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 firstname.lastname@example.org