Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Interesting Rule Changes...

For all that I decidedly do not know about Hunter Land, I have enjoyed geeking out over the rules (like legal and illegal tack, vs conventional and unconventional tack...) as well as diving into the new rules changes.

While a majority of rule changes are not that thrilling and pertain to eliminating outdated languages or practices (like jumps being required to be 20' wide...).  There are always a few changes that speak to the intent of the sport, or a change in mindset.

Most notably, the recent changes in use of injections prior to showing is fairly huge and hopefully a rule update that significantly lessens the use of sedatives in the Hunter Ring.

If you want to read a shit-storm of commentary on the injection rules head over to COTH or your internet forum of choice.  Plenty has been said on them, so I'll steer clear of that particular hot potato and just mention a few of the USHJA rule changes that piqued my interest this year.

HU125.1 - HU125.3 

1. Snaffles, pelhams and full bridles, all with cavesson nose bands, are required. 
               a. Judges may penalize, but may not eliminate, a horse or pony that competes in an unconventional snaffle, pelham, or full bridle. Unconventional snaffles, pelhams, or full bridles  include, but are not limited to, hunter gags, kimberwickes, etc.
               b. Judges must eliminate a horse or pony that competes in bits other than snaffles, pelhams or full bridles, and nosebands other than cavesson nosebands. Illegal bits include, but are not limited to, three rings, gags (other than the hunter gag), et cetera… Illegal nosebands include, but are not limited to, drop, flash and figure eight nosebands.  
2. Horses must return to the ring for conformation or soundness wearing a snaffle, pelham or full bridle with a cavesson noseband.
3. Martingales of any type are prohibited in Under Saddle, hack and tie-breaking classes. Standing and running martingales used in the conventional manner are allowed for all over fences classes. All other martingales are considered illegal. A judge must eliminate a horse or pony that competes in a martingale other than a standing or running martingale used in the 
conventional manner

Things that I think are interesting here:

Kimberwickes are "unconventional" but pelhams with a single rein converter are not, someone please explain that.

Also, Running Martingales are now legal tack.  I can only imagine they are still considered (wildly) unconventional, but it's nice to see that they are no longer banned.  I'm pretty sure they announce that change in a separate section, but I couldn't find it so I'm mentioning it here.

One of my favorite rule changes involves the ponies:

HU110 Pony Hunter 

6. Ponies shown by a junior cannot be shown by an adult at the same competition, except in breeding classes in-hand and in accordance with HU108. 

Much like the recent restriction on injections, I think this rule change will actually impact a lot of general practices.  Granted I don't have a pony (...yet), but from my casual observations it seems like very normal practice for trainers to show ponies (in some cases, a lot) before the little kiddos get on them.  Obviously this happens a lot for the Adult Ammies as well, so it's a bit of a double standard.  But there's something about actually making the kids ride that is appealing to me.  For one thing I think it reduces (but doesn't eliminate) the impact of spending an obscene amount of money on something cute, then paying a trainer to lunge/ride/school the snot out of it so a kid can quietly sit for a couple rounds without falling off.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing a similar rule change for Amateurs, but I don't think it'll ever happen since people want to see their horse shown in Open divisions with Pros and from a logistics perspective those classes often happen while most Ammies are working their 9-5's during the week.

However, good junior riders often become good adult riders, so perhaps starting with the change in the pony division will set the tone (a little).

This next change I find hysterical (on a couple levels)

HU148 Ties 

1. In case of a tie score the Championship and/or Reserve is awarded to the horse that accumulated the most points over fences. If horses have an equal number of points over fences and no points under saddle, the tied horses will be asked to compete in a hack off, or independent under saddle class, to be judged on soundness and performance at the walk, trot and canter.  Competitors may be asked to hand gallop at the discretion of the judge. (Exception: Green Hunters.) 

Any competitor may concede to the other if they choose not to hack off, or if both competitors agree, they may choose to break the tie with a coin toss

First of all, having to compete in a Hack Off may be on my bucket list.  I have never heard of something that sounds so dramatic, and yet so ridiculous at the same time.  Competing head-to-head in any circumstance always involves a bit of bravado and flair, but doing so with polished up, braided show horses at the walk, trot and canter is... well.. not very intimidating.

I have watched one Hack Off, and it was fun! Watching an extra round over fences would more fun, but I get that from a logistics standpoint, a flat class is easier.

Hack Offs aren't actually new, but the addition of the Coin Toss clause is.

A coin toss.

I mean, one can argue that most placings are essentially a coin toss anyway, but seriously, a literal coin toss???

When you consider the cash, time and energy spent to get to a show, let alone be tied for a Championship, I cannot imagine ever thinking "ahhhh shucks, let's just flip for it."

I guess it will never be an issue for me since I will never, ever agree to a coin toss.  I'd prefer to take my cue from Zoolander and go for the Walk, errrr Hack Off.

There are about ga-zillion rule other changes that were approved, most of them having to do with things I don't care about like how divisions get split or combined and measurement cards and whatnot.

Some of the changes were made with the intent of increasing interest in dwindling divisions, or adding prize money to motivate certain awards.  The addition of a rated Thoroughbred Hunter division is pretty cool I think and should very quickly be popular.  

Mostly I have to say that while I don't pay much attention to what the USHJA actually spends time doing, I think the rule changes are definitely reflective of a governing body that is listening to it's populace, trying to stay as relevant as possible, and working to increase the fairness and sportsmanship in an inherently subjective (and expensive) sport.

But a coin toss.... lol.


  1. FYI Runnings were never Illegal, just EXTREMELY unconventional. I know this because I was riding Ramone at his second show in a running and got pulled aside by another trainer who said they were illegal. I freaked and asked my trainer to call her sister, Hunter Rider hall of fame rider and National 'R' judge Linda Hough, and find out RIGHT NOW if I could ride the baby in a Running, she said 'yes they are legal', I'm glad they finally put down the running as legal in Da Rules.

    1. Interesting. I totally assumed when I saw the rule change to add "running martingale" in the language that they must have been illegal before. I prefer Runnings from a philosophical standpoint, but wouldn't dream of tacking up with one for the show ring if I was gunning for points... I hope they become more commonplace though!!

  2. A coin toss....because LOL. And people say riding isn't a sport! Haha

  3. The injectables changed likely due to the sh*t storm after the pony dropped dead at Devon. It won't change much. People will lunge more, ride them more etc. A start was changing that horses should not be penalized for showing expression in the ring ie a head shake after a nice big jump or playing but the fact is they still are. Gone are the days that a horse can like his job. Now they have to go around like a robot. Gone are the days where people are expected to learn to ride a big jump. Now there are small divisions, even a 3'3 junior hunter. I could go on...

    1. I know the injectable thing has been a long time coming... and the Devon pony definitely helped fuel outrage, which is a silver lining to that whole thing... but it may have more effect than you think. I know a lot of trainers who are already working to switch their "magic cocktail" from something in a syringe to something that is able to be fed orally, but it really will change testing results in the fact that if illegal substances are being used, they will be easier to identify with current drug testing. Also, the fact that many trainers could hide behind their giant medicine cabinets and claim they were only injecting good, legal things... can't anymore. I know that at the one show I attended after that rule took effect one trainer was pulling a syringe of Dex and got SLAMMED by the steward because a kid saw it and reported.

      Some expression is definitely pinning well around our area. I doubt that's the case at some of the larger shows, but it'd great to see athletic, happy horses beating out some of the dead heads... I hope that trend continues!

    2. "A start was changing that horses should not be penalized for showing expression in the ring ie a head shake after a nice big jump or playing but the fact is they still are. Gone are the days that a horse can like his job. Now they have to go around like a robot. Gone are the days where people are expected to learn to ride a big jump."


    3. A friend of mine laid down a gorgeous round at indoors and her horse played after a fabulous oxer and she was heavily penalized. I really don't think I can do hunters again. They can implement these rules on the drugs and when trainers get popped they will continue to train via cell phone, wallow talkie, and whatever else they come up with until their ban is over. Maybe I'm just a pessimist or I've seen too much...

    4. Amen! I am not a hunter rider, but I hate how the horses all look like robots going around the course, hardly a wiggle of the tail. I might actually take an interest in the sport if the horses showed a little more expression.

  4. Like you I assumed the running martingale was illegal before. Glad to see it stated in the rules that it is in fact legal (though still very unconventional) I occasionally take horses to some small local hunter shows just to get some experience and I just rode the over fences classes without any martingale as I don't like a standing martingale. Hopefully they will be used more often now.

  5. Great post! Interesting changes, I hadn't heard of these (except the new injecting rule) yet.

  6. I always thought running martingales were illegal too. The pony rule surprises me a lot.

    1. A LOT. I remember seeing it in the proposed changes and thinking that there was NO way it would get passed... shocking really. I forget when it takes effect, I should look that up...

  7. I for one am estatic about the pony rule... Being a former very competitive pony rider, it was always a challenge trying to work with my former stallion and be successful against a myriad of "ridden down" ponies whose riders truly weren't that good!

    As far as the "hack off" I personally disagree, though fences are flashier a good flat round can show which rider/horse have put in the most miles and carry a nice frame.

    1. I like the pony rule too. And I truly wouldn't mind a similar rule for Adults, though it does seem hard to get around having your horse campaigned in the bigger classes... maybe no being shown by a pro on the same day as an amateur division? I don't know...

      And the DQ in me agrees with the assessment of a pair on the flat. It's just not quite as dramatic from a spectator perspective. :)

    2. Haha I agree fences are much more exciting! But what would George say about basics and building blocks ;)

      The stock horse associations have similar rules as the pony rule, mostly to prevent a family from riding the horse into the ground. I like your take of the different days idea!

  8. Hunterland has so many seemingly arbitrary tack rules. But then again, the rules on snaffles allowed in dressage are freaking ridiculous. To each their own ;)

    Personally, I find the idea of presenting a horse for conformation in a full bridle hilarious. Is that just me?

  9. This is a great post!

    Even though at times I wish I my trainer would get on and show Henry before my classes, I am glad that she prepares us at home to ride our horses at shows.

    I am not against trainer rides, but the excessive riding before the owner gets on isn't my cup of tea :)

  10. LOL! I can NOT believe they added a coin toss. That is so silly! I love the new pony rule, not sure if it would ever pass for the horse divisions though.

  11. I pick heads! No wait, tails! No, wait… can we do it again? Best two out of three?


  12. The injection rule was a LONG time coming. I couldn't believe that they hadn't added something like it until just this year. I also am a firm believer though that any of the trainers that were reprimanded from prior drug use needed to be penalized more. A trainer would be on the suspended list, yet all his clients, AT, and horses would still be going at the show...

    Yay for the pony rule! Hopefully that'll start an era of kids who actually know how to ride the horse, not how to ride the tired, run down pony. Although I have a sick feeling that that rule will just increase the likelihood of trainers, and 'big' juniors schooling the snot out of the ponies first, before the kid showing even wakes up.


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