Thursday, March 26, 2015

What is a Medal Class?

You might see the term "medal class" on a prize list and wonder what makes it different from a regular equitation class. Both are judged on the rider's equitation, so what is the difference? At its most basic, a medal class is an equitation class with additional tests.

Sometimes those additional tests are incorporated into the jumping course, while at other times there is a fairly typical jumping phase followed by a flat portion and/or ride-off, all judged as one class. The prize list or rule book governing the particular horse show should help you to determine under which format a particular medal class falls.

Medals may be handed out according to the level of competition (for example, bronze for the winner of a qualifier, and then gold, silver and bronze for the top three of a national final), for the top three placings in an individual class, or the show might decide to use the term "medal class" outside of the literal description and simply award ribbons.

The hunter-type medal classes are often the kind judged as a single jumping round with additional tests worked into the course. The top riders might be called back by the judge to jump over a shortened course, or to demonstrate some movements on the flat (or the judge could make their final decision based on the first round alone). Typical tests on course at the most basic level are trot jumps and halting between markers at the end of the ring. Expect the course to have some rollbacks and less of a typical hunter flow.

At the higher levels, additional tests worked into the course can include counter canter, halting within a line, and hand galloping a jump. The course can include a "skinny" jump, a jump at the end of the ring, etc. The full list of additional tests is below, and includes those that can be used in a ride-off (check the Equine Canada rulebook Article G1009 for restrictions, and note that unlisted tests may be used for CET Medal classes):

a) Dismount and mount
b) Rein back
c) Individual performance
d) Figure eight at trot, demonstrating change of diagonals
e) Figure eight at canter with simple change of leads through the walk or trot
f) Gallop and stop
g) Extended trot
h) Turn on haunches through the walk
i) Trot and canter without stirrups
j) Change leads on a straight line down centre with simple change through the walk or trot
k) Counter canter
l) Demonstration of about one minute on own mount. Rider must advise the judge beforehand what he/she plans to demonstrate
m) Pull up between fences except in a combination
n) Jump low fences, at walk, trot or canter
o) Jump without stirrups (stirrups must be removed from the saddle when over fences)
p) Change of leads with flying changes

For USEF shows, the additional tests that can be used for equitation and medal classes are:

1. Halt (4 to 6 seconds) or halt and back. When riders working collectively are asked to halt and then back, they must not be penalized if they walk forward a few steps and halt after backing.
2. Hand gallop. A hand gallop may be used on the approach to a jump.
3. Figure eight at trot, demonstrating change of diagonals. At left diagonal, rider should be sitting the saddle when left front leg is on the ground; at right diagonal, rider should be sitting the saddle when right front leg is on the ground; when circling clockwise at a trot, rider should be on left diagonal; when circling counterclockwise, rider should be on the right diagonal.
4. Figure eight at canter on correct lead, demonstrating simple change of lead. This is a change whereby the horse is brought back into a walk or trot (either is acceptable unless the judge specifies) and restarted into a canter on the opposite lead. Figures to be commenced in center of two circles so that one change of lead is shown.
5. Work collectively or individually at a walk, trot and/or canter.
6. Jump low obstacles at a trot as well as at a canter. The maximum height and spread for a trot jump is 3’ for horses, 2’ for ponies in classes restricted to ponies.
7. Jump obstacles on figure eight course.
8. Question(s) regarding basic horsemanship, tack and equipment and conformation.
9. Ride without stirrups, riders must be allowed option to cross stirrups.
10. Jump low obstacles at a walk as well as at a canter. The maximum height and spread for a walk jump is 2’.
11. Dismount and mount. Individually.
12. Turn on the forehand done through the walk or the halt.
13. Figure eight at canter on correct lead demonstrating flying change of lead.
14. Execute serpentine at a trot and/or canter on correct lead demonstrating simple or flying changes of lead. (See EQ112.4 for simple change.)
15. Change leads on a line demonstrating a simple or flying change of lead. (See EQ112.4 for simple change.)
16. Change horses. (Note: this test is the equivalent of two tests.)
17. Canter on counter lead. (Note: no more than twelve horses may counter canter at one time.) A canter on the counter lead may be used on the approach to a jump.
18. Turn on the haunches from the walk.
19. Demonstration ride of approximately one minute. Rider must advise judge beforehand what ride he plans to demonstrate.

For those classes that do not incorporate specific tests into the jumping phase (often the more jumper-oriented medals, such as the CET Medal in Canada), there will be either an equitation-style or jumper-style course and a certain number, often anywhere from the top eight to the top twelve, will be called back into the ring to complete a flat phase. Ribbons are awarded for the class as a whole; neither phase is a class in itself. An elimination in the jumping phase will preempt a rider from proceeding to the flat phase, even if there are fewer riders in the class than there are spots in the call-back.

The flat phase will usually include the working walk, trot (sitting and rising) and canter, as well as lengthenings, counter canter, halting, turns on the haunches, etc., all performed as a group. The prize list or rule book should specify the weighting of the phases (for example. 60% over fences and 40% flat). Depending on the class, there may be additional testing after the flat phase, either over a shortened course over fences or with additional flatwork.

Rules vary regarding the tack allowed for each phase, and whether the tack must be kept the same for both, so be sure to read both the prize list and the rule book before you compete.

Overall, if you are entering a medal class, expect a higher level of difficulty than you would find in a typical equitation class. Practice trotting jumps and halting at various points during a course. Ensure that your flatwork includes basic lengthenings at the very minimum, and practice the counter canter if you plan to enter medals beyond the introductory level. Watch your competitors and learn how the most successful ones enter and the leave the ring, and what sort of inside turns they plan. Medal classes are a way to really test your skills and they also provide an excellent introduction to course strategy.

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