Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ask the Judge

Questions about Dressage
With Amy McElroy

Amy McElroy is an FEI competitor and a USEF R judge, qualified to officiate at any USEF recognized show at all national dressage levels. She rides, trains and teaches at Fairlane Farm in Aiken and judges between 15 and 20 dressage shows and events each year. In her popular Ask the Judge column, she answers readers’ questions about dressage. Do you have a question for Amy? Send her an email at McElroyDRM@, or visit her website:

Dear Amy,

I was recently spectating at a dressage show where there were some unusual incidents during three dressage tests. The first: A rider fell off while going around the perimeter of the arena. The bell had already rung, but the rider remounted and entered the ring and performed her test. She won! How does this make sense?

The second: A rider fell off while performing her test. The horse and rider never left the arena. The rider remounted and finished the test. It turns out she was eliminated. Why was she eliminated when the first rider was not?

Finally: During a test, one of the horses slipped out of the arena at the opening at A. Then the rider just kept on going out of the arena, riding away and never coming back. Obviously, this horse and rider combination was eliminated. But, if the rider hadn’t ridden away, and her horse had just come partially out of the arena, would she have been eliminated?

Could you explain the rules on what will get you eliminated and what won’t? I am confused.

Confused at the Show

Dear Confused,

You never know what to expect when you are riding and showing a horse. Even though we practice, horses aren’t always as reliable as we would like them to be. Things happen; horses spook; people fall off. What if you fall off in a show? What if you horse makes an unscheduled exit from the arena? It depends on the circumstances: sometimes you will get eliminated. Sometimes you won’t. Let me explain.

In the first instance, where the rider fell off before entering the arena, the judge would normally advise the rider to remount, as long as there are no injuries and the rider wants to continue. Riders have the right to excuse themselves if they so choose, and judges have the option of excusing the rider if they feel that the horse is dangerous

If the rider chooses to remount, she may enter the arena as though nothing had happened, as long as she does so within 90 seconds of the signal sounding. According to USEF Rule #DR122.5: “Exceeding 90 seconds will entail elimination except where a valid reason is accepted by the judge at C.” Therefore, even if it takes the rider longer than 90 seconds to remount and enter the arena, she still could continue to compete at the discretion of the judge.

Because the scoring of a test begins with the entry at A, falling off while going around the apron of the arena would not eliminate the rider, nor would the rider incur any penalties. If this team had a great ride, then they definitely could be the winner, even with the inauspicious start.

In the second situation, where the rider fell off the horse in the arena, this, sadly is an automatic elimination, even if the horse does not leave the arena. According to USEF Rule DR 122.7F: “In the case of a fall of horse/and/or rider, the competitor will be eliminated. A competitor is considered to have fallen when he has separated from his horse in such a way as to necessitate remounting or vaulting back into the saddle.”

In this case, although elimination is mandatory, the judge has the power to allow the horse and rider combination to finish the test if there are no injuries, the judge does not feel that the horse is too dangerous and time still permits. The judge might even score the remainder of the test for the rider’s education, even though the scores would not count in the standings.

The final case, where the horse slipped partially out of the arena, is not at all uncommon. According to USEF DR 122.7G; “If the horse leaves the arena with or without the rider (all four feet outside the fence or line marking the arena perimeter) between the beginning and end of the test, the competitor is eliminated.”

The judge has the right to give you permission to complete the test for your experience, but is not required to do so. However, you will only be eliminated if all four feet have left the arena. If the horse only goes partially out (one or two legs), as long as the rider brings the horse back in, she would not be eliminated. This would simply affect the score for that movement.

Therefore, if you are not sure how many legs have left the arena, you should keep performing your test. If you have been eliminated, the judge will make a signal to let you know. In the case you observed, the rider would not have been eliminated if the horse did not go entirely out of the arena and she was able to get him back in. Once she left the arena, however, her test was over.

In all the situations you observed, riders should remember to pick up their test sheets from the show secretary after the class has been posted. Even if they were unable to finish their tests competitively, they will still have the opportunity to read the judge’s scores, instructive remarks and comments.

Unfortunate situations happen to everyone from time to time. The good news is that elimination at a dressage show only affects that ride: you are still free to show in the other classes you have entered, and your previous mishaps will not affect your future scores. Judges hate to eliminate riders as much as riders hate to be eliminated and usually feel bad for anyone that must be excused.

I hope this explains how the judge handled scoring these tests and why some riders were eliminated and some were not. These were good questions, and I appreciate the opportunity to give you more insight on the rules surrounding these unusual incidents.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

FITS in Aiken

Acclaimed Equestrian Brand Relocates
by Pam Gleason

FITS Riding Ltd, the internationally acclaimed riding clothes company, has moved to Aiken. Established in 2005 in Portland, Oregon, FITS creates and sells technical riding gear with a traditional look. Best known for its patented-design full seat breeches, FITS also has show shirts, belts and stock ties. The company has an enthusiastic following that includes top riders in many disciplines, especially eventing and dressage. Now it has new owners and new headquarters right in the center of downtown Aiken.

The new owners, Lida Bard and Brian Allenby, are both 2013 graduates of Elon University in North Carolina. Lida is a lifelong horsewoman who competes in eventing. Brought up in New Jersey, she came to Aiken after her parents relocated to the city while she was in college. Brian, also from New Jersey, followed Lida south, and got his introduction to horsemanship at her parents’ farm. The couple have been engaged since 2013 and will be married this October. They formally purchased FITS Riding Ltd in May.

“It has been my dream my whole life to have some sort of equestrian career,” says Lida, whose four horses live on her family’s farm. “I knew I couldn’t ride or teach for a living, so I put that idea on the back burner.”

After graduating with a degree in creative writing, Lida found a job working for the Aiken Downtown Development Association, where she was in charge of marketing, social media and writing a bi-weekly newsletter. Meanwhile, Brian, whose degree is in environmental science with minors in business, geography and GIS systems, had a job in New Jersey as a technical support technician for a proprietary software company. When he moved to Aiken, the company asked him to stay on and work remotely, which allowed him to make the move without having to worry right away about finding work. Both Lida and Brian joined Aiken Young Professionals Association.

“We were looking for some kind of equestrian business to buy,” says Lida. In January of this year, her father, who has always had his own businesses, was searching online, where he found a listing for a riding apparel company that was for sale.

“The listing was with a broker, and it didn’t say what the company was – you would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement to find out,” continues Lida. “But my father is really good at fact finding, so he discovered within about five minutes that it was FITS. He called me and asked if I had heard of them. I said, of course! They are my favorite.”

Lida and Brian were excited about the prospect of owning such a successful company, especially one that made clothing that Lida already loved. But there was a lot more work to do before buying the company. The couple, accompanied by Lida’s father, flew out to Portland to meet the company’s founder, Sheryl Rudolph and learn more about what FITS does. They spent time examining the company’s structure and finances, and went through an extensive due diligence process before deciding to go ahead with the closing. They finalized their purchase in mid-May after spending three weeks in Portland getting to know how all facets of the company work. Soon afterwards, they moved into the new FITS headquarters on Arbor Terrace, just off Laurens Street in downtown Aiken.

“We aren’t retailers,” explains Lida. “This is the company headquarters. We do have samples of our product line here to show to reps, but we don’t sell any clothing.” Currently, the FITS brand is carried in Aiken at Oak Manor Saddlery.

What makes the FITS brand different? According to Lida and Brian, both of whom wear riding breeches at work, the difference starts with fabric and extends to design and craftsmanship. FITS full seat breeches, the signature product, are made from compression material that is similar to what is used in apparel made for NFL players. It has more lycra than typical riding pants, and provides more stretch and support for the muscles. The breech is accented with Powermesh on the lower leg to make the pant thinner and more breathable under a boot. The deerskin leather panels are segmented and perforated, providing more stretch, flexibility and breathability than traditional leather panels. The design incorporates a patented gusseted crotch and a Powerstretch ab panel for support and a flattering fit.

“The breeches are great to ride in, and they are so comfortable,” says Lida. “You can do anything in them. You could do gymnastics, they move so well.”

FITS tops and show shirts are also designed to be comfortable, practical and attractive. They are breathable, with strategically placed mesh panels, and they provide protection from the sun with an SPF of 50. The material incorporates unique natural, odor and bacteria controlling fibers that last throughout the lifetime of the garment. The show coats are made of a mesh material that is opaque when worn, but if you hold them up to the light, you can see right through them. They are cool and breathable enough to be comfortable even on days where show coats are waived, and they are even washable. Although the look of FITS is traditional, the designs and the fabrics are distinctly 21st century, representing a modern understanding of how apparel can help improve athletic performance. All the clothing is manufactured in the U.S. from U.S. sourced materials.

Lida and Brian are excited about their new venture and happy to be part of Aiken’s vibrant horse culture. Lida will be working on new product lines and promoting the brand, while Brian is looking forward to doing more marketing and sales. FITS is already sold in 12 countries including the U.S. and Canada. Lida and Brian have plans to go to a trade fair in Germany later in the summer to expand the brand’s European presence.

“To be able to do something that is a passion of ours is really exciting,” says Brian. “I can really see growing it to the next level. I’ve had some sales experience, where I have done very well, so I kind of have the sales bug. The company fits us perfectly.”

FITS is also a natural for Aiken, where horse culture is an accepted part of life. “You can go to the grocery store dressed in riding clothes and it’s totally normal,” says Lida. “I feel like, in a town that is so horse centric, whether you want to ride in the clothes or just wear them for fashion, everyone likes the equestrian look. You can’t really go wrong.”

For more information on FITS, visit

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.