Saturday, September 8, 2012

Turnout Critique #6

This week's featured rider clearly tries hard to have good turnout and is doing a lot right, but she needs to focus on a few more details and ensure that she is using her safety equipment in a way that allows it to work as it should.

This was this rider's very first Bronze-level show and her turnout is extremely good for a rider starting at that level. 

Her pony is in excellent condition, shiny and in good weight. He is very clean and has nicely oiled hooves. The tail is brushed out nicely and is an excellent example of what a properly brushed out tail should look like. Each hair flows freely with none bunching together, which comes from working through the entire tail from bottom to top. I also appreciate that the mane is braided, and although I cannot tell much about the quality from the resolution of these photos, I can tell that they are thin with no frizz. It's possible that some of the braids have turned, which can be remedied by starting with a shorter mane if that is the case. The pony also appears to be nicely trimmed.

I'm not sure that the shape of the saddle fits this rider (although shortening the stirrups might help to put more bend in her knee and therefore use the front half of the saddle more), but it appears to be clean and in good repair. My biggest issue is with the stirrup irons. In two of these photos, the peacock safety stirrup is positioned so that the open (with rubber band) side is facing the pony. It may be that the stirrup leather was twisted for the flat phase, but it's important for that open side to face outward. If this rider were to fall, the only way that the rubber band could pop open to help release her foot would be if it was on the outside, the direction in which she would move in a fall. If this rider wishes to continue using safety stirrups, she should make sure to keep on eye on the peacock irons as she grows. Most brands are not designed to take more than a child's weight (due to the open side) and could bend, especially with the forces involved while jumping. There are other types of safety stirrups available, and a properly-sized solid stirrup iron can be very safe as well.

This rider actually commented to me that her saddle pad was too small, but I disagree. The flap area of this saddle pad is actually too large for this saddle (even when it slips back there is still about an inch of pad showing in front but three or four inches too much in the back), both in width and depth. The pad might be too small under the back of the saddle where I don't have a clear view of it, but simply going up to a horse-sized pad from a pony pad to fix that would make the flap area even more distractingly large. I would instead try different brands of pony-sized pads to find one that fits all the way around, leaving an inch or two of pad showing everywhere.

The bridle appears to be properly fitted and clean, and a converter is being used with the pelham as is allowed under EC rules for juniors. I would double-check the length of the standing martingale just to make sure that it isn't restricting the pony in any way. He is hitting the end of it while landing in the photo below, but this might be the highest that his head ever goes on landing. Personally, I would lengthen it by a hole or two just to make sure that the pony stays comfortable.

The rider is correctly turned out for the hunter ring in a classic combination of dark jacket, white shirt, dark gloves and beige breeches. It's possible that her boots could use a coat of polish because I can't detect much shine in these photos.

I am not a big fan of Tipperary helmets for the hunter ring, personally. I find that the sun's reflection off the shiny finish is distracting and the shape of the helmet can make it appear that the rider is looking down, which could count against you in an equitation class. There is such a variety of safe helmets available in all price ranges and fits, so I recommend that this rider search for one that is more conservatively-styled when the time comes to buy her next one.

This rider's hair is up in a bun, which is much better than a loose ponytail. I find that the bun is a bit large, though, so I might experiment with different styles to find something that stands out a little bit less. Some long-haired riders like tucking a long braid inside the shirt collar, while others find different shapes of bun to work better than others. I understand that very long or thick hair does not always fit inside a helmet, and some riders simply aren't comfortable with putting it there for safety or comfort reasons.

Overall, this rider is doing an excellent job so far and there really isn't much to change. The effort that she puts into her turnout is obvious and I'm sure that the judges notice it, too.

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

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