Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Heads Up for US Equitation Riders, Stirrup Rule Change

Royal Rider stirrups
If you compete or are planning to compete in equitation classes in the United States, this rule change could affect you. Beginning December 1st, 2013, black stirrup irons will no longer be allowed for equitation classes.

My understanding of the reasoning is that a black iron against a black field boot, especially on a dark horse, can hide minor flaws in the leg position and make it difficult to tell if the rider has their foot in the stirrup.

If you are in the market for a new pair of stirrup irons and think that you might enter any equitation classes in the future, you should consider either a stainless steel-type iron or a newer-style polymer iron that is coloured silver/grey rather than black.

As far as I am aware, jointed stirrups with black joint coverings are most likely still acceptable because the top and bottom of the iron are still visible as stainless steel. If you are worried about potential elimination for those black coverings, the stirrups are made with grey coverings as well.

The colour of the stirrup pad should not matter because it is hidden by the rider's boot and the branch of the stirrup, anyway.

If you already own black stirrup irons and cannot purchase a new pair, there are metallic silver spray paints available that can be used on plastic.

I have not heard anything yet about this rule being adopted in Canada, but I would not be surprised if it happens in the next few years if this is a common complaint with judges, given how often American judges are brought up to Canada. For that reason, it might be wise for any equitation riders who plan on purchasing new stirrup irons in the near future to stick to stainless steel-looking options.

This is the new USEF rule:

EQ110 Appointments [Chapter EQ - Equitation Division, Subchapter EQ-2 Hunter Seat Equitation Section] add new:
4.  The use of black stirrups is not permitted in any Equitation class. The use of black stirrups will automatically result in elimination.

The full wording of the rule change can be seen here (on page 169):

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tape on Jumper Warm-Up Standards

Have you ever wondered what those two lines of tape are doing on the jumper ring schooling standards at some horse shows?

Those lines are measured and taped by the show steward to make it easier for both riders and stewards to ensure that the height-related rules are being followed.

The lower line is put at 1.30m (4'3") and the higher line is at 1.60m (5'3"). For many, these heights will never be jumped in the warm-up ring anyway, but certain tape-related rules might still apply and the tape can help you keep track of how high you're jumping.

While the Canadian and American jumper warm-up rules do differ slightly, they are the same with regard to the tape with one exception. The Canadian rules do not allow riders to jump more than 10cm higher than the height of the competition currently taking place in the show ring. This means that if the class is running at 1.20m, the warm-up jump is only allowed to be adjusted up to the point where the top of the highest rail is even with the lower tape. Even for lower classes, knowing that the tape is at 1.30m can make it easier to estimate the height of any jump that is set.

The role of the higher tape is to set a limit for how high the horses are permitted to jump in the warm-up ring. Rails may not exceed the height of that top tape (1.60m) for any competition.

The lower tape helps to enforce the rule stating that a minimum of two rails must be used on the take-off side for any jump at 1.30m or higher, with the lower rail always staying below 1.30m. This is a way to avoid overly airy fences that would be unfair to the horse.

In addition, trot/canter/placement poles can only be used when the jump is set at 1.30m or lower (therefore the top of the highest rail mustn't be higher than the bottom tape when using any rails on the ground except for ground lines within 1.0m of the fence).

The tape-related rule most likely to affect those jumping the lower heights is that the cups used to build a cross-rail may not exceed 1.30m. Because the middle of a cross-rail where it is jumped is much lower than the height of the cups, it's quite easy to approach the height of the tape when raising an X to anything more than a relatively low height.

For full warm-up rules, you can check the individual rule books:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FAQ, Part 9

Do I have to wear leather gloves when showing hunter/jumper?

No, gloves are not necessary but they do provide a nice finishing touch to the rider's turnout in the hunter ring, keeping the hands discreet. The vast majority of riders do wear gloves to show.

If you choose to wear gloves, leather is a very nice traditional choice, although there are several alternatives made of other materials that can also look and feel good. As long as the pair of gloves is conservative (black, unless you are wearing brown boots in which case brown is more appropriate), clean and fit your hands, they will be acceptable in the show ring.

Can you wear a zippered shirt in the show ring? 

Show shirts with zippered fronts are more suited to the dressage ring than to the hunter or jumper rings. This is because the zipper is meant to be hidden beneath a stock tie. Chokers or stock ties are usually required as part of formal dress, therefore a zippered shirt worn without one could be considered illegal. Such a shirt could still be worn on a casual day in the jumper ring by itself or with a show jacket, but in any other situation it would be a risk to use one unless combined with a stock tie that covers it.

Nowadays there are shirts with wrap collars that are essentially built-in chokers, but these shirts are designed to look like a traditional show shirt from a distance, hiding the closures on the collar. Some judges or stewards might consider a zippered shirt to be similar enough to be acceptable, but it's better to check with the steward at each horse show than it is to just assume that it will be fine.

What is the best colour fly veil for a grey horse?

In most cases, the best colour of fly veil is the one that most closely matches the colour of the horse, though a black base will suit almost any colour of horse. A light grey horse can look good in an off-white or very light grey fly bonnet (pure white might make the horse look slightly yellow in comparison), and a darker grey horse could suit a medium grey or charcoal bonnet. Similarly, a chestnut often suits a brown fly veil, which can also look good on a bay if the colour of brown is exactly the right shade to complement the coat (otherwise, black is the way to go).

Of course, in the jumper ring, you can use any colour and there are lots of very classy-looking navy blue and even dark green bonnets out there for those who want to use barn colours or just want a different look. Remember that you can add colour to a neutral base with trim or cord, so there are lots of ways to make a fly bonnet original while keeping it relatively conservative overall.

Should you use clear or black hoof polish in the hunter ring?

Solid black-coloured hoof polish isn't usually seen in the hunter ring; either a naturally slightly-brown hoof oil/dressing or a clear polish would be much more suitable. These bring out and deepen the natural colour of the hoof instead of looking harsh and artificial.

Can jumpers wear only hind boots at shows?

Yes, in the jumper ring, you may use whichever combination of boots and bandages works best for your horse, or you may use nothing at all. As long as it's humane, it's up to you.

Can I tighten the curb chain on a hackamore?

Yes, you can tighten the curb chain or strap on a hackamore the same way you would for a bit, although the actual fit might need to be slightly different than it would be for a curb bit. The looser you make the curb strap, the more time it will take for the full effect of the hackamore to come into play during your rein aid, giving the horse a chance to  respond to the lighter feel before it is amplified. If the curb strap is too loose, however, the hackamore will move around on the face since there is nothing else holding it in position, making the standard 45 degree rotation of the shank that is typically used to adjust curb chains on bits sometimes too loose.

You can try making your curb strap slightly tighter or looser and seeing how your horse responds, as there are many factors involved and one horse might appreciate having the hackamore stabilized more with a relatively snug curb strap while another might enjoy having the gentler action of a looser curb strap. The 45 degree rotation of the shank is a good place to start, but there's no reason not to modify the tightness slightly if that standard tightness doesn't seem to be ideal. Using a flat leather curb strap instead of a curb chain will also make the curb milder and make it a bit kinder to play around with adjustments.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Turnout Critique #11

This week we have a featured horse and two riders who show excellent turnout for a cool season 'C' circuit horse show. There are a few improvements that could be made but overall we're looking at a team that puts a lot of effort into their presentation.

This horse is clipped appropriately for a horse show outside of the summer, leaving just the legs and a saddle patch unclipped. This is perfectly acceptable for a show at this level, and should also be appropriate for most shows at the 'B' level as well provided that the clip is done smoothly like this one with no visible clip lines. For an 'A' show, I would expect to see a full body clip, but at the lower levels the horses aren't presumed to be showing full-time and therefore it's understandable to leave some areas unclipped. A partial clip is certainly preferable to a shaggy, sweat-soaked horse.

The quality of this horse's coat is lovely, with the shine evident even indoors. All of the white markings are quite clean, which is impressive given that the legs aren't clipped, and the hooves have the rich colour that comes from being oiled prior to the class, helping to set off the white markings. He also appears to be in good weight.

Unfortunately, the mane is unbraided, which is a shame given the quality of the rest of their turnout. It is at least pulled to a short length so it is relatively neat, but braiding it would likely give him a better-looking neck since the hair sticking up near the top of the neck makes his crest look more upside down than it really is. It's difficult to see the tail but it seems to be brushed out nicely, though I suspect that it could use a trim based on those few longer hairs at the bottom. If the tail is quite long, trimming those thin hairs at the bottom should make the entire tail look fuller.

The tack shows the deep glow of well-cleaned leather. The bridle is adjusted properly, complementing the horse's head. I do find the yellow plastic of the bit's mouthpiece to be somewhat distracting, but if that is what the horse goes best in, it's okay. I have mentioned previously that some brands of peacock safety stirrups aren't intended for the weight of someone larger than a small child, so these riders should keep on eye on those stirrup irons if they wish to continue using them to make sure that they don't start to bend and lose their integrity. The extra length of stirrup leather should either be trimmed so that only a few inches extend beyond the edge of the saddle pad, or it can be tucked neatly under the saddle flap.

This saddle pad shows a tendency to slip back, though it does seem to be the correct size and shape for this saddle. Perhaps the girth is a bit too loose (it might need tightening once the rider is in the saddle) or the straps on the saddle pad might need to be adjusted differently or more tightly (sometimes even passing just one of the girth buckles through the girth loop instead of both can make a difference if the loop is positioned too far forward). If that doesn't work, there are non-slip pads available for purchase or they could try sewing a patch of non-slip kitchen drawer liner to the current pad.

Both riders are dressed in very well-fitted, clean clothing. Their boots are clean and polished and are a good height for each rider's leg. The breeches are an appropriate beige colour. Their jackets are both nicely fitted through the waist, and while a white show shirt would be a more classic pairing, especially for an equitation class, the light blue shirt is acceptable. Both riders are wearing stock pins, which have become out of style due to the risk of the pin coming undone during a fall or other accident and causing injury. The collar can be left plain, or you can add monogramming or piping if you feel that you must have something there.

Both riders have the number string up around the ribs rather than around the waist. While there is no rule against the number being a bit high, the normal position for it is around the waist. If the string is run through a button like this to hide the bow, it's important to thread the number in such a way (i.e. no double-looping through the holes) that it can be slid along the string to move it slightly to the inside or outside during flat classes so that the judge can read it. The gloves are clean and black, complementing the riders' boots and helmets. While their hair appears to be fairly neatly contained, I don't see a hairnet on either rider and the rider in the blue shirt has pieces of hair sticking out the back of her helmet. A hairnet would help to keep the hair neat. To have a really polished hunter look, they could try putting their hair across the tops of their ears. The white-shirted rider needs to make sure that her chinstrap stays up in its keeper instead of hanging down her neck. If it doesn't stay in place, adding a braiding elastic to the chinstrap should help.

The crop is appropriately conservative. During a flat class, however, it would be a good idea to leave the whip at the in-gate. In Canada, whips aren't allowed in hack classes, which many people also extend to under saddle and flat classes even if it isn't expressly written in the rules. I'm not sure whether any such rule exists in the U.S., but a judge won't see many good reasons for you to be carrying it in an under saddle class anyway, and you risk being placed lower if the judge thinks that you are using it.  

Overall, well done! It's very nice to see riders so well turned-out at this level and I'm sure that the judges notice this pair when they walk in the ring. Thank you very much to these riders for submitting their photos!

If you would like to be featured in a future Turnout Critique, send one or more photos to