Aside World Magazine

Spring 2020 Issue 

The Ins and Outs of the Appointments Class

Article by Amy Jo Magee

Photo Credits: Amy Magee

While we all sit back and patiently (or not so patiently) wait for horse shows to resume, I decided to write a little column about my preparation with tips and tricks for the rider in the Ladies Sidesaddle appointments class. Please keep in mind these are how I prepare, and not written in stone. My suggestions do follow the USEF rule book which I will reference in the article. I have been showing in this division for well over 20 years, and while not the longest member doing so, I have seen my fair share of judges, and techniques, and have developed the following based on my experiences. First of all-READ THE RULEBOOK! I cannot stress this enough. I can’t even begin to count the number of times someone has asked me a question at a show (which I am always happy to answer), and when I ask them if they read the rulebook they say no. It’s available online. For free. You want to focus on Rules HU147-HU149 most specifically. These are pages 865 and 866 (less than 2 pages, it’s a quick read, and can save you some heartache)

        In my opinion very few of the judges are actually aware of the current written rules, and many of the older judges who we still see at many of the bigger shows will look for things that aren’t necessarily rules anymore- for example garter straps! So like I said, I am going to give hints on what I think are necessary and what judges seem to focus on when judging the final lineup. The appointments and general overall appearance of the horse and rider only count for 25%, so it should not move a rider up or down numerous placings, but having the correct appointments can mean losing that coveted blue ribbon, or getting moved up into the ribbons!


First I will address the rider-

  1. The majority of the riders need to have a Navy, Black or worst case scenario Charcoal grey habit. I know Charcoal grey isn’t listed in the rules, but they are accepted and seen more often than one would think. My second favorite habit is this color and the cut is to die for. But, if my only formal habit is Charcoal grey I would be creative when lining up for the final judging before moving you into the placings lineup. I would pick ladies wearing navy to stand next to rather than black. You also need breeches to match your habit (so navy or black). It is worth taking your apron with you when shopping since navy varies a lot. Try to pick a shade as close as possible to your apron. The idea is that the colors blend, and a lighter bluer navy will be very noticeable against a midnight navy apron. White shirt and plain white stock tie with a plain gold horizontal pin. (for those that don’t foxhunt there are very specific reasons for the above which I will get into in another article) I am not going to go into detail about colored habits and collars and different colored vests in this article. I will address that in the hunting article I will write. I will simply sum it up by saying if you regularly foxhunt and have been awarded your colors- you will know that you have special circumstances that allow you to stray from the above.

  2. Vest- Canary yellow or a bone color. The rules read white, buff or yellow. The majority of the vests you see are the canary yellow color. If you can only have one vest, this would be the one to get. Bone or buff would be more formal and very appropriate for a show like Harrisburg or Devon. As tempting as the tattersall (Plaid or check) vests are, they are not considered formal and not correct for the appointments class.

  3. Wear a spur( they make dummy ones as shown  in the picture if your horse isn’t a fan),  on your very well polished black dress boot that doesn’t have a zipper or tops or tabs. Then finish it off with a garter strap. I have included a picture of a boot with a garter strap. If  your  boots do not have one (many don’t) it is very easy to have a small leather loop sewn into the back of the boot, and use a nice black spur strap to go around the leg. I have seen people moved up in the lineup for having a garter strap! If you are having trouble finding boots without zippers try ebay or local consignment shops. Remember that unlike regular riding boots, the calf isn’t seen so does not have to be as snug, and the height is actually preferable on the short side (so it doesn’t rub the back of your knee or the fixed head. I have known ladies to cut down their right boot for this very reason.

  4. Gloves- for those that know me well, this is my thing. I’ll chat about the rain gloves first, then the riding ones. Rain gloves are to be white or light colored (as shown in the picture- and the yellow ones are made that way, that isn’t from aging or bleach). They are carried on the offside (when riding in a near sided saddle) tucked under the billets with the fingers forward and thumbs in. The tips of the fingers should be showing just in front of the saddle flap. If you are riding in an outer girthing saddle you have 2 options. I have seen it done both ways, but I prefer the see the gloves still under the flap under the billets. While that would have made it a lot harder for the lady to reach them in the case of rain, I do find it less distracting than carrying them under the billets on top of the flap. The rules read fingers showing in front of saddle flap so…… I won’t go into my show flap saddle which doesn’t really have an offside flap, but I do make it work!

  5. The gloves you wear on your hands. I could write an entire article on this but will try to keep it short and sweet. Do not wear black gloves. Do not wear gloves that are so dark a brown that they look black from a distance and in pictures. The rules read plain heavy wash leather or brown leather gloves. So many times I see gloves that are a Havana color and while technically correct (they are brown after all) it is not what was intended. The most formal glove is a chamois or wash leather glove with buttons instead of Velcro. The gloves at the bottom of the one picture are vintage chamois gloves and exactly the look you are going for. Unfortunately, they shed like crazy especially on dark wool, so I save mine for very special occasions knowing cleanup is going to be a chore. Included in the picture are several more modern makes that mimic the color you are looking for. SSG, Mountain horse and Roeckl all make a nice color for sidesaddle. Glove color goes back to lighter hides being sought after and more expensive. Damaged hides were dyed to hide the flaws (scars from barbed wire etc). The lighter the color, the nicer the hide and a properly turned out lady always had a beautiful pair of gloves. Black gloves were for mourning and a lady in mourning would not have been riding her horse.

  6. Your hair should be neat, in a bun and contained by at least 1 if not 3 (as in my case) hairnets. If your hair isn’t long enough for a bun, there are many options out there to get a fake one that are actually pretty comfortable, and surprisingly inexpensive! Jewelry should be kept to a minimum and basically a pair of stud earrings.

  7. The last thing I will discuss is the hunting whip that you will carry (as shown in the picture below).  You want a ladies (or even possibly a childs) depending on your size, that you can comfortably carry in your right hand along with 2 sets of reins (remember you will have a snaffle and curb rein). I suggest practicing this prior to getting to your first show if this isn’t something you routinely do out hunting. The most common question I get asked regarding the whips is how long the thong should be. My honest answer is-it doesn’t really matter for showing. I have seen ladies who zip tie the thong to the handle just so it is one less thing they have to worry about in the show ring. Technically, you should be able to drop the thong and have it just about reach the ground from a mounted position. The idea is to be able to drop it to keep hounds from wandering between your horses legs. So if you have that image in mind, it will give you an idea of correct length which is based on the height of your horse.


Hopefully the above has helped you determine how you as the rider need to prepare for the under saddle or appointments class. Next issue I will focus on the horse and tack required. As always I am happy to answer any questions and have helped many riders get their start in the division. You will see me out there from time to time though I am not sure how much this year due to the cancellation on the spring season. My plan was to compete Lady the first half of the year, and then focus on getting my two young horses some miles astride so that hopefully in a few years I will have them to ride aside as well!

Here is a link to my FB page which has lots of fun pictures in it. Feel free to message me there if you have any questions.



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