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A Little Bit of Advice: Illegal equipment – What to use and what not

18 May 2016 12:30 AM | Miriam Altman (Administrator)

Ok, so let’s talk about equipment. This one’s been on the plate to discuss for awhile. The truth is that we’ve all started somewhere when it comes to showing and every organization has a different set of rules when it comes to legal equipment. Whether you’re new to ASHA or just need a refresher, let’s talk about what’s allowed in the show ring and what’s not.

  • Saddles – Every horse is required to be shown in a stock saddle. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just in good working order, and all that silver and bling isn’t going to get you more points with the judge. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding a reining or a roping saddle, or whatever you preference is, just make sure it’s clean and functioning properly.
  • Cinches – You are welcome to use whatever type of cinch you prefer, whether it be mohair or neoprene or fleece padded. Just make sure that is also in clean, working order and that it’s smooth so that there’s nothing on it that could make it considered inhumane (this would make it illegal). You are not required to ride with a rear cinch however, it may come in handy if you’re dragging a log in the trail. Also, if you do have a rear cinch, make sure you have a cinch hobble between the front and rear cinches.
  • Pads – There are no requirements on what type of pad you should be using. Just make sure that it’s in good working order and clean. Again, fancy doesn’t earn you anything.
  • Bits and Bosals – Here’s where it gets trickier! Let’s break it down by type:
    • Snaffles – Horses of any age may be shown in a snaffle. Snaffles should be no less than 5/16” thin and no greater than 3/4” thick when you measure one inch in on the mouthpiece from the cheek. ALL snaffle mouthpieces should be SMOOTH. That means no twisted wire, no slow twists, no square mouthpieces, etc. Snaffles may have more than one break with some type of center connection, such as a dog bone. Nothing should protrude below the mouthpiece such as extensions or prongs.
    • Curb Bits – Again horses of any age may be shown in a curb bit. The mouthpiece of a curb should be no less than 5/16” thin and no greater than 3/4" thick when you measure one in on the mouthpiece from the cheek. The port of a curb bit should be no greater than 3 ½” high. Rollers and covers are acceptable. Broken, half breed, and spades are also acceptable. Again, ALL curb bits must have a SMOOTH mouthpiece, meaning no chains, no floating curbs, etc. Nothing should protrude below the mouthpiece such as extensions or prongs. The shank of a curb bit should be no longer than 8 ½” long when measured on the outside from the top of the bridle attachment to the bottom of the rein attachment.
    • Bosals – All horses of any age maybe shown in a bosal. Bosals should be made of rawhide and be in good working order. You must use a mecate rein when riding in a bosal.
  • Curb Straps – You are required to have a curb strap when riding in a curb bit. Your curb may be a chain or a strap that must be at least 1/2" wide and lie flat along the chin. No wire curbs are allowed, regardless of the amount of padding you try to put on it. Also, absolutely no iron is permitted under the jaws.
  • Reins – You should be using split reins, romels, or a mecate with a tie rope, based on the type of bit you’re using. A mecate would be legal with snaffles or a bosal. Split reins are also legal for use with a snaffle or use with a curb bit. Romels are only legal to use with a curb bit. Closed reins other than a mecate or romels are never permitted.
  • Rider Attire – You should be wearing clean clothes but again, fancy isn’t the goal here. Just make sure you look neat and clean. You must wear either a protective headgear or a western hat. You are also required to wear a long sleeved shirt and western boots. Western boots include typical cowboy boots or lace up ropers, everything else is illegal. We’re also going to throw in here that you should be wearing jeans. Chaps or chinks and spurs are optional equipment.
  • Illegal Equipment – Illegal equipment includes many things based on the above rules but items that are never allowed in the show pen include tie-downs, gag bits, mechanical hackamores, cavessons, running martingales, or anything that the judge prohibits or deems as inhumane.

So maybe you’ve made the mistake of walking into the show pen using some of the illegal equipment listed above. Maybe you forgot to remove a cavesson from the warm-up. Or maybe you’ve been roping most of your life and a tie-down is something you wouldn’t have thought not to ride in. Whatever the reason, it happens, but just keep in mind that the judge reserves the right to disqualify you if they see you are using illegal equipment. The judge and show management also reserves the right to require equipment checks either before you enter the ring or after. Showing in illegal equipment can lead to disqualification or if even being asked to leave the show grounds if it is deemed too inhumane.

Having equipment rules makes sure that our horses are treated humanely and that all riders are riding on an even playing field. If you have any questions about what equipment is legal or illegal, reach out to a friend, a CoWN officer, or a CoWN board member and they will be happy to answer your questions. Just make sure you’re familiar with the equipment rules because, after all, does that win really feel so good if you weren’t playing by the rules?

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