Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Turnout Critique #15

This week's featured horse and rider are doing a lot right already. Our rider should find that a few minor changes to further refine their turnout will have a big impact on the overall picture.

I'm told that this horse usually goes in a front riser pad due to high withers, but he wears a half pad on top of a shaped pad for showing. While this is slightly more attractive than a foam riser pad, it still looks very bulky. Ideally the saddle fit would be such that extra padding wouldn't be necessary. Additional pads can actually make fit tighter, like wearing two pairs of socks, so taking the pressure off one area with extra padding can sometimes make the fit worse elsewhere. For showing, I would consider using the shaped pad with a small pommel pad just over the withers instead of a half pad; this arrangement is fairly common in the hunter ring and adds discrete padding without being bulky. They are available in various forms, from knitted/crochet to fleece to foam, and they can even be done in barn colours because the pommel pad is essentially invisible with the saddle over top. If the saddle fitter agrees with this set-up, losing the bulky half pad will go a long way towards enhancing their turnout. The shaped pad looks like it would probably suit the shape of the saddle nicely in this set-up with just an inch or two of pad showing evenly all the way around.

The bridle is quite thin for this large-boned horse, who could benefit from wider straps to give the illusion of a smaller head. The noseband is also adjusted a little bit low; bringing it up so that it rests an inch or two below the cheek bones would also make his head look more refined by shortening the distance between the browband and the noseband. In the same vein, this large-boned type of horse would benefit from a bit with bigger rings, such as a Hunter Dee bit, though obviously the horse's response to any type of bit is the most important factor. The bridle looks to be clean and in good repair.

The girth does not appear to be as clean as the rest of the tack. The outside of the girth receives dirt and sweat transferred from the rider's boots and the horse's elbow, so it's one piece of tack that really should be cleaned between classes if there is a break.

I am impressed by how white the leg markings are considering they do not appear to have been clipped. Brushing them and possibly applying baby powder or corn starch prior to entering the show ring would help to eliminate the slight brown tinge just above the hooves, and clipping the legs would make the whole process much easier. The white markings would be set off nicely by applying a fresh coat of hoof oil to the feet just before entering the show ring.

Frequent readers of the blog have probably noticed the presence of my pet peeve, the too-long excess stirrup leather. This should either be trimmed or tucked back under the saddle flap to keep it from swinging around and distracting both the judge and the horse. The stirrup irons are a classic style appropriate for both hunter and equitation classes.

This horse has been braided in the hunter style, but over the course of the show day several of the braids have been rubbed out of place. There are a few different ways to prevent this from happening. The first is to make sure that the mane is very clean prior to braiding; this will dissuade the horse from rubbing the braids out himself. Next, when pulling the braids up, make sure that you are inserting the pull-through perfectly parallel to the braid. Any tiny angle will encourage the braids to move out of place. Finally, the shorter the braids, the more sturdy they will be. Long braids leave a tail that can be easily moved around, whereas the bottom of short braids is very close to the knot, making them much more secure.

The tail appears to be flowing nicely as if it has been fully brushed out. For a thick tail like this, the easiest way to keep it from getting clumpy is to shampoo it frequently since dirty hairs tend to stick together, and then brush it out all the way from top to bottom before every class on a show day.

This horse's coat shines deeply, showing that he is well-cared-for. Based on this photo, it looks as though he could use a little bit more weight to cover his ribs better and suit his heavier build. I am also slightly concerned about his feet, which appear to be somewhat chipped. Jumping can be hard on feet and it's possible that this horse might feel more comfortable in shoes, though of course it's impossible to tell from a photo and he could be doing perfectly well barefoot.

Our rider is neatly dressed in suitable conservative attire for the hunter ring. The sleeves of the jacket are too short, but it is very difficult to find a jacket with extra-long sleeves for a long-armed rider off the rack without going custom. The jacket seems to be very clean and nicely fitted through the body, though the overall length might be just a tiny bit short (though in two-point position it is difficult to say for sure). For her next jacket, this rider might consider finding a brand that offers a tall option if her current jacket isn't a "tall" already.

Her breeches are an appropriate beige colour and are again very clean. While her field boots are beautifully fitted, they sport a layer of dust that should in future be wiped off at the in-gate.

The helmet is again a good conservative choice, though at least one big cluster of hair has escaped containment to detract from the overall neatness. It is nice, however, to see a chin strap that appears to be properly fitted instead of hanging too low to be of any use. The rider's black leather or leather-like gloves are also a very appropriate choice for hunter or equitation classes.

It appears that the nostrils and mouth have been wiped off prior to the horse entering the ring, which is very good. It's at this point that the rider's boots should also be included in the towelling.

A few of my suggestions in this critique have involved what to look for when replacing certain pieces of tack or attire in the future. None of these purchases need to be made immediately; they are simply recommendations for what would complement this particular horse or rider that much better when those items do need to be replaced. The remaining suggestions really are very minor changes that will make this pair look that much more professional.

Thank you very much to this week's featured rider for sending this photo in for a critique! Riders interested in being featured in future turnout critiques can e-mail their photos to

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