Sunday, December 30, 2012

Turnout Critique #7

In this Turnout Critique, we'll be taking another look at a horse and rider who we've seen before at their very first horse show. Now we'll be looking at their turnout for the cold season.

Clipping might not be an option for certain horses depending on their living conditions (indoors vs. outdoors, blanketing, etc.) and workload. If you choose to show in the colder months without clipping, you need to go a step further with your turnout to show the judge that you haven't simply pulled your horse out of the field and onto the trailer. In this particular case, the step further would be to braid, even for a schooling show. The messy mane and forelock add to the overall hairiness and make it look as though all of the effort has gone towards the rider rather than the horse. Braiding at least the mane would demonstrate that an effort has been made. The hooves should similarly be polished as a finishing touch.

It's difficult to tell based on these photos alone whether the tail is dirty or simply has dark colouring. Even in cold weather, it's possible to partially wash the tail without making the horse wet by using a clean, damp sponge. Spread the tail across your knee and wipe each section down with the sponge until it comes away clean (rinse the sponge when it gets dirty). You could even use shampoo on the sponge if you're careful to rinse it away with another sponge afterwards. Using this method, it's possible to get quite a clean tail that can be easily brushed out, even in the winter!

Trimming the whiskers would also help to refine the turnout, but some riders do prefer to keep them, especially in the off-season.

While the feathers look like they started off clean and white, which is great, long hair does tend to capture dirt and you can see in the bottom photo that they did not stay white. If you do not wish to trim the leg hair, you can bring a stiff brush to the ring to remove most of the dirt from the warm-up and then apply baby powder or corn starch to the white socks to further whiten them.

If the coat is long, it will usually form a wavy pattern as the horse sweats. If you are showing a horse with a winter coat or whose summer coat has not finished coming in, bring a hard brush to the ring and run it over the horse right before entering the show ring to remove that waviness, making the horse appear sleeker and neater.

This bridle is not acceptable for the hunter ring, with its contrasting padding on the noseband and browband. The bridle should be brown or black with no accents of any other colours. I also wonder whether these reins are leather; I can't zoom in closely enough to confirm but they strike me as possibly being rubber or webbed, which would be illegal in the hunter ring.

The saddle pad is very clean and fits the shape of this saddle as well as can be expected, given the saddle's all purpose shape. Further down the line, this rider might think of switching to a proper jumping saddle that would help her to maintain the position and balance desired for the hunter ring. Her peacock irons are acceptable for a junior rider but I suggest that she keeps an eye on them as she grows as many brands are not designed to take an adult's weight. The excess stirrup leather is short enough that it is acceptable as is, but if it were any longer I would suggest either folding it under the saddle flap or trimming it.

I prefer the fit of this jacket to the one that we saw this rider in last time; it is slightly more fitted at the waist and through the arms. Paired with a clean white shirt and beige breeches, it is a classic combination that always works. The black crop is also appropriately conservative, and the clean black leather gloves add a polished subtlety to the hands.

From what I can see from these angles, the rider's hair appears to be appropriately neat and contained.

Several inches of the helmet strap hang down, and this is distracting. If it does not stay in the original harness set-up, I suggest trying to add a black braiding elastic or something similar to keep that excess strap contained.

The black field boots are very well-fitted, but they should always be polished before a horse show. It's the small details like polishing boots and hooves that really bring turnout to the next level.

I suggest that this rider practices braiding before her next show. That, combined with a change of bridle and a bit of polish, will make a big difference to her turnout, especially if she develops some special routines just for winter shows. 

Thank you very much to this week's featured rider for submitting these photos!

If you would like to submit one or more photos for a future Turnout Critique, send them to

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FAQ, Part 8

Does my tack need to match?
Not necessarily. It's quite common for there to be a couple of shades difference between two pieces of tack, especially when a rider uses one saddle between several horses whose bridles might not all be the same colour. What will stand out is if you use different pieces of tack with entirely different tones, but staying within the same colour family will usually work. Pairing orangey brown Newmarket with a dark brown would likely look bad, whereas pairing medium brown with chocolate brown is not likely to stand out at all (see Dover Saddlery's handy guide to leather colours). It's about creating a harmonious picture, so the less your tack stands out, the better.

Should I use light tack on a light horse and dark tack on a dark horse?
It depends. Tack colour preference seems to be highly regional, with some areas preferring lighter tack and others preferring darker tack. Obviously, lighter tack will stand out more on a darker horse, so in general darker tack would be preferable. Similarly, chestnut-coloured tack would stand out less on a chestnut, but most people aren't likely to find that a darker brown clashes with a chestnut coat, either. Tack colour for grey horses can be highly controversial. Overall, the general rule is to use a tack colour that you like and that complements your horse's coat colour without drawing the eye away from your horse.

Which stirrup irons are acceptable in the hunter ring?
As with anything in the hunter ring, conservative is best. Solid stainless steel fillis irons are always acceptable and are the most classic and attractive choice. Jointed irons are also acceptable, especially if the joint blends in with the stainless steel of the iron. Plastic composite irons can also be used. Modern aluminum stirrups with wide foot beds can also be used provided they are conservative in colour, but the style itself isn't exactly conservative. For equitation classes, black stirrup irons are no longer permitted.