Inspection of tack and turnout prior to competition is of paramount importance for three main reasons:
Safety of horse and rider
A clean, well kept and serviceable set of tack is invariably, safe. Leather is a natural product and requires proper feeding to maintain its suppleness; dry, brittle leather will break more easily under stress. Carefully check the following points:
Bridles: Stitching on and around buckles, keepers, billet holes and hook studs at the end of the reins. Excessive wear on reins where they pass through the ring of the martingale. Wear and tear on hit rings. Worn or broken joints on snaffle bridles. Excessive play in the eggbutt cheek pieces.
Saddles: General condition and suppleness of saddle flaps, etc. Safety catch on stirrup bar in “down” position. Holes in girth straps not elongated. Girth guards in place. Stirrup leathers in good order, proper stitching in and around buckle, leather not stretched where it passes through the “eye” of the stirrup. Stirrups, (steel not nickel) wide enough for the riders’ foot to pass through. Girths, not cracked or frayed, stitching around buckles properly maintained, buckles in good repair.
Welfare of the horse
All saddlery put on the horse must be properly fitted and in good state of repair. A horse in pain or discomfort cannot be expected to give of its’ best.
Bridle: Cheek pieces should he the same length either side. The brow band should be slack enough to allow two fingers to fit behind it. The throat lash prevents the bridle from slipping forward and should allow 2-4 fingers to go behind it. Too slack and it cannot perform its function, too tight and it could well prevent the horse from flexing its’ head and could also restrict breathing. The noseband. (cavesson) should be fitted two fingers breadth below the point of the cheek bone and should allow two fingers to pass behind. Too tight and it can cause considerable discomfort to the horse. Ensure all specialist nosebands and rnartingales are fitted correctly. The bit must be of a correct size, too narrow and it will rub or pinch the horse’s lips, too wide and it will slide from side to side and, if jointed, will hang too low in the horse’s mouth. This can injure the teeth, tongue or roof of the mouth and place excessive pressure on the lower jaw. The snaffle bit should be placed high enough in the mouth to cause one wrinkle at the corners of the lips. Bit guards should be clean and smooth on both sides. In double bridles the curb chain should be correctly fitted and lie flat in the curb groove at the back of the horse’s jaw. It comes into action when the cheek piece of the bit is at an angle of 30 degrees and should be slack enough to allow two fingers behind when not in use. A lip strap should be fitted.
Saddles: Ill fitting or broken saddles can cause considerable pain or injury to the horse and certainly affect its’ performance. There should be no pressure over the withers or on the horse’s loins. There should be a width of three fingers between the pommel and the withers when the rider is mounted and the cantle sits slightly higher than the pommel. It should lay evenly over the horse’s back with daylight seen through the gullet. It should not press in behind the shoulder thus and impede the horse’s action.
Rules of the competition
It is the competitor’s responsibility to know the rules of the competition as applied to saddlery and dress. Changes to those rules without permission could be the subject of an objection. No personal jewellery is allowed and should be taken off before competing. Rings worn on the fingers without gloves are dangerous as are earrings and similar adornments. Protective hats must be to the required standard and the same applies to body protectors. Clothing and footwear must be as required by the rules of the competition. Spurs, if permitted, must be checked to ensure that they conform and are fitted correctly. Bandages must be correctly put on the horse and finished off safely. If the rules stipulate that bits must be in manufactured condition with no additions then this must be checked either before, or after, the competition.
Inspection should be undertaken quietly without undue hassle. Facilities should be available for washing hands between horses. A competent writer is an added asset.
(These notes have been prepared for the EPC by Dennis Colton, a leading specialist in “Turnout” Judging).