Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tried, It's True! #1

This is the first post of a new series, "Tried, It's True!", in which I will recount events that I have really witnessed at horse shows that you should aim never to emulate! I hope that you will agree with me that these situations are not something that you should try yourself, but the stress of showing can lead our brains to shut down on occasion and these bad examples could help to set off alarm bells in your mind on those hectic days before anything gets to this point!
A very narrow aisle between tents

This past week I was at a horse show in which the tents were placed so close together that the aisle between them was literally four to five feet wide between the straps/anchors. I was walking down this aisle one day and I came across a horse being bathed in the cluttered space between the tents. When I got closer, I realized that the horse was tied to one of the D-rings on an end stall! I couldn't believe that the person bathing the horse was not aware of what a dangerous situation she had put this horse in.

There were a few others who I had seen attempting to shower horses between the two tents, but these horses were not tied and in many instances they were still getting legs on or under the straps or metal anchors. Many shows have designated showering areas; these areas are not only safer for the horses, but they also keep the ground from getting muddy where the horses and vehicles need to pass between the tents, and they avoid water spraying onto tack, hay, etc. This particular show did not have a designated showering area, but there were still hoses located in more open spaces and at the ends of the tents where there were fewer obstacles to contend with.

Many horses, especially at a busy horse show with cold water and no cross-ties, will move around during a bath. Even if your horse tends to stand still, plan the location of the bath as though your horse will move. Horses are unpredictable and you don't want the one time out of a hundred that your horse moves to happen when you're in a cluttered, confined area. It only takes a second for a serious laceration, knock, or more to occur.

I don't recommend tying a horse for bathing at a show unless there is a safe place to tie to, designed to be used as a location for tying. If your horse is used to being cross-tied for bathing, a stressful horse show is probably not the best place to attempt to tie with a single lead for the first time. Ideally, you'll have one person to hold the horse while the other wields the hose. You can also hold the horse and the hose at the same time, but you'll have to give yourself extra space because the horse will be able to circle around you.

Great for hanging buckets, not great for tying horses
Those little D-rings about halfway up the wall of a vinyl temporary stall are there for hanging buckets. They were not put there as a place to tie a horse. Temporary stalls are usually only fastened together by a couple of metal pins on each corner. This means that the wall can be lifted up easily without too much force, which would make it easy for a horse to lift it up when panicking, especially if the force is being exerted near the corner, where those D-rings are located. The last thing that you want for a panicking horse is something large and loose attached to it that will cause even more panic. Even when I'm putting up cross-ties in an aisle of temporary stalls, I like to wrap the baling twine (which the cross-tie is then attached to) around both vertical bars at the junction of two stalls so that if the horse manages to exert a lot of force on one cross-tie, it's not acting on a single stall front that can be lifted up and out of place to further panic the horse. If anything happens, it will lift both stall fronts as well as the pins so that the stalls don't lose their integrity. 

Sometimes you have no choice but to tie to part of a single stall wall, for instance if you need to tie a horse inside of its stall for braiding or to discourage rolling (although in that case the horse is contained and will feel less of a desire to pull back on the tie), but you just have to be as careful as you can be in your choice of location and in using something like baling twine to act as a breakable safety mechanism.
This is not a wash stall!

All of this put together makes the situation that I witnessed very dangerous. Not only was the horse tied directly to a weak part of a stall with nothing behind it to discourage it from pulling back, but it was in an area where stepping to either side could get a leg caught on part of the tent, and the act of showering the horse would make it much more likely to dance around or fight the restraint. The tents being so unusually close together in this situation made things even more dangerous, adding in more tent straps and anchors for the horse to get caught up in, as well as more traffic and objects in close proximity.

Luckily, in this case, I didn't see or hear about any big accidents, but the risk was so unnecessary and things could easily have gone either way.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Estimating the Wait Time Before You Will Compete

One of the most difficult parts of the show day to plan can be the timing of your classes. The phrase "hurry up and wait" is used often, especially in hunterland, to describe the rush to get to the ring on time followed by a long wait because the ring has run more slowly than expected! While it's very difficult to get the timing perfectly right for something with so many variables, it is possible to calculate an estimate of how many minutes you have before your round.


For a regular hunter or hunt seat equitation round, you're looking at about two minutes per round from the moment the horse steps through the in-gate through to it leaving the ring. Because horses can enter the ring one after another with no delay, the waits for these classes can simply be calculated by multiplying the number of rounds by two minutes.

You can ask the in-gate person how many horses or trips there will be before yours. It's very important to find out whether the in-gate is using horses or trips, because "horses" includes every round that a horse will be doing as a single set, while "trips" counts every round separately. If the in-gate person gives you the number in horses, you'll need to figure out how many trips each horse will be doing (an open-card schooling, if it is being offered, as well as two or three over fences courses for the division is quite standard).

If the number is in horses: # horses x # trips/horse x 2 minutes/trip = # minutes
If the number is in trips: # trips x 2 minutes/trip = # minutes

To calculate the estimated time if there are multiple divisions running prior to yours, you'll need to also factor in the time for any flat classes, jogs and course changes. Flat or under saddle classes usually take about ten to fifteen minutes each. Course changes can be done very quickly if they're completed while the under saddle class is waiting to be called to order or during the jog. Jogs can usually be done quickly, in the range of five to ten minutes.

For derbies or classics, each horse will probably take slightly longer to complete the course, so the time might increase to two and a half or three minutes per horse.


Jumpers are more complicated because each class can take more or less time depending on how it's being judged (Table A with jump-off vs. speed vs. power and speed) as well as the length of the course, size of the ring, etc.

I usually estimate a regular jumper class with immediate jump-off to take about three minutes per horse. That takes into account the initial 45 second tour of the ring, the 70 to 80 second initial round and then a partial jump-off (because not every horse will move on to the jump-off).

A regular speed class (either Table A or Table C) might take closer to two or two and a half minutes per horse because there is no jump-off and the rounds themselves take less time.

Derbies will take longer, say three or four minutes per horse depending on the length of the course. Classes in which the jump-off is delayed, such as a grand prix, will run around the two to two and a half minute mark for the initial rounds, with another couple of minutes per jump-off after that.

The easiest part of estimating jumper times is that the number of horses and number of trips is the same, so there can be no confusion there! It's simply a matter of multiplying the estimated time per horse by the number of horses.

When estimating a time over multiple jumper classes, you'll have to take into account any course changes and walks. You'll be able to tell based on the course diagrams whether any jumps need to be moved, which will take much longer than a simple change of height and/or numbers. A quick course change can take about five to ten minutes, while a long one can drag on for half an hour or more! Course walks are usually kept to no more than fifteen minutes after the course has been set and opened.

In both rings, you should get an idea of how the day will run as the show goes on. Some shows will take longer because they have bigger rings, have slow course changes or because they allow the ring to sit empty, while others will pre-load the ring (have the next horse enter while the current horse is just finishing its course) and not allow competitors to hold the ring up for ages. It's always better to err on the side of being early because you can be eliminated for being more than a few minutes late, so "hurry up and wait" will unfortunately still apply for those shows that tend to drag on.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Have a Question or Turnout Photos?

As the show season gets started in many regions, remember that you can send in photos of your horse and yourself in horse show attire for a turnout critique to find out what changes you could effect to your turnout to make your first impression on the judge even better.  Photos can be sent to

Also, you can always ask questions either by commenting on the blog, sending an e-mail to or by commenting on or messaging our Facebook page (while you're there, you can "like" it to be informed of new posts, interesting horse show news, useful shared photos/videos/links, etc.) and I will try to give you at least a brief answer within 24 hours.