Dressing my mare

you’re right. i’ve been obsessing about this!

This may have been mentioned down thread… But synthetic leather is not allowed in the show ring. Bridles must be made entirely of leather. This may not matter and little schooling shows… But I thought you should be aware :slight_smile:


Wrong. Another example of bad advice from someone well intentioned, but with bad information.

From the USEF Dressage rulebook: “The headstall and noseband must be made of leather or leather-like material except the buckles, wear tabs on cheek pieces and reins, and a small disk of sheepskin used at the intersection of the two leather straps of a crossed noseband…”


You can see some examples in the dressage phase of eventing - some riders use “dressage breastplates” that are very different in style to the ones they use on XC.


Crystals are specifically called out in the rules as being permitted for the browband, hence why they fall outside the “plain” descriptor.


right. i find it odd… A funny sort of concession to fashionista types. I’m hoping attire for horse and rider will continue to relax. Colorful piping on boots, saddlepads…etc. That is a good step in the right direction!~. The monopoly-guy look isn’t very ‘pretty’

Well, shoot! A student of mine got stopped in the warm up ring, and came back to the barn to switch bridles. It was such a time crunch that I didn’t question it. Now I wish I had!


if you ever find out why please let us know!

There might be some pushback on colored biothane not being leather-like enough, whether due to the smooth nature of the finish or the color aspect. The person who will know is Hannah Niebielski at USEF, so it’s worth shooting her an email. She’s very responsive.


I’m hoping there will be pics once you get her dressed up.

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Then you had good reason to think it was illegal. Who stopped your student? The TD?

First, it may not matter at walk trot schooling shows. Though “schooling shows” can run the gamut from very casual play days all the way to quite highly organized and even competitive show series that follow formal rules very closely but just aren’t recognized by the official USEF or EC or etc.

In general for anyone entering a new discipline it is useful and also good manners to take a good look at how people at your level turn themselves out, in addition to what the official rules permit.

I rather like the fact that dressage turnout can be so plain and so uniform. You can get your black jacket (at the thrift store even) and white breeches and white saddle pad and a saddle and bridle that are a decent match in color (either black or brown). And then you don’t need to worry about colors or expressing yourself, etc. Nobody looks fantastic in this but everyone looks tidy and professional, and the horse is the focus.

The envelope of the black and white uniform is getting pushed in certain directions, but probably more at higher levels. Well, the sparkly browband is an affordable luxury. But investing in colored jackets is a bit more pricey, and most folks on a budget would probably wait a bit before branching out. The same with colored piping on saddles. People may be shelling out the extra cost for this at the top of the market, but colored leather does not age well, and shabby worn colored piping would be a demerit in the resale market. So I think the average lower level ammie on a budget isn’t getting colored piping.

I would also say that the English disciplines tend to value good leather in strap goods, saddles, and boots. Obviously you can use a synthetic Wintec saddle, even synthetic tall boots, and I suppose vinyl leather like bridle, especially as if they are all black or brown the material isn’t visible at a distance. But nobody is likely to prefer or admire synthetic over leather (unlike the Endurance riders that love the functionality of biothane).

In other words, you might be technically allowed to compete in a colored biothane bridle, but I’m not 100% sure why you would want to, especially why you would be going to extra expense and effort to do so. You might not get marked down for it, but on the other hand, how much do you want to signal that you are a complete outsider to the discipline?

Anyhow I would suggest going to observe some of the typical shows at your level, before you compete. You have lots of time for this. Once you watch a show, you might have a better sense of what you want to do, how much you want to stick out in a new environment. If you genuinely want to make a point by looking completely different from everyone else, that’s fine. But really think through how that will feel on the day of competition. Turning up looking completely different, having to argue with show stewards, worrying whether you are indeed losing subjective half points here and there because the judge doesn’t think you are talking it seriously: all that is stressful, in addition to the normal stress of competition.

My advice would be to go to your first competition in any discipline being as conservative as possible in appearance just because that takes away a lot of stress and indecision.


Well, has this happened to you in Dressage competition? I thought you were new to dressage?

Don’t worry so much about your tack (as long as it’s legal) until perhaps you reach a level when a judge may be splitting hairs to the point of scoring your test because your tack is pretty instead of your riding and horse’s training. . :roll_eyes:

Training and riding matters. The judge , especially at the lower levels, will care how well and correctly you have trained your horse and the effectiveness of your riding. The loveliness of your tack, not so much.

Your defensive attitude and the chip on your shoulder which you are already exhibiting (before you have yet to compete) does not bode well for either your, or your horse’s enjoyment of the sport.

That you, an admitted novice who is learning to ride and train in Dressage and hoping to compete your Mustangs in the sport, have already decided in advance that your judges will be either “decent judges” and “snooty-bitches” is unfortunate indeed.

I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you show up ready to do your best and following the rules. :slightly_smiling_face:


By and large dressage judges work incredibly hard to give fair scores based on the criteria listed on the test sheet. Judges hate having to give low scores or write bad remarks. They are rooting for you to do well. Are there a few bad apples in any pool, sure. But in all my years of doing this, I’ve encountered one single score that I felt was truly unfair. If you want to learn more about judging, I’d recommend you audit the L program.


i’ve competed in dogs and orchids and design competitions. On the whole, most judges were good. In dogs, (conf and sports) more than anything else, there were a LOT of subjective judges. I suppose i’m just guessing about the snooty part in this horse sport. The whole dressage discipline doesn’t feel very inclusive mostly by the attire alone. But the money aspect too. I think it’s probably that snooty thing, that’s the single thing that has made me never gravitate toward it. It looks so ‘mean girl’. Certainly the underlying principal of this degree of horsemanship is music to my soul…but the outfits especially are what signals that snootiness to me. Yeah, i guess i DO have a chip on my shoulder. I think the dressage people are snooty on the inside because of how they look on the outside. Hopefully my fears will be proven wrong. I’m autistic and kinda strange anyway, and my horses are not expensive, and beautiful probably only to me in this environment… Well, that, and i’m kinda design/color obsessive…a slave to my personal aesthetic. I’ll go and watch before joining in…that’s for sure. First from a distance, then if it seems ok, i’ll get near them. My coach has suggested i scribe for her. So i’ve been studying the shorthand and researching the terms the symbols are supposed to mean. Learning a lot that way.

Weather permitting, Lesson day Weds. I’ll get a pic of the biothane on her for anyone interested.


We were in such a time crunch to switch bridles and get back to the ring that I didn’t have time to ask too many questions. The student was flustered and a junior, so it’s possible she misunderstood what she was told. I don’t think it was the TD. I think it was the ring steward, who may have just been a volunteer.

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Scribe for as many judges as you can. Schooling shows are a great way to get scribing experience. You will learn a lot, especially about judges.

And please try to drop the word “snooty” from your vocabulary. It’s not doing you any favors.


On the continuum of subjective to objective, I would say dressage is relatively objective because the judge has to give you points on list of specific movements.

The extreme of objective would be speed competition, like barrel racing, track racing, roping, or purely physical competition like show jumping and cross country phase where you just need to get er done.

Dressage is more like mountain trail and working equitation where you are scored on completing the task but also about the quality of movement while doing it.

A lot of the “rail class” breed show disciplines are far more subjective. The horse is judged on type, suitability, breed standards, turnout, as well as whether the horse and rider execute a series of gaits and transitions.

Then of course there are equitation classes in English and Western that score only the rider. In breed shows in particular there can be legitimate difference of opinion over what horse best represents the breed in terms of conformation and movement. Especially when breed standards are evolving (Arab, Quarterhirse, Andalusian).

Dressage evaluates the correctness and precision of the pattern, the quality of the balance and the carriage of the horse, and also has an overall category for quality of gaits. There is a small section for rider effectiveness but it doesn’t usually have a big impact unless something is really wrong.

It’s really important not to draw conclusions about your local scene from watching international competition on video. I would say at local shows people can be rather inward and anxious in warmup and until they’ve had their classes, realize that they feel exactly like you do in this regard. But usually they have pretty modest expectations and once they have done their class will revert back to being cheerful and relieved.

It’s true that the English disciplines traditionally present a very neat and tailored and rather uniform style to the world. I’ve always thought it ironic that riding outfits are so spic and span when in reality one can’t take two steps towards a horse without being covered in filth. It’s a marvelous illusion. If you start out with everything pinned into place you might still look OK from a distance by the time you enter the show ring.

Anyhow, I feel like the monochrome dressage outfit is actually a great equalizer, like all uniforms. Most English riders already have a black helmet and black tall boots by the time they are starting to compete. Then you need a black jacket, which you can get at a thrift store, men’s or women’s suit jacket. White breeches, which you can pick up second hand. Or get cheap ones, because honestly only your thigh is visible. And a white saddle pad. Again, you can buy cheap or second hand and may even be given a slightly grubby one that you can bleach clean. You just clean up your regular bridle and saddle and tie back your hair and put some kind of scarf around your neck.

Compare to say Western Pleasure class: silver show saddle and bridle, expensive sparkly tops, etc. Western Pleasure may look more “expressive” but in fact it’s probably an epic show of competitive consumption to get all that gear.

So actually the sober traditional performance oriented gear of English disciplines is an equalizing force.


Sorry lol… my choice of words IS off-putting, but that’s how i see it. I mean, really, pretty much anything anybody does competitively with a horse has some degree of snob-appeal. Horses are an expensive hobby. But coming from Morgans/Saddlebreds i know what snooty looks like. And from what i see on here, the word applies. Heck! Just cruising the threads regarding tack, apparel, even grooming supplies for chrissake!.. pretentiousness is the name of the game.

So those of us who have been welcoming to all, have made tons of new friends, and who have soothed terrified ams/jrs; and who have used their steady mounts and a sense of humor to escort nervous horses and riders to the ring have been doing it wrong all these years?

Who knew?!