Thursday, February 24, 2011

Summer Dressage Fashion

One of the challenges of competing in the summer time in dressage involves staying cool enough to ride well.   When the temps climb high enough, show management will often allow riders to compete without jackets.   But not everyone looks fabulously wonderful in a white shirt and white breeches while sitting the extended trot!

In a recent issue of Horse & Hound magazine, a new rather chic piece of equestrian apparel caught my eye.   Made by Equetech, the same company in the UK that made some of my favorite competition shirts, it is a waistcoat / vest which looks like a double breasted tailcoat without the sleeves and long tails.

Personally, I think this is a very elegant looking alternative.   And definitely very dressagey.   But would it be accepted in the USA?   Would it be allowed with the current USEF DR120 dress code rules?   Would riders want to buy it?

I also wonder if Equetech will make a version with points, like on a tail coat.   But that would be redundant, I guess, as the points on a tailcoat are supposed to make it look like the rider has a waistcoat on under the double breasted coat.   Still, I think points would finish the look quite nicely.   Just a couple triangles of gold at the waistline....

Time will tell.   In the meanwhile, I am VERY tempted...   My first thought:   Time to email Dressage Extensions!.   Let's see what they think!

One final thought about these nice "cool" alternatives to jackets....   It gives the jacket-less dressage competitor a place to display their USDF medals.   And you know, for those of us who worked very hard to earn our medals, being able to wear them is kind of important.   :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Return of the Helmets

It's been a long time coming, but personally, I think this makes sense.   Starting in 2011, the USEF Rules for Dressage, section DR120: Dress (page DR21) state that all riders must wear "protective headgear" while mounted unless they are riding in only PSG through GPS classes and are over 18 years old.

Protective headgear is defined as helmets made to ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) / SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and which carry the SEI tag. (PAS 015:1998 is the standard used in the UK.)

When it comes to this rule, the number of USDF & Olympic medals a rider has in his trophy case is not a factor.   Wearing a tailcoat / shadbelly does not exempt the rider from the rule.   Calibre of horse and / or rider don't make a difference, either.   The rules, although complex when first read, are pretty basic.   And so is the message.   The USEF and USDF want riders to properly protect their heads!

If a rider is competing two horses, one which is doing 4th Level & PSG and the other who is doing PSG and I1, the rider MUST wear an approved helmet whenever riding the first horse, but can wear a top hat when riding the second.   To help differentiate who can wear what when, some shows may decide to use different ranges of show numbers, or maybe even colored dots on bridle numbers.   We'll see how the show managers in Region 8 help support compliance to the new rules.

I've had the pleasure of riding in my two top hats.   Both are tight, unlikely to ever blow or bounce off while doing a test.   They get very hot in the summer.   They are tricky to get hair up into.   And they have to be handled very carefully, protected from dust, rain, sweat, and so on.   But they are ever so elegant to wear!   However, I have also competed at Fourth Level and in USDF Regional Championship classes with a well fitted helmet and three point harness.

SmartPak and Charles Owen & Co, Ltd put together this short video on how to fit a helmet.   I like that Renee asks about fitting a helmet knowing she will be putting her hair up to ride.   Whenever I try on helmets, I put make sure I test the fit as if I were competing.   Hair braided, twisted, pulled up, whatever I will be doing that year.

For those looking for more information & statistics about helmets and safety, check out the American Riding Instructors Association website about helmets.   Very interesting.

I still have a couple of my old "hunt caps". However, they are simply display models now.   Reminders of my equestrian past.   Decorations.   I wonder if the silk top hats will one day follow suit.....

Monday, February 21, 2011

The NEDA Omnibus

For many dressage riders in New England, the NEDA Omnibus is a much beloved possession.   The little black book.   The season's bible.   The favorite bathroom read.

Email and facebook notifications recently went out saying that the Omnibus Prize Lists were in the mail.   Yippee!   And as they arrive, the dormant competition itch will spring back to life, and with it, the need to put together our 2011 competition calendar and schedule of dressage activities.

Each year, I get at least two little black books.   One as a member of NEDA, the New England Dressage Association.   The other as an advertiser in the book.   One copy will travel in my "Horse Show Briefcase", the other will move from room to room in the house.

So what makes this little book so important, so revered amongst the mountain of dressage & equine books in my library?   Timely content specific to the dressage competition season.   Aside from prize lists from each of the USDF Recognized dressage competitions in New York and the New Engand states, it provides the USDF & USEF Dressage tests (our USA national tests), all of which were redesigned for 2011 through 2014, movement requirements for dressage musical freestyles per level, information about how to qualify for NEDA Year End Awards, and lots of ads by local professional trainers & training barns.

NEDA members who are new to dressage will also find lots of basic USDF rules information.   Reading the USEF Dressage Rulebook is still highly advised, but the Omnibus provides a good quick start.   They will also find listings of some of the local Schooling Dressage Shows.

Another great tool for the dressage enthusiast / competitor / trainer is the new 2011 USEF Dressage Test Book.   With the new tests now in use, getting to grips with them as early as possible is a wise thing, especially for those of us who have a tendency to sometimes go off course.   The new book contains the new USDF Introductory Level Tests and the new USEF tests for First through Fourth Levels.   Unlike the 2007 through 2011 version, the new booklet has a cool cover.   Like the older version, the price is still only $5.00 plus shipping when purchased via the USEF using this order form.   And it is still only 4 x 7 inches in size, which means it can go straight into the coat pocket for reference while riding!

So, for the moment, I sit here waiting for the postman to arrive.   In the meantime, my competition horses are scheduled to get their required Coggins tests for 2011 as well as their spring vaccinations which will help protect them from disease as we travel around the region.   We are getting back into serious goal minded work.   And if winter insists on keeping its grip on us much longer, the clippers may be put to use very soon.