Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Coloured Jackets in the Hunter Ring

As the trend for distinctive jacket colours continues in the jumper ring, the question comes up of the suitability of these jackets for the hunter ring.

Equine Canada rules call for a "coat, shirt and tie, choker or stock, breeches or jodhpurs and boots" (Article G109 Dress), with no mention of jacket colour. An EC steward confirmed that the hunter rules do not discriminate against any jacket colour.

For equitation classes, the jacket must be conservative, so a loud or unusual colour would not be appropriate (Article G1003 Dress).

As far as I can find, USEF rules mention only formal attire, leaving the dress for less formal classes unspecified. Any readers who are aware of USEF's stance on jacket colours outside of formal (hunter classic, etc.) attire are welcome to comment with any further information.

While a jacket colour might be permitted, that does not mean that it is always a good idea. Loud or unusual colours will make your rounds or flatwork stand out, which could either work in your favour if you have a perfect round or against it by making small errors more memorable. While some judges enjoy the look of certain unusual jacket colours, others much prefer traditional colour choices and there is always a chance that this may subconsciously affect scoring.

Your turnout for more formal classes should always be on the conservative side, so save the bold colours for those classes that are not classics, derbies, or even on the more formal weekend.

As always, steer clear of the jacket colour of your country's national team, as well as from anything like local hunt colours unless you have permission to use them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Turnout Critique #17

This week's featured horse and rider exhibit fantastic turnout that wouldn't look out of place in any hunter or equitation division at a horse show, but their turnout is even better when you consider that they're competing in the Short Stirrup division!

First off, her tack is beautifully clean and well-fitting. The saddle is small enough that the rider is not swimming in it but there still appears to be room for her to grow. The bridle is adjusted with the noseband right up under the cheek bones to complement her horse's face, and the horse is wearing the standard hunter D-ring and standing martingale (which is also correctly adjusted with enough length that it could be pulled up to the throat latch area). The saddle pad is very well-chosen to follow the outline of the saddle with an inch or two of pad showing all the way around. The rider is using a traditional stainless steel stirrup iron, suitable for any class she might wish to enter, and I appreciate that the excess stirrup leather is tucked under the flap as they are usually distractingly long for a rider of this age unless trimmed or tucked in.

The rider is correctly turned out in suitably conservative hunter attire with a black helmet, dark jacket, white show shirt, beige breeches and fitted black field boots, polished to a shine. It is more common to see short boots and jodhpurs in the Short Stirrup division because they are more easily adjusted to the growing rider, but there's nothing wrong with tall boots and I think that they suit this pair well. I like how her jacket is fitted; often jackets for smaller riders are quite boxy but hers fits her body and is a great length. The rider is wearing conservative black gloves and she has her hair up in a hairnet. Braided hair with bows would also be an option for this division, but again I believe that this pair pull off their chosen look extremely well. It looks like the hairnet might have slipped off beneath the rider's ear or snagged on an earring, but that is a very minor detail.

This horse is complemented by a beautiful braiding job. Braiding the tail is not needed for this division except at the most prestigious shows. The horse's tail is nicely brushed out but it could benefit from some more fullness at the bottom if one were to be very picky. The illusion of fullness can be achieved by trimming a small amount from the bottom of the tail (keeping most of the length as hunters generally prefer tails that are on the longer side) or by adding in a modest fake tail for showing. Depending on the cause of the thinness, bagging the tail or not brushing it too often at home could also be of benefit for keeping it thick and healthy.

The horse appears to be very clean and I suspect that he would look shiny in the sun. His hooves are nicely oiled and the small amount of white on his legs is clean. My only grooming quibbles are related to trimming. Because hunters are shown with bare legs, attention should be paid to their appearance. Trimming the little tuft of hair at the back of each fetlock would make this pair look that much sleeker and more elegant. I also noticed a little tuft of hair in front of the crown of the bridle; the mane can grow quickly so trimming the bridle path should be done frequently during the show season.

Overall, this is a polished, elegant pair who are doing a fantastic job of showing off the horse. My critiques are very minor and I am sure that when they step into the ring, the judge knows that they are there to compete.

Many thanks to this week's featured rider for submitting this photo! Readers who would like to participate in a future Turnout Critique may send any photos to showringreadyblog@gmail.com

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Judges' Answers to Pony Questions

I was lucky enough to have the chance to chat with a couple of well-respected hunter judges last month, including one who has judged Pony Finals multiple times, and I took the opportunity to ask a few judging-related questions that come up quite often on this blog.

First up is the question of the bows worn in many pony riders' hair: how big is too big? Essentially, if the ribbons cover the number at all then they should be trimmed down. The judge may choose to either eliminate the rider due to the number being unreadable, or they might radio the in-gate and ask that the ribbons be trimmed before the next round. Younger riders with shorter backs will therefore usually need bows that are on the smaller side, especially if they have long hair.

The next question was at what age should the pony rider switch from jodhpurs to tall boots (which is often also the switch from bows to a hairnet if the rider is not already wearing a hairnet)? The answer was that it doesn't really matter, but that it goes along with the question of suitability. If a rider is too big to look appropriate in jodhpurs and bows, they are also probably too big to be riding a small pony, the division in which jodhpurs and bows are most often seen (in addition to the Short Stirrup division in which the rider is generally too young for suitability to be a problem). A small rider on a medium pony can also wear bows and jodhpurs.

This rider is on the large side for this pony, and
would likely look inappropriate in jodhpurs and bows
That led to the question of what are the consequences score-wise for a rider who is too big for her pony in a hunter class? One judge said that she wouldn't deduct from the score, but that if two rounds were similar with one featuring a rider who was too big for her pony, that unsuitable pairing would act as a tiebreaker with the more suitable pair taking the better ribbon.

These are the opinions of only a couple of different judges and as such they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of all judges, but they do offer some guidance as to what might be behind the decisions coming from the judge's booth.