Saturday, January 26, 2013

Turnout Critique #10

This week's featured rider clearly makes a very good effort towards her turnout, resulting in a nice, workmanlike pair. A few minor changes could improve their turnout further to make them really shine.

All of this horse's tack appears to be well-fitted, with every piece showing the deep shine of clean, well-conditioned leather. I'm not a big fan of breastplates on hunters; I find them to be mildly distracting. They are legal if they are made entirely of leather, but I wonder if a well-fitted saddle would really move very much anyway in an under saddle class without one.

I don't like to see a hanging bridle tag on a hunter; I much prefer a discreet name plate, which can even be placed on a cheek piece so that it can be covered by a strap. If the hanging tag is not easily removable, I have had success tucking them out of the way between the cheek piece straps between the buckle and the top keeper after bridling the horse.

The saddle pad is nicely chosen to fit this saddle. I find the excess stirrup leather to be on the verge of being too long, so I would tuck it under the saddle flap.

The hooves are nicely oiled and the small amount of white on the legs has clearly been cleaned and shows just a small amount of show ring dirt.

What worries me is how dull this horse's coat is, given the shine on the rider's boots and tack and how much effort this rider puts towards their turnout. I expect a healthy horse who receives a lot of elbow grease to have a deep shine as a result. If this horse is healthy as far as can be told, and shows no signs of ulcers, adding some oil to the feed in the form of flax, black oil sunflower seeds or vegetable oil could make a big difference to the shine of the coat.

The mane is nicely braided and tidy. The tail is thin and doesn't fall like a tail that has been thoroughly brushed from bottom to top shortly before heading to the show ring. This horse could also benefit from a fake tail to balance out his proportions.

I can't tell whether the horse's open mouth is simply an atypical moment in time or if he goes like this frequently. If the mouth gapes frequently, a dental check-up and/or change of bit might be of benefit.

The rider is very well-dressed with a classic navy jacket that fits well through the body, clean beige breeches and very shiny field boots, with spotless soles. This is the reason for having someone at the ring with a towel following your warm-up; when the entire boot is clean with no dirt or horse slobber, it brings everything together. The outfit is completed with conservative black gloves and a black helmet, and a lovely demonstration of neat hunter hair.

Overall, I really appreciate the effort that this rider has made and I'm sure that the judges notice it, too. They will be especially eye-catching when her horse matches her level of shine.

Thank you very much to this week's featured rider for submitting this photo! Anyone interested in participating in a future Turnout Critique can send any photos to

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Turnout Critique #9

In this week's Turnout Critique we'll be looking at a horse who looks more ready for the dressage ring than the hunter ring. Some details are difficult to see through the photo quality, so some aspects of the critique will be fairly general.

The number one change that needs to happen to transform this horse into a hunter is to switch to a shaped saddle pad instead of a square pad. This would bring them in line with the hunter rules.

This horse looks like he's well groomed with his deep, shiny liver chestnut coat. His mane and tail appear to be brushed out very nicely with no clumping, but a hunter's mane really should be braided. Some riders like to keep their horse's mane long for breed standards or based on personal horse-keeping practices. If you are serious about showing in the hunters, however, pulling or shortening the mane will bring your turnout in line with what is expected. At the schooling level, a running braid done tightly against the crest of the neck will make a full-length mane look neat and similar from a distance to those done in traditional hunter braids, while keeping the rider's hands from getting caught in the mane over fences. There is a lovely example of a tight running braid here (under "French Braid"). The tail looks like it might be braided, which is a nice touch for the bigger classes.

This horse is not wearing any boots or bandages, leaving the legs naked as is appropriate for a hunter class.

The bridle is all leather of a similar colour, which is good, but a raised noseband and browband would complement the horse's head more than the plain, flat leather. Raising the noseband to within an inch or two of the cheek bone would bring the proportions of the head into balance, making it look less long and more refined. Trimming some of the facial hair would also help to refine the head. The straps should also be kept in their keepers. If the keeper is too big and the strap comes out in the show ring, adding a braiding elastic beside the keeper can help to keep the strap in place. As far as I can tell, the reins are laced leather, which is appropriate for the hunter ring. The D-ring bit is also very appropriate.

It's a good idea to check the stirrup leathers for evenness every so often because they can get stretched to different degrees. It might just be that that the horse was posed in such a way that they only appear uneven in the photo, but I suspect that they would not be of equal length if the horse was halted square.

As far as the rider goes, the classic combination of navy jacket, white shirt and beige breeches is a good one. The jacket is a bit too baggy; a more fitted body would look more polished. Even the shirt seems large in the neck area. Brass buttons aren't usually seen in the hunter ring since buttons that match the jacket colour are more conservative. The black gloves are a very good choice with this outfit.

I'm not sure whether this helmet doesn't fit properly or simply has been pushed back by the rider. A helmet should be worn so that the base of the front of the helmet lies parallel to the ground. In other words, looking at a rider face-on, the bottom of the helmet should make a straight line across the forehead instead of a line that's curved upwards. This is done both for safety and aesthetic reasons. In addition, the helmet strap is hanging down, which can be corrected with the addition of a black braiding elastic on the strap.

The final step is to clean and polish the boots. Even the soles are dirty, a problem that can be solved by having someone use a brush or towel to clean them after you get on. Always polish your boots before a horse show as it's one of those things that is very noticeable if not done. It's easy to remove dust and slobber from well-polished boots with a towel at the in-gate to bring out their full shine.

Overall, this is a cute horse who would really shine in the show ring with just a little bit more work to even out the whole picture.

Thank you to this week's featured rider for submitting these photos! Anyone wishing to be featured in a future Turnout Critique can send any photos to

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Turnout Critique #8

This is our first jumper Turnout Critique. Jumpers are more difficult to critique because so much is allowed that it really comes down to personal taste. I, personally, like a very clean and fairly conservative turnout for jumpers, and this critique will reflect that. As long as your turnout falls within the rules, however, it will not affect the judging of a jumper class. I believe that good turnout still shows respect for the judge and the horse show and I therefore like to make the effort.

The first thing that strikes me is how nice and clean this very cute pony is! The ends of her tail could be a little bit whiter, which usually comes from shampooing the tail frequently well ahead of the horse show, but as far as I can tell without knowing this horse's coat markings and assuming that the orange jump is reflecting off the back legs, especially after looking at all of the photos, I think that this rider has done a good job with her grey horse.

I would like to see the tail brushed out better, starting from the bottom and working all the way up to the top so that it doesn't fall into clumps as we see here. The mane could be pulled and/or shortened to make it neater and less likely to catch the rider's hands during a release. I like to braid jumpers' manes for big classes, but an unbraided mane is perfectly acceptable, and the norm, for a casual class.

Hoof polish would add a nice finish to the turnout, especially in contrast to the light coat.

The bridle appears to be well-fitted to this pony and I like the conservative fly veil. My preference is for a conservative base colour for a fly veil, and then personality can be added through coloured trim if desired. A true white fly veil can make even a clean horse look yellow, so the best colours to use on a grey are usually (depending on the lightness of the grey horse) off-white, grey or black.

I am not a big fan of this patterned saddle pad for showing; I think that a plain white pad or a white pad edged in black, or even a black pad edged in white for a casual class, would look very clean and professional while suiting the overall colour scheme.

The saddle looks like it might benefit from a good conditioning (although it might just be a trick of the light) and I would tuck the excess stirrup leather under the saddle flap so that it isn't flying around. As I've mentioned in previous posts, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the peacock irons over time as some aren't meant to take the weight of more than a young child. I would prefer to see a girth that is closer in colour to the saddle and bridle.

This rider's helmet is fairly conservative and appropriate for the jumper ring. Her hair appears to be neatly contained in a braid, which is perfectly acceptable for long hair, although putting it up inside the helmet is the neatest option.

If it's warm enough to show in short sleeves, my preference would be to remove the bulky vest before entering the ring. My personal practice is to wear a thin V-neck sweater over a polo shirt on cooler days so that the collar of the polo still shows and the lightweight fabric means that you're less likely to overheat once you start riding. The V-neck makes it easy to pull over your helmet if you get too warm and want to take it off.

This rider is not wearing gloves, which is perfectly acceptable if that is how she prefers to ride. If she ever wants more protection for her hands, she should choose black, brown, or even beige gloves depending on the rest of her outfit to remain conservative.

The breeches are an appropriate beige colour and are clean. Her boots, however, are a different story! If the light colour on the toes is dirt, they should have been cleaned before the horse show and preferably again after mounting. If it's discolouration from wear, the boots should have been buffed with black polish. I like for a rider's boots to be polished at all times in the jumper ring. Also, when half chaps are used, they should ideally be the type that look like tall boots from a distance, and they should be polished as well.

Overall, I think that this rider has done a very good job of presenting herself for a schooling-level jumper show. It will only take a few minor changes and polishing to bring their turnout up to the next level.

Thank you to this week's featured rider for submitting these photos! Anyone wishing to be featured in a future Turnout Critique should e-mail any photos to