Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jumper Medal Tack Restrictions

Jumper medals can be tricky classes to prepare for equipment-wise since the rules do not really specify anything for much of the tack, leaving some to wonder whether it should be hunter-like or jumper-like. While the general turnout should resemble a hunter (fitted saddle pad, conservative, etc.), tack is not restricted to that used in the hunter ring.

Because the rules do not cover every piece of tack, interpretations may vary. What I am providing today is what is allowed in jumper medal classes on the 'A' circuit in Canada. Because the EC rules are specific to particular classes that are not held at all levels, the rules for similar classes at lower level competitions might be different.

Riders are not limited to regular cavesson nosebands, and hackamores and all humane bits are permitted over fences. Martingales are only permitted over fences, and must not be used on the flat.  Only running martingales are allowed over fences.

Be aware that hackamores and gags are not permitted in the flat phase, but a change of tack between the phases is allowed.

The tack and equipment rules for the CET Medal and Mini CET Medal seem to mirror those for the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Class:



a) There are no restrictions on saddles.
b) Change of tack and equipment is permissible between phases.
c) Blinkers are forbidden.
d) No martingales of any kind are permitted in the flat phase.
e) Only running martingales used in the conventional manner are permitted in the jumping phase. Standing martingales, draw reins, or restricted running martingales are prohibited.
f) Reins must be attached to the bit(s) or directly to the bridle. Gags and hackamores are not allowed in the flat phase. Bit convertors are allowed.
g) Stirrup irons must not be affixed to the rider’s foot or boot in any manner

Monday, August 8, 2011


The key point with spurs is that abuse from or improper use of them is always illegal. There are no guidelines for size or shape in the Equine Canada rulebook for hunters or jumpers, nor am I aware of any such guidelines in the USEF rule books, either. If you are unsure whether a potential spur might fall into the abusive category, it would be wise not to use it.

You can be sure that bloodied sides will indicate to the steward that abuse from spurs has occurred, but warnings or more can also be given for less explicit abuse.

The only other rule that I am aware of in the US and Canada regarding spurs is that rowelled spurs are not permitted in Canadian equitation classes (I have not found such a rule in the USEF rule book). The usual definition of a rowel is a spur ending in a rotating toothed wheel. Some riders will also call a smooth rotating disc a rowel; I do not know if a smooth disc is considered a rowel for the purposes of equitation classes.

Here is the Equine Canada rule regarding spurs in equitation classes:


1. Only regular cavessons with snaffles, pelhams, double bridles or kimberwicks are permissible. Pelham converters allowed only in Junior "B" and "C" classes. Reins must be made entirely of leather. Spurs of the unrowelled type, whip optional. No whip may exceed 75 cm (30") in length.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

FAQ, Part 7

Do you wear white breeches in a jumper medal class?
You can, but they are certainly not required. The appropriateness will depend on the height and level of the class (white breeches would likely look out of place in a jumper medal class at a schooling show, whereas several riders might wear them on the 'A' circuit, especially for a big medal that qualifies for a final).

How do you know you are excused from the jumper ring?
The bell or whistle will sound repeatedly (i.e., a “beep-beep” instead of a “beep”) to indicate that you have been excused. The time, if it is displayed, should also be stopped.

How do you put on a collar?
Most chokers have a small slit on the back halfway along their length. This slit should be aligned with the lower button on the collar of your shirt. Insert the lower button into the slit (some shirts make this easier than others); this keeps the choker in place. Button up the ends of the choker at the back of your neck, make sure that everything is lined up correctly and you're done!

Is there a bell before starting a class in the hunter ring?
No, there is not. Over fences, you are to be judged from the moment you enter the competition ring until you leave it, so a bell is not necessary. In an under saddle class, the announcer will let the class know when the group is under the judge's orders.

What happens if you knock a rail off in a hunter class?
You will automatically receive a low score. Some judges give a standard score for such a mistake, such as 40, while others will adjust it depending on the quality of the rest of the trip. The automatic low score almost guarantees that a rail will place below a clear round. A member of the ring crew will reset the jump before the next rider enters the ring.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

FAQ, Part 6

Why is adding strides bad in the hunter ring?
Hunters are supposed to have a ground-covering stride. Adding strides means that your horse does not meet this requirement of the class. If you consider the hunter ring's distant roots in the hunt field, a horse that can gallop easily would make a better hunter than one that has to waste energy trying to keep up with a short, choppy stride.

What is the “left to left” rule in the warm-up?
The “left to left” guideline in the warm-up ring is a way to avoid collisions by having riders pass left shoulder to left shoulder. That means that if two riders are approaching one another in opposite directions, the rider on the left rein should take the outside track while the rider on the right rein should move to the inside. This guideline is complicated by the nature of the jumping warm-up ring, with riders needing to get to the jumps in the middle from both reins. Generally, the riders who are jumping should have priority and the others should make way for them to be able to get to the jumps. That means that every rider in the warm-up ring should keep an eye on who is jumping which jump and make an effort not to block their way (and not cross in front of the jumps while there are horses approaching or landing from them).

At what age should a child showing in the hunters start to wear tall boots?
There isn't really a set age for a child to move to tall boots. If the child is wearing braids and hair bows, tall boots don't usually look appropriate. I would say that, personally, at the point where the child is really riding the pony and fitting it well instead of looking like a tiny passenger, tall boots are a good choice. It's also fairly safe to go along with what other riders in the division are wearing in your area.

Can you tie for reserve champion at a horse show?
You can have the same number of points as someone else and in that sense be tied for reserve champion, but there should always be a tie-breaker. In the hunters, the horse with the most points over fences will take the championship. If there is still a tie, most horse shows will move to a coin toss. In the jumpers, a coin toss is almost always used, although it is possible to use a jump-off.

This is the Equine Canada rule for hunters:
5. In the case of a tie the championship and/or reserve shall be awarded to the horse that has accumulated the most points over fences. If there is still a tie, the tied horses shall be shown at walk, trot, canter and gallop (pregreen and green hunter not to gallop) to determine champion and reserve. Tossing a coin to break the tie is permissible if all participants agree. This competition shall be judged as an independent hunter under saddle class with conformation, quality, substance, soundness and performance to count as prescribed throughout the appropriate division.
This is the Equine Canada rule for jumpers:
3. In the case of a tie for the championship there may be a jump-off after the last jumping class of the Competition. Exhibitors tied for Champion or Reserve may elect to jump-off or toss.
Can you use brown gloves at a hunter show?
Yes you can. There is no rule about glove colour in the EC rulebook, but it would be wise to keep the gloves a conservative and discreet colour that matches the rest of the rider's attire.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Jog

One of the most common mistakes I've noticed so far this show season has been made in the jog. The winner, never having led a jog before, starts a pattern that results in the judge not being able to see most of the class jog, or only crosses half the ring so that there isn't room for the last horses to be jogged!

In this post we'll be looking at the patterns that work in several different ring set-ups, as well as a couple of definite no-no's.

Jogging is not complicated, but you need to keep a few things in mind when planning your track:
  • Make your turn on the left rein so that you're not trying to outrun your horse on the outside.
  • Halt in a location where the line-up will not block the judge's view of the remaining horses.
  • Halt well back from the in-gate. You should proceed forward towards the ribbon-giver only when the judge has approved the class and the announcements begin.
  • Make sure that you use enough of the ring that there will be room for the entire line-up to halt while still leaving room for the last horses to jog for more than a couple of steps.
  • If you're further back in the line, halt about a horse length back from the horse in front of you so that everyone can fit in.
In these diagrams, the arrows beside the judge's booth show where the judge needs to be able to see the ring.  If you're blocking those arrows, you're blocking the judge's view of the jog.  If you are finishing the jog on the side furthest away from the judge, you can halt closer towards the in-gate since you can't block the judge's view. The dashed lines show where you should be trotting, and the dotted lines show where you can come down to a walk/halt.

Good patterns:

And some bad:

Halting in front of the judge's booth, blocking his/her view of the jogging horses 

Not jogging far enough into the ring, both blocking the judge's view and not giving the last horses room to jog

If you've had a good round and you're waiting for the jog, take a look at the ring and figure out which pattern might work if you're called first. As long as you jog far into the ring and make sure not to halt in front of the judge, you can't go too wrong!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When Bad Weather Hits

Let's face it: we don't always have perfect weather for showing. Sometimes, the weather goes beyond miserable and becomes dangerous. What should you do if that bad weather rolls around when it's your time to show?

The most common cause of a dangerous weather delay is the thunderstorm. Usually, thunder will not stop a class, but lightning will. If you do hear thunder close by, you might want to back off your warm-up a bit if you're low in the order since you will have to do another warm-up if your class is delayed. When loud thunder is heard, most of the competitors and officials will pay close attention to the sky, so lightning is not likely to be missed. As soon as lightning is seen, the class should be stopped and all horses and riders should immediately head to a safe area (if the lightning occurs while you are in the ring, you will probably be allowed to finish your round). Do not worry that you will miss your class by heading to safety; delays are usually at least half an hour to ensure that the bad weather has passed.

Another source of weather-related delays is heavy rain. While the show will go on in light and moderate rain, at a certain point heavy rainfall will become dangerous when visibility is affected and the footing becomes saturated. I have witnessed three delays where the rain was so bad that the show had to be stopped for the day and all classes (and even the remainder of one class) moved to the following day. This type of delay is at the discretion of the officials since it's a subjective decision. Any decisions should be announced to all over the loudspeakers and at the in-gates and the show office. If a class must be delayed after it has begun, the course must remain the same after the delay in order to keep it fair for everyone.

The difference between weather-related delays and delays for accidents or other emergencies is that the show area will empty out during a weather-related delay. No one will hang around in anticipation of the resumption (which is a good thing for safety reasons), so it tends to take longer for everyone to get back to the ring and ready to show again.

Here's the EC rule for the interruption of classes. Check the rulebook for your national federation in case it differs.

1. In the event that a class in which horses compete individually is stopped while in progress by reason of storm, accident or other emergency, the class shall continue from the point at which it ceased and all scores already credited shall count.
2. In the event that a class in which horses compete collectively is stopped while in progress by reason of storm, accident or other emergency, the class when recommenced shall be held over in its entirety and no consideration shall be given to the performances before the class was stopped.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pre-Ordering Hay and Shavings

If you cannot bring your own hay or shavings to a horse show that provides stabling, you can buy them there instead (beware, however, of the horse show mark-up!). In order to simplify life, you can pre-order them on your stall request form. There should be a section on the form that will allow you to specify a number of hay bales and/or bags of shavings to split amongst your stable. If they will not be used for every horse in the barn, changes to the bill split can be made in the office (do this earlier in the week, not on the last day of the show).

There are several reasons for you to pre-order them instead of ordering when you arrive at the show:
  1. It's one less thing to stress about as you move in
  2. They will be there waiting for you (either all in one of your stalls or outside of your stabling area) when you arrive so that you can bed the stalls and feed the horses immediately
  3. It allows you to do the math of how many to order at home when you still have the ability to think straight
  4. It avoids the problem of either running around trying to find the delivery person who is not aware that your newly-made order is urgent, or discovering that it is too late in the day when you arrive and the delivery person has gone home

If you pre-order, it is safe to assume that any piles of hay or shavings that you find in your stalls upon your arrival belong to you. If you do not find any hay or shavings in your stalls but you have pre-ordered, check the area outside of your stalls. If they are left outside, the delivery person will usually leave a receipt tucked in the pile in order to identify the owner, so make sure that any receipt that you find matches your name before taking possession of anything.

If you have pre-ordered but do not find any hay or shavings near your stalls, keep an eye out for the delivery tractor as you unload your horses. If it is still early in the day and you see that the tractor appears to be busy, it is safe to assume that they are busy with deliveries and simply haven't gotten to yours yet. If you see that the tractor is quiet and others seem to have received their orders, it's time to go to the office to inquire about your order. Sometimes orders do get lost, either missed on your stall form or overlooked by the delivery person. If there are lots of orders still being delivered, it probably isn't worth bothering anyone about yours just yet.

If you have room in your trailer, bringing your own hay and shavings can be worth it because those at the show tend to cost at least twice as much as they would cost elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Online Horse Show Reminder

Just a reminder for any of you who are interested in entering the online horse show that I mentioned a few weeks back here: you have about a week and a half left to enter!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Victory Gallop Etiquette

The victory gallop, used as part of the ribbon presentation for important jumper classes, might seem pretty simple when viewed from outside of the ring. The horses all gallop around the ring in order of their placings and then go back to their stalls, right? Well, that's not quite all there is to it. There is some etiquette that you should be aware of before participating in your first victory gallop.

First, you should allow the winner of the class to enter the ring first for the ribbon presentation. Usually, all of the riders who have placed will assemble in the ring before the presentation begins (you may either halt your horse or walk around - it's up to you). Generally, all of the riders will hang back from the in-gate to allow the winner to enter first, regardless of the order in which the placings will be announced. The in-gate person will normally keep track of the placings in order for you to know whether to stick around for the presentation. Make sure that you keep all of your formal attire on for the presentation.

Once all of the ribbons have been given, the announcer will usually ask the riders to begin the victory gallop. The winner always leads the gallop, and is the one who will set the pace. None of the other riders should begin to gallop before the winner has started. The remaining riders should follow in the same order as their placings. Sometimes, a rider will choose not to take part in the victory gallop or is not comfortable having other horses behind theirs. In such a case, you might be invited to pass them, but passing is a no-no otherwise. If you are near the end of the line and the pace has slowed, you might even need to trot to keep from passing anyone in front of you. The person in front of you going slower than you would like is not a reason to pass unless they tell you to!

The horses who have placed second and lower will generally complete one lap of the ring before exiting, while the winner will sometimes continue on to do another lap or half-lap alone. Sometimes the winner will need to remain in the ring for photos, so if you have won, make sure that there is no one waiting there for you before you leave! You may leave the ring in any order. Some riders will take longer than others to pull up, so after the end of your one lap the order will often fall to pieces anyway and you are not expected to make an attempt to keep it. Always come back to a walk before exiting the ring for safety's sake. If your horse is excited and will not walk, you may circle as many times as you need to within reason in order to stop your horse.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Online Horse Show

Are you looking for some extra practice before the show season starts?

I thought I'd let everyone know about an online horse show that is completely free to enter, and that allows you to get feedback from the comfort of your own barn. There are video classes for hunters, equitation and dressage, and photo classes for conformation and good grooming. An effort will be made to provide feedback to everyone who enters.

The only requirement to enter is that you must be a member of TheMuckBucket.com, which is a great, friendly bulletin board that is free to join.

To view the prize list, go to the horse show topic on TheMuckBucket.com here.  

Entries close on May 7, 2011.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hunter Hair Explained

The most appropriate way to style your hair for hunter or equitation classes is to contain it up in your helmet. If you do not usually ride with your hair up, this might require a slightly larger helmet in order to maintain comfort. If you are not comfortable putting your hair up in your helmet or you have too much hair to be fully contained, I have seen riders do a french braid and then tuck the braid inside the collar of the show shirt and look very discrete. If you go with this method, it's best to use a hair net as well to keep any fly-aways to a minimum. Whatever you choose to do, I do not recommend the black "show bows" that are often used for dressage to contain a bun. They draw unnecessary attention to your hair that is better kept on your horse or on your riding.

This post will focus on how to put your hair up in the hunter style. There are many variants of this style, depending on personal preferences and the need for additional security (some riders will pin their hair up), so this is something that can be experimented with. Some riders prefer to use two hair nets, but in most cases one hair net should be all that you need.

What you'll need:
- A hair elastic
- One or two hair nets matching your hair colour

Step 1
Put your hair in a low ponytail, covering the tops of your ears

Step 2
Lean forward and flip your ponytail up

Step 3
Cover all of your hair with the hair net (some riders prefer to put the hair net on before the hair elastic so that it's more secure)

Step 4
While still leaning forward, put your helmet on back to front, settling the bulky base of the pony tail in the back of the harness below the hard shell of the helmet and allowing your hair to fan out slightly

Step 5
While in front of a mirror, adjust the hair net so that it looks neat and everything is contained

Here's a great video that shows how it's done (this video uses the hairnet before elastic method, and covers the ears almost entirely, which isn't necessary unless you like it that way):

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to Adjust a Standing Martingale

The standing martingale is a practically ubiquitous piece of equipment in the hunter ring, yet all too often it is adjusted too short or too long. This post will cover the reasons for adjusting it correctly, as well as how to determine the right length for your horse.

The standing martingale is not meant to hold your horse's head down. It should be slack when your horse's head is carried in a relaxed position, and only come into play when the head is raised too high.

Judges are intelligent people, and if you are using a martingale to hold your horse's head down, they will notice what you are doing and penalize you accordingly. Using an overly short martingale will therefore do nothing but restrict your horse's freedom while jumping and make it more difficult for him to balance himself at other times.

A martingale that is too long is a far less serious fault, though not without consequences. It is less likely to come into play when you need it, and might even distract your horse by swinging around. If it is very long, I would also be worried about potentially catching a leg in it while jumping.

To determine whether your martingale is the correct length, attach it while your horse is standing relaxed. Lift the strap (the one that runs from the cavesson to the chest) up as far as it will go. If it...

...doesn't lift up at all, it's far too tight.

...lifts up to the throatlatch, it should be just right.  When you let go of the strap, there should be some slack in it with the horse standing comfortably.

...lifts up further than the throatlatch, it's probably too long.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

FAQ, Part 5

Are double-vented jackets required on the "A" circuit?
No, they are not, but jackets designed for the hunter and jumper rings do tend to be double-vented. Single-vented jackets tend to be designed for the dressage ring. Dressage jackets usually have metallic buttons that might not stand out in a good way in the conservative hunter ring. Dressage jackets are also cut differently and might be a bit more difficult to jump in. There is certainly no rule against using a single-vented jacket.

Does your horse need boots in the jumpers?
Not necessarily. Some horses jump better without boots and are shown with naked legs, even at the top levels. Boots tend to be used for protection, in case a horse accidentally strikes the back of a front leg or interferes. They are often used as a precaution, not because the horse needs boots, but just in case something happens. There is no rule that horses must compete in boots in the jumper ring.

What are the rules for shirt colour in equitation classes?
The classic shirt colour for equitation classes is white. There is no rule, however, that requires this in the Equine Canada rule book (or in the USEF rule book, as far as I am aware).

How do you reverse in a hunter under saddle class?
You should make a small half-circle when asked to reverse. This can be done in one of two ways. The first possibility is to turn to the inside and keep turning in that direction until you reach the track on the new rein, and change the bend. The other is to turn to the inside, and then change the bend and turn back the other way in order to spend more time on the new bend. 

The more correct method is the second, since it gives you a better chance to establish the new bend and flexion. The proper term for this second diagram is a half turn in reverse, while the first would just be a half turn.

Why not bang hunter tails?
There is no rule against banging the tail of a hunter ("banging" means cutting the tail bluntly), and I have seen several hunters win with their tails banged. Those hunters who do show with a banged tail usually still have quite a long tail compared to your average jumper. The natural tail would probably be considered a more traditional look, and might add to the smooth image of a hunter, while the banged tail might draw the eye away from the horse. A natural tail can sometimes look quite thin, however, and banging can give the appearance of more thickness. While the natural look is more common, you certainly wouldn't get thrown out of the ring for banging a tail.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

FAQ, Part 4

Are german martingales legal in jumpers?
No. A german martingale is considered to be a restrictive device and is therefore not allowed to be used in the jumper ring. The running martingale allows much more freedom because it can move freely along the reins. The german martingale cannot release beyond where it is set.

Can you wear a black jacket in hunter show ring?
Yes, you can. A navy jacket is more classic, but black jackets are allowed. They tend to give a stiffer appearance to the rider than a coloured jacket would, and many black jackets are designed and cut for the dressage world. An easy way to check whether a jacket would be suitable for the hunter ring is to look at the buttons and the back vents. In the hunter ring, the buttons will blend in with the jacket colour, whereas metallic buttons are often seen on dressage jackets. Dressage jackets also have a single back vent compared to the double vents on a hunter jacket, and a dressage jacket will also usually have two buttons in the back as well.

How many seconds from the bell ringing to jumping first fence?
You have 45 seconds from the moment the bell rings until you will have to cross the start line for a jumper class. Beyond 45 seconds, the timers will start counting the time of your round.

How much stride do you need for the hunter ring?
Most hunter courses are set for a 12-foot stride. Some novice classes will use shorter striding (closer to 11 feet), while the bigger divisions can use as much as a 13-foot stride.

How to get a 12 foot hunter stride?
You need to lengthen your horse's stride rather than just going faster. Speeding around the course to get the proper striding will bring your score down. Lengthening the stride is something that needs to be worked on at home with your coach, well ahead of the horse shows.

What happens if I wear my hair in a show bow at a hunter show?
You won't die, but you will be out of fashion. The show bow is a very dressage-y look, while hunters tend to tuck their hair under the helmet. The extra decorations on a show bow will draw extra attention to your unusual choice of hair style. A tight bun contained in a neutral hair net or a braid tucked into your shirt would be more appropriate if you choose not to wear your hair under your helmet.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What Happens If I Fall Off Right After the Bell?

Disclaimer: With the current focus on concussions, it's possible that this rule could be overridden. Because it is a rare occurrence, I have not witnessed such a fall for several years now and therefore cannot say how it is currently being enforced.

Imagine that you have trotted into the jumper ring to begin your round, the bell sounds, and then your horse spooks at the photographer standing behind a jump! You lose your balance and gracefully fly through the air, landing on your feet beside your incredulous horse. What happens now?

Based on Equine Canada rules, you can get back on if you fall off after the bell, but before crossing the start line. You may get back on to complete the course, provided you get back on in time! Disobediences that occur within those 45 seconds after the bell do not count towards your score. If you don't get through the timers within 45 seconds of the bell, the clock will start on your round and you will likely collect time faults unless you can make up that time. You must have jumped the first jump on course within the first 45 seconds after the time of your round has started (if you have not crossed the start line within 45 seconds of the bell, the time will start).

Here's the EC rule regarding falls just after the bell:

[...] The bell is used:
1.2. to give the signal to start and to activate a forty five (45) seconds countdown shown in the time equipment in the scoreboard or in another display beside the arena.
The forty five (45) seconds countdown sets the time that the Athlete can spare before commencing his round. The Ground Jury has the right to interrupt the forty five (45)-seconds countdown if unforeseen circumstances occur. Incidents such as, but not limited to, disobedience and falls, occurring between the signal to start and the moment the Athlete crosses the starting line in the correct direction, are not penalized.

The USEF has a similar rule in place.

If you fall off while in the ring before starting a hunter round, you will be eliminated and not allowed to continue because a hunter performance starts from the moment you enter the ring and ends only when you leave the ring.  Falling off at any point therefore constitutes a fall during your round, which necessitates elimination.

Remember that in Canada, if you fall off during a round, you may not re-mount in the ring at risk of being disqualified from all other classes in the ring that day. The USEF allows the rider to re-mount but does not permit a courtesy fence.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

FAQ, Part 3

Why would a jumper use an open front boot?
Open-front boots are designed not to protect the front of the horse's legs. This is because we want a horse to be able to feel it when they rub a jump in order to learn from the mistake. If you pad that part of the leg, you risk the horse becoming careless. The hard sides and back of the boot protect the horse from hitting itself with the other front leg and from damaging the tendons by striking the back of the leg with a hind foot.

Rules for horse boots in the hunter ring?
Boots and bandages are not permitted in the hunter ring unless the weather is terrible and the steward gives permission for them to be used. Otherwise, you may warm up with boots on, but they must be removed (along with the tail wrap, if you use one) before you set foot in the show ring or you will be eliminated.

What makes a handy hunter handy?
Handiness is basically brilliance and efficiency. A handy horse will be brave and very rideable while being able to execute tighter turns and more galloping than you would normally see in a hunter course, all while maintaining the usual hunter qualities. In a handy hunter course, you're likely to see roll-backs, trot fences and option jumps (choosing a more difficult line or a bigger jump). In some classes, you might even need to open and close a gate or dismount (or even dismount and lead the horse over a small jump). Overall, I would say that handiness is very similar to rideability.

Why do you jog for soundness?
It is a rule that hunters must be sound in limb. Jogging for soundness before awarding ribbons ensures that all of the winners meet this criteria. If a horse is lame, the judge will excuse it from the line-up. This is the best time for the judge to evaluate lameness because it is not a requirement for the horses to trot before or after finishing their course in the over fences classes.   

How do you attach a martingale to a belly guard?
It depends on the particular girth. Some come with carabiner-type clips in the middle that can open and close. If you use such a girth, all you have to do is slip the loop of your martingale into the clip.  Other girths have a solid ring in the middle for attachments.  You need to attach a clip (like a halter snap or leash clip) to your martingale in order to use the ring for that purpose. With some work and dismantling, you should be able to slip the clip right onto your martingale. A third type of attachment, that sometimes comes with the solid clip, is a leather strap, secured with either a stud or a buckle. To attach a martingale without a clip, undo the leather strap on the girth, slip it through the loop of your martingale, then re-attach the leather strap. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Something to Watch

For those of you who weren't already aware of it, I thought I'd draw your attention to the 2011 George Morris Horsemastership Training Session videos.  This is a series of videos, provided free of charge thanks to the group of sponsors, showing the 2011 clinic given by George Morris to a group of young equitation/jumper riders.  The videos are all very informative, but there are a few that you might want to focus on if you're short on time:


- Day 4 Lecture 2:  Course design with Anthony D'Ambrosio.  He explains many elements of course design and I think that it's great information for all jumpers to have.
- Day 5 (Group 1 or Group 2):  The mock horse show.  The riders warm up individually as they would at a horse show and ride an Anthony D'Ambrosio-designed course.  It includes commentary on warming up and riding a full course.
- Day 3 (Group 1 or Group 2): Gymnastics and the introduction of the water jump.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

FAQ, Part 2

Do you need different tack for hunter and for jumper?
Not necessarily. Hunters have very stringent rules for tack while jumpers allow pretty much all tack that is humane, so if you outfit your horse for the hunter ring, that tack will also be allowed in the jumper ring (except for the standing martingale, which is not allowed for the bigger jumper classes).

How do I read a horse striding chart?
For reference, we'll use the chart provided here. In this chart there are options given for different jump heights, stride lengths and pony heights. Choose the number of strides that you want (given here in rows) and use the corresponding number in whichever category you are interested in. For horses, a 12' stride is common. This means that for a 4-stride line, you would select 60 feet, which is four times 12 feet, plus another 12-foot stride for the combined landing and take-off distances. In the hunter ring, longer stride lengths are usually used in the course design when the jumps are bigger and when the lines are coming towards home.

How do you know when to compete at higher levels on your horse?
This is something that is best discussed with your coach. You should always school over higher fences at home than you will see at the horse shows. This is because the show ring is a much more stressful atmosphere and the technicality of the course can make even small jumps quite difficult. Exercises at home are usually designed to suit the horse, while course design at shows is meant to challenge horse and rider. If you and your horse are competing confidently and comfortably at a certain height, you could consider moving up if you have been schooling above the next height bracket at home.

How to memorize hunter courses and striding
Honestly, it's just practice. If you are tired or stressed out, you might find it more difficult to remember the striding. If you are worried about remembering the numbers, try to look at the course at the beginning of the day, well ahead of your class. If you can, watch others ride over the same course so that you can get used to seeing each line ridden in a certain number of strides. As far as the course itself goes, many hunter courses flow quite well if you know the first jump and the last jump (your options are often limited because going off course would involve taking a line backwards!). Many pros will find their way around the ring with just this information. For some riders, memorizing the colours of the jumps/lines helps to cement it in the mind, while for others it's more a matter of "inside-outside-diagonal-outside-diagonal".  If you're really worried, check to see if it would be possible to go off-course without jumping a line backwards.  If you couldn't, then you have one less thing to worry about (you would never jump an oxer backwards, would you?).  If you're worried about forgetting where the course ends, ask your coach or friends to start clapping as you come over the last line of the course.

Is it acceptable to keep a horse's mane long for hunter classes?
Not unless you are attending a breed show and the long mane is part of your breed standard. Hunters are very tradition-based, and the accepted way is to pull the mane to a length of around 4-5 inches and braid it in the hunter style. There is a reason why you see hunters and jumpers with shorter manes; it's very difficult to release properly over a jump if there is long hair to get tangled in. If you are attending a casual schooling show, you can probably get away with the longer mane, but I would recommend doing a running braid to keep the hair neat and out of the way.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

FAQ, Part 1

While I was looking through my Analytics data for this blog, I realized how many of you come here by asking questions on search engines. For some of your questions, I either have no corresponding blog entry or the answer lying deep within one of my posts might not be very explicit. For that reason I've decided to start a series of FAQ posts, answering some of the questions that have gotten you here. As always, the answers will be based on Equine Canada rules. Most countries should have similar rules, but please double check in your rule book before you show.

As usual, you're welcome to send me a message or leave a comment if you have a question that you would like to see answered on the blog. I will try to finish answering all of the questions from the Analytics in a future post.

Can you use reins with clips in jumper shows?
Yes, you can. Pretty much anything goes for reins in the jumper ring, provided they are attached to the bit or bridle.

Can I use rubber reins with a running martingale?
(also, Do you need rubber reins for a running martingale?)
You can use rubber reins with a running martingale in the jumper ring. The material that the reins are made of does not affect how a running martingale will work. Make sure that whichever reins you use have stoppers on them to avoid the martingale rings getting caught in the bit area (if your reins don't have them, rubber stoppers are available that can be coaxed on).

Can you have a martingale when entering shows?
(also, Can you show hunters with a martingale?, Length of running martingale?, Standing martingale purpose?, Why and when to use standing martingale?)
It depends. In the jumper ring, a running martingale is permitted at all levels while a standing martingale is permitted at the lower levels (1.15m and under). Restrictive devices such as the German martingale are never allowed when jumping. In the hunter ring, a standing martingale can be used over fences (running martingales are also technically allowed but are not seen), but not in any under saddle or flat class. For more about martingale use, see here and here.

Can you wear anything in a jumper ring?
No. Jumper attire can be more casual than hunter attire, but there are still rules in place. On very hot days, or during the week at some shows, polo shirts can be worn instead of formal attire. For a full explanation of jumper attire, see here.

What does crossing your path mean?
Crossing your path between two jumps counts as a disobedience. Crossing your path is essentially circling while on course, except that it can be any size or shape. This rule also keeps riders on the track desired by the course designer because it forces you to go directly to each jump without coming around from another direction to get a different approach, as shown by the diagrams below (the first is the correct line while the other shows crossing the path). 

Knowing how this rule works can keep you from having a penalty if you start to go off course and need to correct yourself, as you can see in this next diagram. The first picture would result in four faults for crossing the path, while the second would result in zero additional faults (except for the extra time taken).

Describe how to execute a correct courtesy circle before a jump
In the hunter ring, there is usually a clear space left at either end of the ring. If you choose to circle (only once) at the beginning or end of your course, you should use these clear spaces beyond the jumps. Try to fill most of that space (unless the ring is abnormally large) with your circle. Proceed directly to and from your circle without wandering around and crossing your path to avoid being penalized with an extra circle.

Rubber reins for hunters?
Rubber reins are never allowed in the hunter ring unless the weather is terrible and you have the permission of the steward. Reins must be made entirely of leather. The reins that are made to look like leather by using leather on the outside and rubber on the inside are illegal in the hunter ring.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why Fake Tails Are Used

The frequent use of fake tails in the hunter ring is sometimes used as an example of hunters being about prettiness instead of about the performances of the horses. I will explain how fake tails can actually be used to balance out some horses in order to give a better performance.

Horses, like people, are born with different qualities of hair. Certain horses have a huge tail, no matter how you treat it, while others will always have a thin, airy tail. We're used to looking at the horse as a whole, tail included. This means that the volume of the tail can affect how we see the horse's balance.

A horse with a long or thick neck can look very front-heavy if there isn't enough tail to balance the picture. Similarly, a very short neck can look even shorter if there's a huge tail making the horse's body look even longer in comparison. Part of good turn-out for a horse show is learning what to do to give each individual horse the best overall picture. That is not to say that a judge cannot detect each horse's conformation anyway, but first impressions are everything. If you enter the ring looking perfectly balanced, you're already ahead and your terrific round will raise your standing even further. If you enter the ring looking unbalanced, your great round will have to first make up for that impression rather than add to it. That initial doubt in the judge's mind isn't likely to disappear completely.

This is especially important in an under saddle class when the judge has only seconds to look at each horse before narrowing the field down to the real contenders. If that first impression isn't good, you aren't likely to have a shot at a ribbon.

Most people aren't too worried about a horse's tail looking too thick. If your horse has a shorter neck and a thick tail, braiding the tail usually works very well to lighten the back end. The same amount of hair can look very different when the braided section breaks up the mass of body and hair.

I've modified a photo that I took at a horse show to illustrate why you might want to use a fake tail. Earlier I mentioned the usefulness of a fake tail on a horse with a long or very thick neck. These photos show another scenario in which the horse's head looks very large compared to the body.

The first photo is the original. This horse does not have a very thick tail, but it is also not abnormally thin. Your first impression might be that the horse is dragging himself a bit on the forehand. Now look at the photo for a bit longer. He's actually tracking up and using himself quite well. His head is quite large compared to the rest of his body (especially the neck, which it is most likely to be compared to due to its proximity), and this makes him look unbalanced at first, even if he actually is working from behind. The point of the working hunters is not to penalize a horse for having a large head, and by focusing on turn-out we can prevent that from happening.

This next photo shows what would happen if the horse's tail was very thin. The front-heavy effect is multiplied, even though the rest of the horse is identical. When you look at this photo, chances are that you will look first at that head.

The following shows the exact same photo, but with a thicker tail. I wouldn't consider this tail to be overly thick; in my opinion, it gives the horse just the right balance. Compare this photo to the one above and ask yourself which horse you would prefer if you only had a few seconds to compare them.

The last photo I will show you isn't all that useful for this particular horse, since he benefits from a thicker tail anyway, but it makes for an interesting comparison. This is a rough drawing of what this horse might look like with a very thick, loose tail. The look is not as refined as it is with the braid, but it really changes the first impression of the horse's balance.  Take notice of where your eye is drawn to in this photo.  Odds are, your eye will be drawn further back, taking in more of the horse.

When you're preparing for the show season, try to look at your horse's conformation objectively. Seeing your horse ridden in a video or by another rider can sometimes allow you to notice things about the picture he presents that you might not otherwise see. Choosing whether or not to braid the tail, and whether or not to use a fake tail, is more about your horse than about being pretty. Part of succeeding in the show ring is learning how to give your horse the best shot at winning before you even step into the ring.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Champions and Reserve Champions

You might be wondering how champion and reserve champion ribbons are awarded at some shows. Knowing how the recipients are determined can make it easier for you to know when to stick around for an award presentation or a tie-breaker.

There are a lot of rules relating to the awarding of championships, most of which I've posted below from the EC rule book. First I'll give a basic summary of the most useful information.

Championships are determined by adding up the points associated with each horse's placings in each of the classes of a division. The points are awarded as follows (even if the ribbons are awarded past sixth, no points will be given to those awarded a seventh place or lower):

1st - 7
2nd - 5
3rd - 4
4th - 3
5th - 2
6th - 1

The gap between first and second puts an emphasis on winning.

In a small class with consistent winners, the champion and reserve champion are likely to be those who are placing first and second in each class. In a larger class with a greater variety of horses placing (for instance in jumper divisions where a different set of horses might excel in a speed class), the champion and reserve champion are most likely to be the horses that have good results in most of the classes, even if they are not all top results. In some instances, a single first place ribbon can earn you a reserve championship.

If there is a tie in points, it is most likely to be resolved by a coin toss. In such a case, a representative of the rider will need to be present for the toss. The winner of the coin toss receives the ribbon. In the case of a tie for the championship, the winner becomes champion and the loser becomes the reserve champion.

Championships can only be awarded in divisions that have at least three classes.

For hunter championships, only the top four horses from the over fences classes (combined points from all of the classes) are eligible for the championship, although points from the under saddle class are added to finalize the placings. The prevents a spectacular mover from receiving a championship based on that movement rather than on the all-important jumping ability.

Here are the EC rules:

1. Except as noted below, a competition may award hunter championships in each EC recognized hunter division providing there is a minimum of two over fences classes and one under saddle or hunter hack class in each division. If a competition offers more than one under saddle and/or hunter hack class in a division, only one may count for the championship unless the under saddle and/or hunter hack class is divided by height, age or breeding. If no under saddle class is held then one hunter hack class shall count and vice versa. The competition must specify in its prize list which full point and which half point classes in each division will count.   
2. The following classes do not count towards nor make a horse eligible for a championship: breeding, local, maiden, novice, limit, pairs, teams, miscellaneous classes.
3. Points for championships shall be awarded on the following basis:
1st 7
2nd 5
3rd 4
4th 3
5th 2
6th 1
4. The champion and reserve titles shall be awarded to two of the four horses which have accumulated the most points performing over a regulation hunter course required in the division in which they are being shown. In addition to these points, only these four horses shall receive half points for ribbons won in a model class and full points for ribbons won in one under saddle class or one hunter hack class.
5. In the case of a tie the championship and/or reserve shall be awarded to the horse that has accumulated the most points over fences. If there is still a tie, the tied horses shall be shown at walk, trot, canter and gallop (pregreen and green hunter not to gallop) to determine champion and reserve. Tossing a coin to break the tie is permissible if all participants agree. This competition shall be judged as an independent hunter under saddle class with conformation, quality, substance, soundness and performance to count as prescribed throughout the appropriate division.
6. In the event that all tied horses are declared unsound, selection of the winner amongst such tied horses shall be left to the discretion of the judge(s).
7. No classes shall count towards a championship unless all horses in the division have an equal opportunity to accumulate points. Any class that limits horse and/or rider should not count towards competition championships unless offset. This does not apply to sweepstakes or classics open to top qualifiers.
8. Points will be awarded for horses in hunter classics. In mixed classes (i.e. junior/amateur/children’s/adult), points shall be counted in their respective divisions (e.g. If the top-placed junior is 6th, he receives 6th-place points).
Classics in which juniors, amateurs and professionals are combined do not count for points.
9. Points won in one division do not count towards or make a horse eligible for the championship in another division.
10. To maintain awards won in a model class which is included in a division offered at a competition (e.g. conformation hunter), the entry must complete the course in at least one over fences class.
11. When a championship is offered, current standings must be posted at all times.
12. If there are several classes which are split but some with 50 or less entries which are not split, then the points won by the horses in this unsplit class shall be applied to their respective flight class for the calculation of championships. Separate championships must be offered when a majority of classes are divided.
13. If a class is split according to the "California split" (see Article G402) when reckoning championship points, the top eight horses that receive the most points over fences are awarded points in the under saddle/hunter hack/model class(es). The championships are awarded as follows:
Horse with the most points Champion #1
Horse with the second highest points Champion #2
Horse with the third highest points Reserve Champion #1
Horse with the fourth highest points Reserve Champion #2
14. At competitions where a separate championship class is held, horses must have been shown and judged in the qualifying classes.

1. A Jumper Championship and Reserve Championship may be awarded at each competition. The horse accumulating the most points will be Champion and the horse with the next largest number of points will be
Reserve Champion. The Championship will be decided upon the basis of points won in three or more full point classes. See also General Regulations.
2. In the case of a tie in a jumper class, each horse will be awarded equal points. For example, if three horses were tied for second place, each would receive second place points. The next placed horse would receive fifth place points.
3. In the case of a tie for the championship there may be a jump-off after the last jumping class of the Competition. Exhibitors tied for Champion or Reserve may elect to jump-off or toss.
4. Classes for Championship must be listed by number
5. Points for championships shall be awarded on the following basis:
1st 7
2nd 5
3rd 4
4th 3
5th 2
6th 1   

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What to Wear to Your First Show (Rider)

The answer to what you should wear to your first hunter/jumper show will, of course, depend on what level you are planning on showing at. The attire at an in-barn schooling show can be quite different from that at a nationally-sanctioned competition, so it's important to find out which set of rules will be followed at each particular show.

If a show is advertised as being sanctioned, licensed or recognized by a national federation (in Canada these would be Bronze-, Silver- or Gold-level competitions), you will need to follow the national rule book. If you need to pay for a national membership in order to show, chances are that the show will be following the rules of that national federation. Most rule books are available online (go here for the Equine Canada Hunter/Jumper rule book and here for the USEF rule books) and will specify what is required in terms of dress. Failure to follow those rules will result in your elimination at the show.

At a recognized show, all you must do is follow the rules to be dressed appropriately for the show. When it comes to unsanctioned schooling shows, however, it is not always clear what is expected.

It is, of course, always safest to arrive at the show in full formal show attire (jacket, show shirt, beige breeches and appropriate boots), but it is not always necessary and can be more of a monetary commitment than might be desired by someone who wants to try showing for the first time.

The best way to find out what a particular schooling show considers acceptable is to contact the show organizers directly. If you are told that formal attire will not be necessary, the next step will be to find an outfit that is neat and appropriate. Here is a list of what you might want to consider wearing for an informal schooling show:

Helmet: Any approved helmet will do at the schooling level, although the more conservative the colour and design, the better when it comes to hunter and equitation classes.

Hair: If you have long hair, it should always be contained within a hairnet when you show. "Show bows", decorative hairnets that are meant to hang down your neck, are not generally considered appropriate in the hunter ring. Most hunter riders will flip their hair up under the helmet after putting it in a low ponytail to keep it neat and tidy. A regular hairnet should be used over top for long hair. If you are not comfortable putting your hair under your helmet, some riders will braid their hair and then tuck the braid down the back of their collar. For the jumpers, a ponytail will do but most riders will put their hair under the helmet instead to look as neat as possible.

For short stirrup riders or those riding small or medium ponies, putting the hair in two braids can be appropriate, along with a bow at the end of each braid.

Shirt: For informal summer shows, a tucked-in, solid-coloured polo shirt will be acceptable. In the winter, a tucked-in, solid-coloured turtle neck would also be appropriate. A collared show shirt would, of course, be best for a hunter or equitation class if you have one.

Jacket: In cooler weather, a fitted, solid-coloured sweater can be worn over your shirt. In the winter or if it is raining, a coat can be worn but the less bulky, the better. If you are on a budget and need to wear formal attire for a schooling show, a well-fitting blazer from a used clothing store can do the trick. Navy blue is the most classic colour for the hunter ring, but black, grey, brown and green are also acceptable.

Gloves: Riding gloves are not necessary but they do provide a nice finishing touch. Leather gloves are the classic choice but any type is acceptable. Black or brown gloves provide the nicest picture, while white gloves stand out too much and are not appropriate for hunter or equitation classes.

Breeches: Breeches should be beige or greenish-beige for showing. At very informal shows, darker breeches could be seen. At the schooling level, cleanliness and fit matter more than material or cut. White breeches are not appropriate for hunter classes. In the jumper ring, they are really only appropriate for big classes at the higher levels and therefore look out of place at the schooling level. Jodhpurs are acceptable for small children.

Boots: Black field boots (tall boots with laces) are the best choice, although any black or brown tall boot will do. Some federations allow the use of paddock boots with half chaps, but the rule is not universal so it is best to check your federation's rule book. In Canada, leather half chaps are acceptable as long as they match the paddock boots (this excludes FEI Children's classes). At the unsanctioned schooling level, most facilities are likely to allow half chaps.

Spurs: Spurs are optional. If you decide to use them, make sure that they are not pointed upwards.

The rule of thumb when it comes to hunter and equitation classes is really to go as conservative as possible. The judge should be given the chance to focus on your riding or on your horse, rather than on your clothing. If you are unsure of what will be expected of you in terms of attire, contact the show committee well ahead of the horse show (contact information should be provided in the prize list). Another way to feel more comfortable with your clothing choices is to find photos online of a previous edition of the show that you will be attending. Once you have an idea of what others have worn in the past, you can arrive on the show day with more important things to worry about!

Always make sure that everything you use, down to your spur straps, is clean and in good repair. Combined with well-fitting, conservative clothing, you'll be ready to make an excellent first impression on the judge.