Questions About Dressage
With Amy McElroy
I have a question about some gifts I received for my birthday. I now have a lovely square pad with bling around the sides and my farm's name and logo. I also have a beautiful whip with a bling on the handle, and I have a fun and new pair of gloves with bling on them. I love my gifts, but I need to know if I can use all of these things when I am competing this season? Please advise!
This is a very good question as there had been much discussion about saddle pads and bling this year. Let's talk about your saddle pad first. It does sound very beautiful and perfect for the show arena. Is it legal? Let's look at the current ruling regarding the use of saddle pads with decoration.
You might be surprised to learn that saddle pads are not required when competing. Although they are optional, I have never seen anyone compete without a saddle pad, and I don't recommend it. A squared dressage pad or a fitted pad are both acceptable. The pads should be white or of a conservative color. According to the USEF rulebook DR 121, under Saddlery and Equipment, a logo, monogram or name it may appear on either or both sides of your saddle pad. The logos that are allowed must not exceed 200 square centimeters: this is about the spread of your hand, or roughly the size of a 5-inch by 6-inch card. When I look at a logo on a saddle pad, I try to imagine the size of a hand, and if it is smaller than that, I consider it an appropriate size.
You may use a breed logo for horses registered with that same breed. Beware of an inappropriate breed logo! If you have the Hanoverian logo on a leopard Appaloosa, this would not be correct, and you would most likely get a warning. You also may display a national flag if you are a citizen of that country. You can't display a national flag of a country for which you simply have an affinity: Americans can't have an Irish flag on their saddle pads just because they love Ireland.
You may also have the USEF logo. Professionals and amateurs have additional and different logo restrictions. Professionals may have a business or product name, or their sponsors logo on their pad. Amateurs may not have a business, product name or logo unless they actually own the business. Competition award pads are also allowed for both amateurs and professionals, as are pads bearing the name of your stable. No other advertisement or publicity is permitted on any saddle pad.
Other inappropriate saddle pad characteristics include busy patterns or decorations and loud, bright or distracting colors (no smiley faces, zebra print or blaze orange.)
These are the current rulings on saddle pad appearance, effective December 1, 2016 and currently in use.
Now let's consider bling. In the dressage world, "bling" refers to shiny, jewel-like decorations on tack and equipment. As far as wearing gloves, you might be surprised to learn that in classes Fourth Level and below, gloves are recommended but not mandatory. Although many people wear traditional white gloves, any conservative color is permissible. Bling on gloves is allowed, and has become quite common: I think it looks good when done tastefully. (As a sidenote, bling will draw attention to your hands, so if yours are not yet independent, it would be a better idea to wear a more conservative, planer pair.)
In regards to your blinging whip handle: bling is allowed on your handle, providing you meet all the other whip regulations. As with the gloves and the saddle pad, carrying a whip is optional in those classes where it is permitted. (You are not allowed to carry a whip in some classes and circumstances, such as when you are riding in regional championships or the nationals.) When a whip is permitted in competition, the only requirement is that it may not be any longer than 47.2 inches (120 centimeters). This measurement does include the lash. Keep in mind that an adjustable whip is not ever allowed. If you carry a whip that exceeds the length limit, you will be eliminated. This might be a good time to mention that you should not be surprised if, after you have completed your test, the ring steward asks to measure your whip. Depending on the size of the show, steward my check every whip, or every second or third whip. The judge may also request that the steward measure any whip that looks suspiciously long.
For all the current rules on dress and equipment, you can always visit the USEF website under "dressage rules." These rules do change, so check to be sure you are always up-to-date. Also, if you are at a show and you have further dress or equipment questions, you can find the technical delegate and ask: technical delegates are well-versed on all the current rules.
To summarize: assuming you are an adult amateur, you may wear a saddle pad with your farm name and logo on it, providing the logo does not exceed the size limit. Bling on your saddle pad, whip handle and gloves is permitted. Currently the only place bling is not permitted is anywhere on your horse: no hoof appliques, no glitter in his main or jewelry in his tail.
I think you will look very fashionable in your new show clothing and tack and it sounds as if you were lucky to receive such wonderful birthday presents. Go ahead and enjoy them. I hope you shine in the show ring!