Thursday, April 10, 2014

Turnout Critique #13

This week's Turnout Critique is interesting because we have photos from a couple of different shows, showing the horse at two different levels of turnout and at two different body conditions.

This rider strikes me as someone who has recently had a growth spurt because while all of her apparel appears to have been chosen with care, several elements are too short. The jacket, while a good dark colour, appears too short, with the waist sitting too high and the bottom not coming far down enough. A good rule of thumb is that the bottom hem at the back of the jacket should just barely brush the seat of the saddle. The field boots are several inches too short and as a result they have dropped below the bottom of the rider's knee. Boots that are too short break up the lines of the leg and can give the illusion of strange proportions. For equitation classes in particular, care should be taken to choose boots that are not too short. When purchasing new boots, plan for them to drop an inch or two (which means that they will feel uncomfortably high on the knee at first).

The upper part of the boot is clean and well-polished, but the foot area appears dull. Unless the ground is so wet that it washes the polish away, polished boots should redevelop their shine after being wiped down. Care should be taken to ensure that the entire boot is polished before showing (and be aware that some leather conditioners can dull the finish and make it difficult for the boots to hold a shine). For an equitation class (which this appears to be), a small spur, even if it is a "dummy" spur, would help to draw the judge's eye to the nicely lowered heel.

This rider's hair is neatly contained in a conservative helmet and hairnet, and she could bring some hair down over her ears to complete the full "hunter hair" look.

She appears to be wearing a belt with her tucked-in show shirt, as is appropriate, and the breeches are well-chosen for their colour and fit, and are clean. Her black gloves are also well-chosen to complete the outfit.

Another reason why it appears that this rider might have had a recent growth spurt is that the saddle seems to be too small, both in the seat and the flap. You should be able to fit about a hand's width between the cantle and your seat, and the flap is almost entirely hidden by the rider's leg. I recommend that this rider work with her trainer and a good saddle fitter to evaluate whether it's time to move to a larger saddle. This does not have to be a huge expense because good quality saddles can be found used for much less than they would cost new.

This rider pointed out herself that the saddle pad is too large, but if the saddle needs to be replaced, the pad might actually end up being the correct size. The outline of the saddle pad, to me, matches the rider's leg better than the flap of the saddle does.

The excess stirrup leather is too long for my taste; I find this to be distracting particularly as a horse canters around, causing it to flap up and down. I would either trim the stirrup leathers so that the ends just extend past the edge of the saddle pad, or tuck the ends under the flap to visually shorten them. The silver-coloured stirrup irons are the correct choice for the equitation ring.

This horse is wearing leather boots, which are appropriate for equitation classes. If this horse were to enter a hunter class, the boots would need to be removed.

The bridle appears to be well-fitted and all of the tack seems to be clean and in good repair.

The horse is nicely braided and appears to have his face trimmed. His tail is sparse and to bring his turnout to the next level, I would try a fake tail when braiding to fill it out a little bit and balance his outline. I'm impressed by the turnout of all of the horses seen in these photos; for a local circuit final, these riders are doing a great job with their overall presentation.

The horse's coat is dull and he is lacking weight. In a case like this, I would seek advice from a vet in case the cause is something health-related such as worms or ulcers. If the horse is deemed to be healthy and just needs more weight, I would try adding oil to the feed for extra calories and to add some shine to the coat.

This final photo was taken some time later, after the horse had gained weight. In my opinion, he could still benefit from gaining a few more pounds and his coat is still on the dull side, so I would continue to lean towards adding oil to the feed if all else has been ruled out and the horse is being deeply groomed on a daily basis.

This time the horse is not braided, but he does have a pulled mane. While I'm told that this was just a local county show, I would still be tempted to braid the mane. Not only is it a good opportunity to practice your braiding skills where slightly less-than-perfect braids won't stand out, but when the horse is looking a bit rough temporarily yet is still capable of showing, putting those extra touches on the turnout is a way of making up for the dull coat or slight thinness. We also know that the peanut gallery will often be quick to criticize without knowing the full story, so putting added effort into the horse's turnout when there are minor issues that you can't control can be a way of expressing that you do care about your horse.  

Most of my comments from the earlier photos also apply to this one. The rider is now wearing spurs, which improve the look of her leg, but she should either trim the straps or tuck them in so that the ends don't hang down so low. The horse's tail looks fuller, either because it has grown out or because it is unbraided. It could probably use an extra brushing out before tacking up to make sure that the strands don't clump together.

When doing "hunter hair", this rider should make sure that some hair comes down to cover the tops of her ears along with the hairnet. In this photo, only the hairnet is over the ear, which creates a line splitting her ear in two.

The horse's white socks look fairly dirty despite the footing not appearing to be very wet, so I would suggest clipping the socks in the future to help keep them clean. Applying baby powder would also help to whiten the socks the day of the show.

Thank you very much to our featured rider for submitting these photos. She's doing a great job and with time and a wardrobe that better suits her height, she and her horse should look like winners. 

If you are interested in being featured in a future Turnout Critique, please send your photos to