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.