Aside World Magazine
Fall 2020 Issue
The Appointments Class Defined- For the Horse
Article by Amy Jo Magee
Photo Credits: Amy Magee
I apologize that I had to skip the last issue, but here is the promised sequel to the appointments class article that helped clarify what the judges are looking for when evaluating the rider. This article will focus on the horse and the tack. Again, please keep in mind this is how I prepare, and I tend to be very picky and pay attention to minute details that many do not. Everything I will write about does follow the USEF rulebook, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to familiarize yourself with the rules prior to showing. The rules you want to focus on are HU147-HU149 and can be found on pages 865-866. It’s a very short read, so no excuses!
If you missed the article on the rider appointments, it was 2 issues ago, and is worth going back and reading. It will help clarify what the judges are looking for with the rider's attire.
I will start at the head and work my way back
You will need a traditional flat leather “Hunt” bridle. These are characterized by a flat leather noseband and browband. I caution people against using a vintage bridle since the linen thread is often weak and leather often brittle. The rules read that you must either use a double bit (curb and bradoon) or a pelham. For those that have horses that don’t typically use a double or a pelham, there are many varieties of mouthpieces of pelham bits available and most horses readily accept one that is similar to what they typically wear. Please, I beg you, USE A LIP STRAP! If you don’t know what one is, you are likely of the younger generation, and aren’t used to seeing them. Some pelhams don’t even have the loops on them to attach them anymore. Make sure you get a bit that does, and buy one, and use it. I equate not using a lip strap to going out without a shirt on. The horse isn’t completely dressed. It also serves a purpose, and will eliminate the annoying flopping of the curb chain. It is likely much more comfortable for the horse as well! Next is reins, they have to be flat. Completely flat and the rules read rubber, plaited and laced reins are not permissible. Personally, I hate riding in flat reins but it is required in the under-saddle appointments class. Lastly, you should have your leather sewn in. This means anywhere there is a hook stud- cheekpieces and reins, the hooks need to be removed and the leather sewn onto the bit. The rules read stitched in leather preferred, but I will tell you from experience, this is one rule the judges actually know about and check. It's one of the few, so I highly recommend having it done. This is another reason I suggest using a more modern bridle. You will spend a decent amount of money having this done by a saddler, so you want to be sure the end result lasts. Costs vary, but an average is $10-$15 per piece to have it done, and depending on if it is a double or a pelham that is 6-8 pieces that need done. You can do the math. I offer a nice solution for people so they can use one bridle for multi purposes. I often sell a second set of cheekpieces and more commonly used plaited or laced reins to keep on a horse's regular bit so that a rider can switch bits and reins for the hack and over fences classes, or to go hunting! Once you sew the appointments bit on the cheeks and flat reins, you can’t change it without cutting it off and resewing it again.
The Breastplate- WEAR ONE...... The rules read Optional, but preferred. All leather must be flat. This is another thing the judges look for. I can’t say for sure but this wasn’t always optional and I do not know when it started to be worded that way. Anyway, the judges expect to see one, so don’t get moved back for not having one on. Now my pet peeve is buckles on the shoulder pieces. Especially those big brass buckles. If I could figure out how to insert a sad face emoji here I would. I understand people liking the adjustable ones, I get it. But they don’t belong in an appointments class. I will touch on martingales here because they go hand in hand with breastplates. DO NOT WEAR ONE IN THE UNDER SADDLE OR HACK CLASS. Was that clear enough? You will get disqualified. I watched a poor girl win the hack class at Harrisburg one year only to have someone point out to the judge that her martingale was illegal after they announced the placings. It broke my heart. You are allowed to wear one in the over fences class.
Your saddle! - This is likely the most important piece of equipment your horse will be wearing. I could write an entire article about it (maybe a good idea for my next submission). It needs to be a plain English type. The rules only discuss that a doeskin or suede seat and pommel are allowed and that the lining may be leather or linen. I will simply say the most important thing is that it is in good repair and clean. I will elaborate a little by saying that loose flapping leather really detracts from the overall look of the saddle. If your convenience tab elastic is old and worn, have it replaced. An offside flap that is banging throughout the class detracts from the neat look most riders are going for. The same is true of the tail of the balance strap. Make sure your balance strap has enough keepers to contain the end from flapping around. Leather keepers on a correctly sized balance strap are the ideal, but a few brown hair ties can go a long way in creating a neater picture. If your saddle has outer girthing, your girth needs to have keepers on it to contain the billets as well. I’ll go into a little more detail on girths in #4. Lastly the stirrup iron. It needs to be a proper sidesaddle stirrup iron that has an oval eye, or a sidesaddle safety iron. I will say that I have been known to epoxy a piece of safety tread to the iron where it will be hidden by the boot. Stirrup pads are not allowed, but these new irons that are available have no tread on them at all, and slip off the foot very easily, I have found the safety tread helps reduce that from happening. If you can get your hands on a vintage iron, they are the best! Well worth having to take the time to polish, and the tread is fantastic. Unfortunately, many are too small to be used by many of us, and they are also difficult to source.
Girths- Triple fold leather. No elastic permitted. The girth cannot be shaped, and you aren’t allowed to use a girth cover. You do need to use a balance girth and while it can be either a separate one, or a short one stitched to the tri-fold (a combo girth), the separate balance girth is preferred per the rules. When using a tri-fold, the opening goes towards the back of the horse. And you should also have a keeper on the tri-fold to pass your balance girth through if you are using a separate one. This keeps the balance girth from sliding off the back of the girth and creating a pinch point between the girth and balance girth. If using an outer girthing saddle, when viewing from the side, your girth buckles and balance strap buckles should all line up in the same plane. I know this is a very small detail, but it makes a huge difference in overall appearance. I don’t expect this, but it is something to strive for. Girths are another thing that I discourage using vintage pieces. While the vintage baghide used on them is gorgeous and can’t be purchased anymore, the girths themselves are recipes for disaster. Especially when jumping. Old linen thread holding on the chapes that often break when put back into use, should be avoided. The other thing that vintage girths lack is roller buckles. Roller buckles make tightening the girth much easier on the user, and are much kinder to the billets on your saddle. If your saddle has older billets, it is much less expensive to replace your girth than it is to replace the billets on your saddle.
The sandwich case- Often a prized possession second only to the saddle itself. I myself have a bit of an obsession with these as evidenced by my collection. This needs to be a case that has a combined sandwich tin and flask. Be sure it has both before you purchase one. Many are one or the other. The sandwich tin must have a plain white meat sandwich with the crusts removed, cut on the diagonal and wrapped in wax paper. I don’t know when the rules were rewritten but the wax paper thing wasn’t always specified. I used to wrap my sandwich in a linen napkin back in the day. Now the rules read a linen napkin is optional-but I would include one if you can. As far as the sandwich goes, I haven't seen a judge actually check a sandwich in the last 10 years. Before that they routinely would! At the beginning of the show season, I buy ¾ pound of turkey and make about 10 sandwiches. I cut them, wrap them in wax paper and then put them all in a large ziploc bag that I write DO NOT EAT in huge letters on, and put them in the freezer. Then the morning of a show, I pull one out, and put it in my case. It thaws throughout the day and is good for the actual show itself. That way you aren’t ever stuck without the proper ingredients, or scrambling the night before to get one made. One less thing on the to do list! A word of caution-throw it out before your store your case for the next show. I have heard numerous stories of people pulling their cases out for a show and finding an old moldy sandwich in their tin. Yuck! The flask itself needs to be filled with tea or Sherry. I caution people not to drink out of these flasks since some are very old and likely growing some interesting organisms inside of them. The glass flasks would probably by okay, but the metal ones found in some of the really old cases would make me say no. There are several shapes of “canteen” cases available with the most common being the rectangle shape. They are basically a square or rectangle shape where the tin and flask sit side by side inside. The other one that is often seen in the appointments class is the coveted Piggyback case. These are rather rare and the craftmanship that went into them is just mind boggling. They are true pieces of artwork. I have a list of ladies looking for them. They are called piggyback cases because the tin and flask sit “piggyback style” or one stacked on top of the other. Lastly, I own an extremely rare horseshoe shaped canteen that was supposedly made for a sidesaddle. It is beautiful too, but I prefer the piggyback cases. I urge everyone to have their cases checked over and new straps put on if it hasn’t been in circulation recently. I replace all the straps on my cases before I put them into use. I have been competing in several classes where a sandwich case goes flying off once they ask for a canter, or when someone is going down the hack line. Once filled, the case is rather heavy and those thin straps give rather easily. If I am showing in a class other than an appointments class sidesaddle, I always take my contents out and use the case empty. I try to preserve them as much as possible.
The horse itself- Your horse should be clean, mannerly, and in good weight. Wearing tack that is appropriately sized and a saddle that fits well. Mane and tail must be braided with the exception of a roached mane and pulled tail. I put this in here but believe that this year 2020, there is a rule that allows you/possibly requires you to be unbraided. I haven't read the latest update, but believe there is an exemption for this year. What I don’t know is when that will be lifted. My suggestion is to check the latest Covid amendments for specifics on braiding. I know there was a sidesaddle exception earlier in the year. I can only assume when this craziness is behind us, the rules will revert back to the original which is that the mane and tail must be braided unless roached and pulled.
I hope the above has helped clarify what it is you need to have for your horse in order to be competitive in the under-saddle appointments class. As always, I am happy to answer any questions or help you source any items you may need. If you haven't already checked out my sidesaddle
Facebook page, please go to Black Diamond Designs and take a peek at my current and previous projects. Lots of fun sidesaddle pictures in there!
Amy Jo Magee
Black Diamond Designs
If you would like to submit an article for
an upcoming issue please email
Photo to Left:
Traditional Flat Hunt Bridles from Amy's collection including flat and padded crown pieces as well as different color options
Photo Below Left:
Close up of pelham bit with curb chain and properly attached lip strap
Photo Below Right:
Close up of lip strap
Trifold Girth from Amy's collection including keeper in middle. Showing opening of girth.
Photo Above Left: Examples of Sandwich Cases from Amy's collection
Photo Above Right: Horseshoe Case
Photo Below Left: Piggyback Case Contents
Photo Below Right: Contents of traditional Sandwich Case: flask and sandwich tin