naked without one. Most hunters will wear a standing martingale, whether or not it is really needed, as part of the standard hunter turnout.

The martingale should not be adjusted so tightly that there is no slack in it when the horse's head is in a comfortable position. Generally, a standing martingale is adjusted to anywhere between the length of the underside of the horse's neck and the length of the underside of the neck plus the underside of the jaw.

The neck strap should be snug enough not to flop around or hang low, while still allowing the horse freedom to flex and move its neck.

If you choose to use a standing martingale, make sure that you remove it before entering the ring for any flat classes. Also remove it completely, along with the saddle, if you are asked to jog into the ring for ribbons (leaving the martingale on for the jog is a faux pas).

Read this post for tips on fitting a standing martingale.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hunter Under Saddle: Class Procedure

Hunter under saddle classes are some of the most predictable classes of the horse show. If you watch the higher levels, you will notice that all of the horses seem to enter the ring, head in the same direction and space themselves out automatically. If you know what to expect in an under saddle class, you can be that smooth, too!

Here is the official EC rule regarding the hunter under saddle class:

1. Hunter under saddle: to be shown at a walk, trot and canter both ways of the ring; at least eight horses, at the judge's discretion, if available, may be required to gallop one way in the ring but never more than eight at one time (pre-green and green hunters not to gallop). Light contact with the horse's mouth is permissible. In order to maintain awards, horses must compete and complete the course in at least one over fences class in their respective division. Hunter under saddle classes must never be the first class of a division.

These classes are judged on the horses' manners and way of going. The horses should have smooth, flowing movement with little knee action and should carry themselves in a relaxed way.

First, let's pretend that we are entering such a class and we'll go through what will happen throughout the entire thing:

Enter the ring at the walk: Walk through the ingate one by one.

Track left: Under saddle classes always start on the left rein. If you track left from the start, everyone will be able to get settled much more quickly and with less confusion.

Work until the class is called to order: Do whatever your horse needs since you are not being judged at this point. If your horse needs to relax, just walk. If you want to energize your horse a bit, do a lap at the canter. It's up to you.

The judge will call the class to order and you will be asked to walk: You are now being judged. You will walk for a couple of minutes while the judge looks over the class.

Trot: You are free to either post or sit, but the posting trot is much more likely to show your horse's trot off better. You will probably stay at the trot for quite some time while the judge takes a look at each horse and makes his or her initial order.

Walk: In most cases, you will be asked to walk before the canter.

Canter: Make sure that you pick up the left lead and you may either sit or two-point, depending on what works best for your horse.


Reverse at the walk: Change direction by doing a small half-circle in reverse at the walk (come off the wall first and then circle back so that you are circling on the new rein).  

Walk: The judge will watch everyone briefly at the walk.

Trot: The same as before - do whatever suits your horse best.

Walk: Very brief.

Canter: Again, make sure that you're on the right lead.

Walk and line up in the center of the ring with your back to the judge: Try not to park yourself too far from the rest of the group. Make sure that your horse halts correctly and stands there for as long as he can. If he gets fidgety, walk him in a small circle but it would be best for him to just stand nicely while the judge finalizes his or her decision.

Leave the line to collect your ribbon, or exit the ring at the walk after the last ribbon winner 

Here are some tips for a successful under saddle class:
  • Make sure that your transitions are smooth. You don't need to transition within the second after it is announced and a smooth, slightly delayed transition is better than a messy, quick one.
  • Use the crowds to your advantage. If your horse is looking great, try to separate yourself from the other horses so that you can be seen. If your horse is misbehaving, hide within a group of other horses.
  • Use the corners. Judges tend to watch the long sides more than the corners, so if you're careful you can use them to make adjustments. Keep track of where the judge seems to be looking so that you know when to really show off.
  • Make sure that your horse is not wearing a martingale or you will get eliminated after entering the ring!
  • Try to travel at a similar speed as the other horses in the ring. A horse that passes everyone else quickly or gets passed by everyone else will stand out in a negative way.
  • Keep track of what the other horses are doing. Sometimes it's difficult to hear the announcements and that is not how you want to lose a class. If you notice that most of the horses in the class are at a new gait, chances are that you should transition to it, too.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jumper Tack: Belly Pad

You might have noticed that some horses in the jumper ring wear an oddly shaped girth that is very wide in the belly area. This is called a belly pad girth (also called a belly guard or a stud guard).

So what is the purpose of this piece of tack? It protects the horse's belly from getting hit by the front hooves while jumping. Some horses fold their front legs up so much that the hooves contact the belly and this can cause the horse pain or injury, especially if the horse is wearing studs. Most belly pads have a snap, ring or narrow piece of leather for the attachment of a breast plate or martingale.

How do you know if your horse needs one? You will need someone to watch your horse jump over a period of time to see what sort of front leg technique he has. Some horses hit themselves so hard that you will actually notice them hanging their front legs over the next jump after hitting themselves in order not to do it again. If you notice that your horse is doing this, he would probably appreciate a belly pad. If you notice marks in the middle of your girth after jumping, your horse is probably hitting himself.

A horse with front end technique like this one would most likely benefit from using a belly pad, especially since he is wearing large studs in his front shoes. The belly pad would extend further forward than the current girth to protect the area that you can see is about to be hit.  The hooves will, in addition, hit different areas at different points of the jump so a single photo like this one will not tell you exactly where the horse needs extra protection.

If you aren't sure whether or not your horse needs a belly pad, there's no real harm in using one anyway apart from the higher price and the increased tack cleaning time (the larger surface area attracts a lot of mud!).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Warm-Up Ring Etiquette

Riding in the warm-up ring can often be the most difficult part of your ride at the horse show. A large group of horses being ridden at the same time in a confined area can be overwhelming at the best of times, but when you add a set of practice jumps to the mixture it gets even worse! Today I'll list rules for riding in the warm-up ring that will help to give yourself and others the best experience possible.
  1. If your horse starts to act dangerously, leave immediately so as not to put anyone else in danger. Either find another quiet place to ride, or lunge for a while to get the sillies out instead.
  2. Follow the left-to-left rule. The other riders are expecting for you to pass left-to-left and if you do something different, you'll throw off the whole ring.
  3. Don't walk on the track. If you're just walking, pay attention to what's going on around you and move out of the way of anyone going faster.
  4. Give the right of way to those who are jumping. The location of the jumps in the center of the ring can make it difficult to approach them if there are a lot of people flatting. Give others a gap through which to get to the jumps and make sure never to cut across in front or behind the jumps when there is a horse using any of them.
  5. Give other horses space. Your horse might be used to riding in close proximity to others at home, but other horses might not. Never come right up behind another horse at speed and never get closer than a horse length from the horse in front of you. Respect tail ribbons, too (a red ribbon in the tail means that the horse is a kicker).
  6. Don't stop in the warm-up ring. If you need to stop for whatever reason, pull over into an unused space or into the hitching area by the in-gate.
  7. Don't warm up at the wrong time. Double-check with the in-gate before you start warming up to see how far away you are. It does no one any good to have four people warming up at the same time, each thinking that they are 2 away.
  8. Ask before you jump. If you want to borrow someone else's jump, even just to jump it a single time, ask first. It is the polite thing to do and it will help to make you aware of what the other rider is doing with the jump. It can also be frustrating for the grooms if they need to change the jump and you try to jump it without warning.
  9. Ground people should ask the current occupants if anyone else is waiting before claiming a jump. It is rude to try to jump ahead of someone else who has been waiting and it wastes your time if you've waited ten minutes for a jump that you can't have.
  10. Don't run anyone's groom over. That's just rude behaviour.
  11. In a class with a posted order, use the proper jump. Count the number of jumps in the warm-up ring and then count backward from your spot in the order to determine whose jump you will be using (you will be taking the jump of whoever is that far ahead of you in the order). This gives everyone an equal length of time to warm up and if you don't follow this rule you will confuse people and potentially shorten someone else's warm-up.
  12. Be on time. No one likes having the class held up by someone who hasn't been able to time their warm-up correctly. Keep on top of things and get to the ring when you're supposed to.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lunging at the Show

You would think that lunging your horse at a horse show would be a simple matter as all you require is a clear, flat 20m circle to work on. Unfortunately, good footing is usually taken over by mounted riders and it can be difficult to determine where you are allowed to lunge. If you follow these general rules, you shouldn't have to worry about committing any faux pas by lunging your horse where you will upset other riders or the show management.
  1. Look for signs: If the horse show uses signs to designate different buildings and areas, chances are they will have a sign for the lunging area, too. If there is a signed area, try not to lunge anywhere else.
  2. Ask: The most reliable information will come from the show office.
  3. Follow the crowd: If you see multiple people lunging in the same area, it's pretty safe to assume that you are allowed to lunge there.
  4. Don't squeeze yourself where you don't fit: You don't know which horses in the lunging area might kick or otherwise misbehave (and the others don't know how well-behaved your horse is, either). Don't push it and try to fit yourself into a small space between other horses. Each horse tends to inscribe a circle in the footing that you can see and you should make sure that your horse's circle never touches another. Provide at least 10 metres between lunging circles to prevent accidents. If there's no room for you, wait in line for a space to open up.
  5. Don't lunge in the warm-up rings: It may be very tempting to do it when you only see a rider or two in there, but don't do it. You will get in the way, even if you aren't aware of it, and no one will appreciate you being there. Warm-up rings are often used as additional lunging areas very early in the morning before the show day begins, but you should leave the area as soon as you see any riders approaching to use the space for its intended purpose. 
  6. Be aware of the other horses: Some horses are much more sensitive than others, and overuse by another handler in the ring of the whip or voice aids can cause those sensitive horses to lose it. If you notice that another horse is being affected by your lunging, tone it down.
  7. Prepare at home: Lunging areas at horse shows are usually open spaces and a horse that is used to being lunged in a confined area can have some difficulties adjusting. This can cause problems not only for you but for the other horses that need to get out of your way! Make sure that your horse lunges well at home and practice in more of an open area if you can.