Saturday, July 7, 2012

Turnout Critique #4

This week's featured horse and rider are dressed for a casual schooling show. We'll look at how to dress them up for a more formal hunter show while making a few equipment changes to bring them in line with hunter rules.

The first thing that draws my eye in these photos is the rider's bright blue polo shirt. While I'm told that polo shirts were the standard attire at this particular show, I would much rather see a show shirt and jacket to enhance the overall picture and keep the focus on the horse. If polo shirts are to be worn instead at a hunter schooling show, I would prefer to see a more subtle colour like white, black or navy blue be worn. The polo shirt is correctly tucked into the breeches and worn with a belt, as any show shirt should be.

I also notice that this horse appears to be clean and well-taken care of, looking neither too fat nor too thin. Oiling the hooves before entering the ring would add extra polish to their turnout, as would braiding the mane. As it is, the mane is neat and short, but braiding would really make them look like they came to win. The legs look trimmed and tidy.

This horse is wearing bulky saddle pads. The shaped pad is too large for this saddle, with several inches of white showing in certain areas instead of the more subtle and preferred one to two inches. On top of that, there's what looks like a black foam pad on top. Not only does this add extra bulk, but the black colour makes it stand out even more. For the two minutes that it takes to go around the show ring, most horses should be able to go without extra padding. If it's needed, perhaps a saddle fitting or change is in order, or a more advanced shaped pad with inserts or natural sheepskin to protect the back.

The tack looks clean and the excess stirrup leather isn't overly long. I personally prefer the look of a solid stirrup iron in the show ring, but I understand why some riders prefer to use safety stirrups.

Elsewhere on the horse, this rider is using a pelham bit without a snaffle rein. This set-up is not appropriate for the hunter ring; there should be attachments to both the snaffle ring and the curb ring, using either a bit converter or two sets of reins, depending on the rules of the class. Using a pelham in the way that we see here means that only the curb (leverage) action of the bit can be used. Because of this, every touch of the reins is amplified in the mouth, and poll pressure is constantly applied. Using a converter allows some of the pressure to be gained through direct contact, lessening the leverage action, and using two sets of reins allows the rider to determine when to use snaffle vs. curb action. This is especially important with a horse that likes to over-jump like this one, because it's so easy to get left behind and end up pulling back on the mouth.

Returning to the rider, I would like to see her wear gloves in the hunter ring. Her hands are very noticeable against her dark horse's neck while jumping, and wearing gloves would harmonize things. Dark gloves should almost always be a standard part of hunter attire. Her breeches and boots are appropriate, with the boots nicely shined. Her hair is neatly contained in her helmet as far as I can see. 

Overall, this horse/rider combination is almost there! Just a few minor changes would bring them from a casual but workmanlike appearance to a polished, formal hunter turnout.

As always, a big thank you to this week's rider for submitting her photos! If you would like to participate in a future turnout clinic, send your photo(s) to

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