Saddlehorse World vs. Dressage, Part I, Guest Post

Guest post by Contact. Welcome.

Update. At the risk of creating an infinite loop, the link to this page, including a photo of the author and friend at a sparkling show trot, Contact: When worlds collide.

Saddlebred World Champion Noble Charm who is a full sibling to Royale I Am – the chestnut featured on my blog frequently and who shows first level dressage

I have been asked to do a post comparing the saddlebred show industry (or saddlehorse world which would include Morgans and Arabians as well), and the dressage industry.

I have experience in both, but certainly am no expert. So take my comments with a grain of salt.

I thought the best way to compare and contrast the two, would be to go just go from the front of the horse to the back. Going to break this up into multiple posts. Buckle up, here we go!


  • Saddlehorses: Pretty much any bit is legal (including mule bits, twisted wires, bicycle chains). The curb (Weymouth) shanks are usually significantly longer. Does your horse get his tongue over the bit? Not a problem, most people just tie the tongue down.If there is blood in the mouth in the show ring, the horse may or may not be penalized.  But I have never seen one eliminated. Which is a USEF rule.* Officials “turn the other way.” However, even with these rough looking bits you almost always see very soft hands. You will not see rolkur, overbending, or cranking and spanking. Interesting enough, a single snaffle is often PROHIBITED in many of the saddleseat divisions (along with martingales under saddle and tie downs. But that’s about it. ha)
  • Dressage: Specific rules on which bits are legal both USDF and FEI. Length and port limits to snaffles and weymouths. No tongue ties allowed. Blood in the mouth (or anywhere on the horse for the most part) is elimination. “Kinder” bits in dressage, but I witness much worse riding. Harsh hands, cranking, yanking, rolkur, excessive overbending, hanging on the horse’s mouth, open mouths, tongue problems. Dressage horses learn more finesse with the rein aids. Flexion, bend, half halt, direct rein, indirect rein, etc. Where as the saddlehorses just have Stop and Go and Turn (maybe).

USEF rulebook the Hunter “headset” standard

Poll and neck

  • Saddlehorses: Most horses shown in saddleseat tack are naturally up-headed and have no issue keeping their poll at the highest point. You want flexion at the poll, too. Often achieved with your curb rein. A steady contact is usually rewarded, and above the bit and overflexed is usually penalized. Tossing the head, “fighting the bit” excessive opening of the mouth are frowned upon. Flexion and bend is irrelevant. Tension in the poll and neck is fine and accepted.
  • Dressage: Poll position is a gradual development with leniency allowed at the lower levels and where the horse is in development. Often breeds who are not naturally uphill can develop a more uphill balance and compete at the upper levels. Poll and neck position comes from gymnastizing the horse and working his back and hindquarters. (ideally). Bend and flexion is emphasized within movements of the test. Saddlehorse people put the head and neck first. Dressage people put the hind quarters first (and the training scale) and let the poll and neck develop.

 *The majority, but not all saddlebred shows are run under USEF jurisdiction. There has been some discussion and controversy about this industry breaking away from USEF for various reasons including their rules and Safe Sport. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

Link. USEF: American Saddlebred.

Next time: Back/hindquarters and the feet!

Tevis, Virtual and Otherwise, 4 Miles, 3 Days

Riding Journal

Awareness of the outside world. I can’t bitch about gatherings and then give the groups I like a pass. So, I did wonder if this was the best choice of activities at the moment. The ride itself was outside and social distant by default. The travel? The hotels? No masks anywhere, but then, outside. No mention of Covid or vaccine/testing protocols. If there was, I missed it. The big concern was the smoke from wildfires. I don’t have any answers, but ignoring the questions is not the way forward.

Virtually following the IRL Tevis.
IRL riding the virtual Tevis.

Tevis Tidbits

Card for the IRL ride. Tevis: PDF

The Western States Trail Ride began at 5:15 am PDT, Saturday, July 24, 2021.

Treasured Moments (Treasure) & Reynolds, Jeremy stopped the timers at 10:03 pm. Tevis: rider page

Ozark Kaolena SWA (Lena) ridden by Jeanette Mero won the Haggin Cup for best conditioned. Tevis: rider page

Tevis has two finish lines. The official finish is up in dark where your time stops. Then you mosey down to McCann Stadium, cross the second finish line, and – most importantly – go to the final vet check. Yes, you can do 100 miles and not complete if your horse isn’t judged Fit To Continue. That has to be a bummer.

Video. Eventual winner walks into stadium leading horse. Picks up jog; horse trots. Vaults onto horse. Trots off to toward finish banner. Vaults. Onto horse. After riding 100 miles. I can’t even.

Me, watching another rider finish: You’re done. You can stop trotting.
Husband, overhearing: Maybe they can’t.

Award for most adorable goes to Piece of Perfection (Flash), a 11.2 hand Hackney pony ridden by the 13 yo Kyla Law. The pair was escorted by Kyla’s mom, Natalie, on Mo Motion Jack (Brave), an American Saddlebred! They finished 36th at 4:33 am. Tevis: rider page

And with that, I am officially tired of watching other people do things. Lexington, Tour de France, BreyerFest, Olympics, Central States, Tevis, more Olympics. Onwards!

Tevis home
The Horse: Jeremy Reynolds Wins Fourth Tevis Cup, Hayes

Virtual Tevis 2021

Card for our virtual ride

Slow start.

After getting their annual shots on Friday, they boarded the Pitiful Train to Woeville, Population 2. Saturday was reclining on couches and mopping brows.

On Sunday, we were considering a short ride to help them loosened up. What’s that I hear? The thunder of hooves in the field? Okay then, saddle up.

Two days of walking. Footing still soggy.

Data dump

Sat, July 24, IRL Tevis – 0 miles.

Sun, July 25 – 1.9 miles. 51 minutes.

Mon, July 26 – 2.1 miles. 52 minutes

Total 4 miles.

Approximate speed, 2.2 mph. Update, actually 2.3 mph. At our speed, one wants to count every tenth.

Approximate time to go one mile, 25 minutes.

[VT Archives]

Stay safe. Stay sane.

Helmet Spotting

The Horse World

Awareness of the outside world. Speaking of sports. ESPN: Cleveland changing name from Indians to Guardians after 2021 season. In addition to doing what’s right, such matters are of mild personal interest. My college dropped their Indian symbol six years before I showed up on campus. Decades later, we still don’t have a mascot. Go, Big Green!



Helmet for the jog in dressage. Screenshot of British Dressage Instagram.

For those of you not on constant helmet watch. Back when folks were squeaking about helmets in upper level dressage, Dujardin showed up at the Olympics in a helmet. Won gold. Boom. [Olympic Legacy].

“Team reserves, Naima Moreira Laliberté of Outremont, QC, and Statesman were accepted at the horse inspection for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo Credit – MacMillan Photography & Media Services. Photographs may be published with articles relating to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and must include photo credit.” Equestrian Canada: Canadian Dressage Team Set to Compete at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

I have not seen an explanation for helmets in the jog. It could be for safety when one’s Olympic-fit horse starts flying around like a kite? It might be part of British formal presentation? A vet working cross-country at the London Olympics wore a helmet. I believe foxhound handlers present with a hunt cap. Will post an update if I find out more. [New Occasion For Helmet]

Speaking of Olympics, does anyone else get choked up by the cheesy commercials? “You don’t need to be amazing to start, but you need to start to be amazing.” Toyota ad, probably based on a quote by Zig Ziglar (goodreads). Blinks furiously.

Saddle Seat

23 Walk/Trot Saddleseat Equitation 12 & Under
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Central States Benefit Horse Show
July 21-24, 2021
Hale Arena – American Royal Complex
Kansas City, MO

Screenshot of livestream by Seehorse Video. Seahorse heads for privacy. Number blurred. Assist for pointing me toward the Seehorse livestream goes to Jenny Wright, my guide to all things Midwestern saddle seat. [Jenny’s Jodhpurs, Instagram July 2017]

Three helmets out of eight riders in the class.

They stood together in the line up. All from the same barn?

One rider placed 5th. The rest did not place. Which means the helmets were three of the bottom four.

I thought the rider who placed 5th could have placed higher. A policy statement by the judge or riding merit? We’ll never know. I smell a whiff of judicial prejudice, but I would, wouldn’t I? When helmets are so unusual, the bias may not even be conscious. It doesn’t “look” right and that causes the observer to be a shade harsher without realizing it. My $0.02.

Show was not in my area. I have no further details other than what I saw on screen. Had tuned in to see Jenny’s horse in an earlier class.

Update. The three riders were from three different barns.

Reports From Elsewhere
What is the progress of helmets where you are?

Helmets in suit are not happening near me. The only helmet in non-Academy driving was on one of ours. [Safety Doesn’t Have to Be Ugly]

The last time I looked in at Western around here, there were a few on young kids, none on older kids nor adults. This could have changed since then. It could be different in other western disciplines around here. I doubt it. [Not From Around These Parts, Schooling Report, Southern Sunday Barrel Association]


The top hat was designed specifically as a crash helmet for the hunting field. Tall and stiffened by impregnating laminated twill and calico with shellac, the topper provided a degree of shock absorption in the event of a fall.

Norm Fine, Foxhunting Life quoted Equine Ink: The Historic Top Hat

I may have brought up this topic a time or two before. [Archives]

Stay safe. Stay sane.

Email from the Moon, Landing Day, Fiction

Dear Laura:

Well, I’ve experienced my first Landing Day here on the moon. It was intense.

It’s a much bigger deal up here than it is down there, as you can imagine. Does anyone on earth even bother to remember what happened on July 20, 1969?

We do. I can tell you. At 20:17 UTC, the whole place stops. Doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’re doing. If you are on the moon at that moment, you pause to think about what we, as humans, have accomplished.

The Tranquility Base History Center stages a live landing of the Apollo Lunar Module. Crowds gather in the indoor viewing areas. A tricked-out hopper flies in. The loudspeaker plays the radio communication.

In the normal course of things, when I when see the mock-up of the LM inside the History Center, it reminds me of a line from an old movie. ‘You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.’

Then you see a very convincing repro dropping out of the sky. It’s hard not to be awed.

We copy you down, Eagle. I get chills.

Houston, Tranquility Base here. I’m not crying; you’re crying

The Eagle has landed. The crowd roars.

Go ahead, read this and tell me you are not amazed, NASA: Apollo Expeditions to the Moon, CHAPTER 11.4

One thing you might not expect, up here, we are really big on celebrating Collins. You know the guy who DIDN’T get to walk on the moon. He made the trip and then got to stay in orbit.

Life on the moon is impossible without teamwork. You rely on other people to keep you alive. Every component of a team is important. We also serve who sit and circle.

“In his autobiography he wrote ‘this venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two’ “. Wiki: Michael Collins (astronaut)

Rock on, Dude!

Yours from the Lunar Landing site,

~~~ curtain~~~

Hitting The Bricks, Walk Report, Splash of Color Dash Virtual 5K

Fit To Ride

Awareness of the outside world. “A portion of the proceeds going to support Old Friends Equine.” BreyerFest Blog: Splash of Color Dash!

In other news, the Olympics starts today. Can’t say that I think it’s the best choice. Then again, it’s easy for me to sit at home and shake my finger. NBC Olympics: Equestrian Schedule & NBC Sports: How to Watch Tokyo Olympics Equestrian: TV & Live Streaming Schedule, Yetzer.

The Virtual Walk
Splash of Color Dash, RunSignUp, Photo
BreyerFest 2021 Virtual 5K
Overton Park, Mountain Brook AL
Date, Official – Sunday, July 18, 2021
Date, Me – Friday, July 16, 2021

Placing – Well, it’s like this. If you wanted to be considered for awards, you did the walk on Sunday with the official app. If you wanted to do it another day, here’s your medal, enjoy. Last year, I was 97th out of 127. Awards aren’t a consideration when one is walking in a running event. Plus, I didn’t want to walk over the weekend. I walked on Friday, so it was at least during BreyerFest. [Gaelic Gallop]

Time – I did use a GSP. I did track my time. Since I didn’t file an official time, I’m using this as an exercise in letting go. I walked. I finished. What does it matter what the numbers were? They were slow, I can promise that. My time? I had a good one.

The goofy look is me concentrating on aiming the phone down to include the bib. I considered trimming my face from the photo. Weight isn’t the only reason we are embarrassed to see ourselves. “Our vanity is no longer enough of a reason to avoid the camera.” So You’re Feeling Too Fat to Be Photographed…

I used a GPS mostly to do the lap counting. The path is 2/10 of a mile. No way was I going to count that high without dropping a lap. This way, I simply kept walking until the phone said stop.

The IRL Walk

Scenic pocket park with a brick-lined 2/10-mile walking trail. Off to the left is the playground, which I did not photograph because kids & privacy.

I had company for part of the walk (waves hi!). Forgot to take picture.

The walk was surprisingly easy. Maybe I’m in better shape. Company, and the anticipation of company, definitely helped. A busy park gave me things to look at. Mostly, I suspect the small loop was easier mentally. No feeling of, ‘I have to walk ALL THE WAY AROUND again.’ Just toodle up here, circle around, toodle down there. There was a slight slope, but it didn’t really figure.

Stay safe. Stay sane.

My Non-Virtual Life, Weather Update

Riding Journal

Awareness of the outside world. Wildfires in the western US. Terrible floods in Europe and China. Extreme heat everywhere. If only we’d had warning.

tldr: Amount of rain up; amount of riding down.

Riding when the shrubbery is wet.

Rain. So much rain.

We’ve had gully washers.

This is a walk in a local park *after* the flood had subsided. This was NOT us. When we have big rain, it makes a mess and then goes away, draining down the hill, taking our driveway gravel with it.

We’ve had days of rain. Days and days and days. Even a light rain day means heavy cloud, which means no sun, which means no drying time. The sweltering Southern summer sun is usually at least good for this.

We’ve had thunderstorms.

My mother was worrying – as mothers do – about storms in my area. I reassured her that afternoon thunderstorms are a standard feature of summer.

That was a few weeks ago.

Standard summer storm pattern. Show up on radar. Blow in. Go boom. Blow out. Get on with your life.

Lately the storms have been unsettled. Unpredictable. Blowing up from nowhere and then disappearing. Wrecks havoc on outdoor planning.

Why all this weather talk?

We don’t have the footing for these conditions. We haven’t ridden in days. Not even a quiet walk around the field. Rodney hikes up his skirts, minces along, and spends the entire walk going Eww, Eww, Eww. After a while, the level of annoyance grinds me down. Usually by that time, the ground has started to dry out. Now, not so much.

He has a point. Footing is terrible. I don’t walk in it. [Little Walking]


I would have more sympathy for Mr. Princess Paws if I didn’t get to watch him canter downhill in the mud for breakfast. Canter. Downhill. In mud.


We could go somewhere with footing, but then you have the storm factor. Don’t want to get caught in the middle of an XC field during a thunderstorm.

I’m not whining. Okay, I’m whining a little. We had finally (finally, finally) gotten to the point where we could actually ride our horses. Now this.

The good news. Our temps have been ridiculously low for summer. It’s still hot & sweaty out, but not the incapacitating oven that summer around here usually is. [Summer Routine]

… and probably will be soon.

… and then I’ll complain about the heat and the hard ground.

Stay safe. Stay sane.