Are Headers in Walk/Trot and Classic Driving Classes Needed?

Have you ever watched a walk/trot class and have been on the edge of your seat, hoping and praying that an unruly horse doesn’t do something crazy to injure its rider or one of the other kids in the ring?  Unfortunately it seems like there is always at least one of these horses in every class, sometimes more.  Maybe it is because I am a mom, or maybe I am just over protective, but I often catch myself  thinking “What are these parents thinking?  Is a ribbon that important?”.   However, I do know from experience that a horse can act perfectly suitable at home but then turn into the “devil-incarnate” once it enters a show ring. 

MochaMom brought up a point in a comment to the post “Accident at a Show-What do YOU do?”.  She said “We wouldn’t need to allow headers in the Classic Pleasure Driving classes or in the Walk-Trot classes “for safety” if there weren’t so many who were over-mounted or over-hitched.”  I don’t know that I agree that headers would not be required if ill-behaved horses could somehow be banned in the walk/trot division.  Horses possess free-will and even the most “bomb-proof” mount (I personally don’t believe that a “bomb proof” horse exists) can spook at something new (like a carriage wreck on the other side of the gate; hopefully not something they see everyday).  Even when my daughter did ride in the walk/trot division and I was 99% certain her horse would behave for her, there was still that 1% of question in my mind.  I was very happy when they called for headers to enter the ring.  It seems like an “ounce of prevention” sort of thing.

I believe the same goes for the Classic Driving division.  One has to take into account the the drivers are also amateurs, many of which have very limited experience driving.  Something out of the ordinary can happen and an inexperienced driver may not know what to do.  I know I when I began driving I was always very happy to see my trainer come in and stand by my horse in the line up, even though, luckily, she didn’t have to help in anyway. 

So, I wonder what other people think:  If headers weren’t allowed in either class would that decrease the number of “problem” horses entering the class or would that just open up the possibility of more accidents and injury?

33 Responses to Are Headers in Walk/Trot and Classic Driving Classes Needed?

  1. Carole says:

    Personally, I hate to have a header at the head of my driving horses. The moment that someone “grabs” the lines or the horse….I the driver, have lost control. To have someone STANDING in FRONT of a carriage is sheer madness. Did you ever wonder where the term “got the shaft’ came from. If you rely on a header…you and your horse shouldn’t be in the ring. Driving horses must be taught to stand NOI MATTER what is happening around them. The driver must be bomb proof as well as the horse .A driver must make the choice instantly as to whether to move forward in an emergecy or to stand still. With someone on the ground…you , the driver cannot make that choice. Drivers used to carry a groom and the groom would be “put down” at the driver’s command….not standing in the front of the horse waiting to get the shaft. Just my humble thought.

    I believe that there are NOT enough really well trained horses out there….suitability of horse to rider or driver is what we a talking about here.. When my daughter was little she rode a Morgan x quarter horse sidesaddle. When she was about 8 she decided she wanted to go into the evening class of “Ladies sidesaddle.’ The class was filled with snorting arabs, saddlebreds and Morgans…I let her go, but stood by the gate ready to make a flying leap shold she need help. Before she went in I asked all the “ladies’ to watch out for her. Some of the answers were unbelievable.

    In the past woman rode “ladies horses” that were well trained. Sarah’s little horse “Candy’ did not pick up one lead in front of the judge. He called her up after the ribons were placed and said:
    “It has been way too long since I have seen a child on a horse that was suited to a child.”

    He then said. ” I could not give this child a ribbon because her horse did not pick up the right lead. Had the horse picked up the lead, this little girl would have won the class. She is the only female out here riding a horse that is suited for a child riding sidesaddle. We have moved away from horsemanship into only
    show horses. Please have this little girl take a victoy lap.”

    Sarah had no idea what was going on, but she cantered around the ring to a standing ovation.

    That judge was never asked back.

  2. erikarose says:

    I didn’t get to read all of Carole’s post as I am in a hurry, but will finish when I return.

    With a nephew who is in the making for a walk/trotter in a year or two I wouldn’t imagine not having a header for him. Horses have a will of their own and if they want to back up or walk around they will with a tiny kid on their backs, or do what I like to call the “pee pee dance” (our poor guy has to be ready way before the class so we can leave him alone long enough to pee before he gets in the ring or he will almost trot in place lol). Our little gelding is perfectly suited to the walk/trot division, but like Black Eye Beth said, things can happen outside of the ring to startle the most even keeled animals. Children are only capable of handling certain situations to a certain extent, I wouldn’t want to be the one to endanger a child.

    As for headers in Classic. Thank god they are allowing professionals in to do that!! My mom is very very new to driving and showing, and has a great gelding to show in the Classic Division. This seems to be the division novice drivers enter, and that scares me enough knowing my mom is in there. I don’t see why you would have someone head your horse that doesn’t know the horse personally or been instructed on how to do so without interfering. Driving horses need an extra touch of precaution to start with (blinkers/complicated harness/buggy), and I have seen some horrific accidents with novices and professionals. I think having the header in the class even if all they do is stand in front of the horse with a plastic wrapper to keep its attention is very needed. Sometimes seeing a person makes all the difference when they have those blinkers on.

  3. erikarose says:

    Ok, so I have a few more minutes to spare and read Carole’s comment.

    Carole, you said “The driver must be bomb proof as well as the horse” I understand that comment and wish it could be true. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but how do your propose we get new driver’s and teams into the ring then? It just doesn’t seem realistic, circumstance is one of the biggest factors with horses and people alike, so even if a driver and horse are a dead broke team at home, at their first show together they could be a complete and total mess. So without actually going to the shows and getting the experience how could they be considered “Bomb proof”.

    I also agree with Beth, there are predictable even animals but no such thing as bomb proof.

  4. Carole says:

    Excellent question…..You need to drive for a couple of years every other day with someone who really knows how to drive…It’s like getting your “learner’s permit’ with a car. Driving is the MOST DANGEROUS part of equine activity. To put untrained horses and drivers together in an arena is begging for an accident.

    I think the best annilogy(sp) of driving is…even if you can drive a car…(ie ride a horse) you still need to get a specil liscence for a motoer cycle.(ie driving)( I wish I could spell…but…old and the fingers and mind don’t mind.)

    I take my green horses to shows and don’t show them. I do that for at least a year. They get used to seeing everything without the pressure. IF the circus comes to town…I take them and park them and leave them in the trailer parked next to the circus tents. They go to the supermarket in the trailer and never get out. When we get home…they stand in the trailer for an hour or more. I trail ride them…..they go every where for at least a year before they go to a performance. The ones in training…just come along and do nothing.

    Remeber…my horses must walk through huge unpredictable groups of people on their way to the arena. They must trust me at all times. We have even gone up in an elevator and then had to come down…neat experience. I have to be boom proof and so do my horses. I teach them to STAND no matter what….

    Yes – I agree…little children on horses are at risk in an arena…so why do we do that….we don’t let little children drive cars or motorbikes

    Befor you think I am saying that we should not have walk -trot classes….we have to ask ourselves why will we let small children walk and trot but cannot trust the horses to stand in line…..horses must be able to stand. Standing is one of the most important lessons for the RIDER and horse to learn.

    Rember all of this is just my oppion. I don’t show but do performances in front of thousands of screaming people. The grand exit is usually with all the performers madly galloping, racing, trotting , roping ( Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show) around the rodeo grounds with the stands filled with people stopping and screaming. The horses that cannot take the pressure should not go. You can figure out the ones who can’t when you park them by the tigers cages or wind up in camel barns in Wyoming during a blizzard.

    You can do what you think is best…the horses are yours. If you are having fun and being as safe as you can…go for it.I think it takes a lot of time to train a very well broke horse.

    A very well broke horse can have lots of fire, but is wonderful to ride. Please enjoy your horse at your pleasure.

  5. Mocha Mom says:

    It’s great to see all of this commentary. I now realize that I miss-spoke when speaking about headers in the Classic Driving division. In the interest of honest dialogue I’m going to go out on a limb here. It’s not my intention to make anyone mad, I just happen to disagree. Perhaps we can all agree that the Morgan breed is versatile enough to include all of us, we just have to carefully choose where we belong.

    I don’t really think that there should be NO headers in the Classic Driving division; I just don’t think that they should be PROFESSIONALS. The Classic Division was originally intended to be an all-amateur division for those with the inclination to train and show their own horses, but it has evolved into a less-animated amateur Pleasure division. Let’s face it, a trainer will almost always do a better job than someone who has not devoted their life to training horses and someone thought that we needed to level the playing field for the do-it-yourselfers, not for the less-animated horses. (Perhaps someone would like to address that topic in another Post and see where we end up.)

    The problem is not the horses, as I agree that there is no such thing as a bombproof horse. The problem is with the drivers who have not spent enough time driving their horses to have the experience or self-confidence to deal with the potential disasters. As an amateur driver who has been driving and showing since I was 16, I admit that I am more vigilant in the ring when I know that there are inexperienced drivers and horses in the ring with me. But I accept that as part of the game. I also know that my both my horse and every other horse in the ring is unpredictable, but much like driving a car, I try to be aware of all that is going on around me in an effort to avoid trouble. Sometimes I have to make a choice. Sometimes it’s the wrong choice and I throw my horse off stride, but again, I accept that as part of the game. A more experienced driver will probably make the right choice and every time I enter the ring I get more experience.

    The same thinking might be applied to the Walk-Trot division. Those kids are obviously able to sit on a horse at a walk and trot. The problems usually occur on the rail when the horse does something (like trot a little faster or shy) that the rider doesn’t know how to deal with, similar to new car drivers. By the time the class lines up, headers are superfluous. To be really useful the headers would need to be in the ring while the class is on the rail. More time spent in the saddle at home would go a long way toward minimizing the problems and relieving their parents’ and grandparents’ anxiety.

  6. Carole says:

    You are so right….more time in the saddle and more time with the horse. Some of the very best horsemen and horses woman are the amateurs who train their own horses. In this day and age of the clock everyone is limated on time and you cannot teach a horse ar person by the clock. The most important thing is to be safe and have fun.

    Have fun! Be safe!


  7. Black Eye Beth says:

    As Erikarose pointed out, just because you can drive for hours at home doesn’t mean you are going encounter the same things at a show. Why is an ounce of prevention a bad thing?

    Also the horses that are in the classic division are driven by amateurs so I can’t see how having a professional trainer head them makes that horse any better than if a non-professional head them (unless you think the it is a political move so that the judge knows what trainer is associated with what horse. I figured that there are amateur shows for the do-it-yourselfers. (I feel another post question coming on…if you run with the “big dogs” vs specifically amateur shows)

    I have to admit that I will NEVER think that having a header come in for kids is a bad thing. No argument will change my mind. I just don’t think it is worth having a kid hurt because you can’t have a header in there during the line up to help them work through a problem. I don’t care if every horse is “bomb proof” and the kid is a “star” in the saddle, things just happen sometimes. If they are standing still there is a bigger chance of them going up and over. I even feel better when my daughter is in an Academy shows with horses that have been “around the world” a time or two and the trainer stands with her (even if the horse is standing perfectly still). Maybe it is a mom thing but the safety of my daughter far outweighs trying to prove that her horse is perfect. Maybe the walk/trot division is just a bad idea for the A rated shows to begin with (?)

  8. erikarose says:

    I am on the fence again, as usual since I have experiences in the ring training my own classic horse and showing a professionally trained horse. Horse shows are supposed to be fun for all to attend, but like any sport is competetive. I remember getting really PO’ed all the time when I was training my classic horse because I thought the placing was political, but now that I look back at the tapes I can plainly see that the other horses really did deserve better ribbons then I.

    It drives me nuts to see toned down pleasure horses in the classic division, as I think a classic horse is born to be a classic horse. The same way I think a hunter is born to be a hunter. But I also understand how a trainer might “bump up” a classic horse to pleasure for a year or two to get the horse experience before the amatuer takes over the reins. And I also see how a horse can be misidentified to fit in one divison, sometimes they start out as high headed big trotting creatures at a young age, and as they mature they tone everything down, much the same as people change as they mature.

    I have seen many many horses who will perk up and act like complete gentlemen for their trainers when they are heading, but try to pull some stunts with others. I think it really is all a matter of knowing the horse you are heading. Politics might have something to do with it, who really knows though. Maybe I am just incredibly fortunate to have been around so many honest trainers and judges who would risk upsetting fellow peers to pin the amatuer trained horse over the professional trained horse as long as it deserves the class. I also am a stickler for presentation, if I were judging a class and it was a tie between two horses, I would most certainly choose the horse who’s owner/groom/trainer took the time to make that horse sparkle from head to toe. From my experience that is something that amateur O/T/S horses tend to lack in comparisson to the formally trained horses. Now I’m not saying that is always the case, and maybe it is just the shows that I go to or am seeing things, but I admit that is how I used to be. It is a horse show after all, clean, neat, tidy, perfect presentation should always be important.

  9. Mocha Mom says:

    I don’t think that having headers in the Walk-Trot classes is a bad thing, I just think it’s too little, too late. I am in favor of “an ounce of prevention.” After all, I vaccinate my kids, my horses, and my dogs. I exercise and try to eat right. And, I WEAR A HELMET WHEN I RIDE. If we are going to promote safety in the Walk-Trot classes, why is there so much opposition to an attempt to require helmets for kids?

  10. Black Eye Beth says:

    That is an EXCELLENT question! That really doesn’t make much sense does it. Why be safe with a header but then not have kids wear helmets? Very good point.

  11. learning says:

    I have been to shows where the walk/trot kids had their trainers in the ring in the middle throughout the whole class. They are not allowed to coach but they are there in case of something happening. As for myself I think all walk/trot kids should have to wear helmets regardless of their style of riding. Although from what I have seen it is usually the saddleseat kids that come flying off their horses.

  12. jyn says:

    I respectfully disagree with that statement. I have been to hundreds of horseshows and it is the little kids riding hunt who I see flying off the most. The forward saddle and short stirrups seem to factor in. Most of the saddleseat kids I have seen ride in walk trot are pretty polished little riders.

  13. Scottfield03 says:

    I absolutely, unequivocally think that ALL walk and trotters should have to wear helmets. So why don’t I make my students? I leave that decision up to the parents, but I do speculate that the kids who show in hard hats are often times unfairly punished or labeled “beginners.” I think it should be a black and white rule across the board for all divisions. And I don’t feel like and one division is safer than another, and while I do think some of your best walk/trotters come from the saddleseat division, I also think that division sees the most “overmounting.”

  14. Stacy says:

    I think professional headers are necessary in classic! The header is an important person should something go badly. What if they horse next to you gets in trouble…is your header capable of getting you out of harm’s way while your horse can’t see it’s flailing neighbor due to it’s blinders? What about the header that goes at the horse to grab at it? They scare it backwards and the mayhem ensues. All too often, before this rule was changed, whatever amatuer was standing around and dressed decently went in the ring…this is a recipe for disaster, IMO. The header exists as a safety measure and to pass that responsibility on to someone that happens to be dressed appropriatly is foolish. Harness accidents are not something to be taken lightly and a loose horse with a buggy attached is a deadly weapon. If someone falls off and the horse is loose, it can see where it is going and it has nothing trailing to hit things. Harness horses almost always panic and run blindly when loose. IMO, anything we can possibly do to prevent this is not only prudent, but an obligation.

  15. anonymous says:

    In my opinion I really don’t think that it matters if a professional or an amateur is heading a horse. I don’t think they should be there in the first place. If there is a freaky horse in the line up and your horse needs to get out of the way, the driver should not have to worry about running over his/her header, they should be able to focus on just getting out of the way and trotting off to a safer place, having random people on the ground is a recipe for disaster for THEM….also, if something happens and a horse spooks or wants to go tearing off, the header WILL NOT matter, these are not dogs people, they are 1,200 pound animals of flight, they ain’t gonna care about your 145 pound “professional” header.

    If your horse can’t stand still in the ring, I agree with Carol, don’t send the thing in….and if you are so concerned with your walk trot riders in the line up, why would you send them on the rail at a trot anyway, if you can’t trust a horse to carry your 6 year old safely to the middle of the ring and HALT, then, pardon me but, why are you letting them ride the beast????

  16. colwilrin says:

    I disagree, especially with the driving.

    Those who were at New England 2 or 3 years ago may remember a horse running loose during a driving class after the driver came out of the buggy. The other drivers smartly came to the middle…and trainers were jumping in to head the horses. The free horse ran into the middle (pulling the buggy behind) and crashed into one of the lined up exhibitors. The professional handler, a very talented harness trainer…but only about 5’7″…expertly distracted the horse in such a way that it stood there…taking the hit…and the driver was saved injury.

    The show atmosphere is very different from home. We all hope the horses are safe ones…but when in line up, things can get a bit weird. As the judges walk the line, exhuberent fans whistle, yell, clap and stomp. Saddleseat and driving horses are trained to “turn it on” for such auditory stimulation…their own desire to do this is what makes them so successful in their jobs. Even the safest of horses may get a bit antsy, and it is safer to have an experienced handler there “just in case” the less experienced rider/driver panics or makes a wrong choice in handling the situation.

    These handlers often ARE able to distract or control a 1200 lb horse’s flight instinct but are also smart enough to know when to get out of the way and let the horse circle to relax.

  17. anonymous says:

    I guess my problem is this….a CLASSIC horse should not be a freak in the ring. There should not be a need for a header in a CLASSIC class. If a horse is suitable only for an amateur, it should learn to stand still. These are also Morgans, they can stand still, and they are CLASSIC, they aren’t park horses, they are being judged on suitability and MANNERS. tearing around the ring and flipping over backwards in the lineup does not constitute a well trained or well mannered horse.

    Don’t mean to offend anyone. I’m just saying that we should pay more attention to better training to attain that blue ribbon, rather than forcing a horse into a situation where he is uncomfortable but oh so beautiful when he makes that deer in the headlights, scared to death victory pass…..

  18. anonymous says:

    colwilrin: “Saddleseat and driving horses are trained to “turn it on” for such auditory stimulation…their own desire to do this is what makes them so successful in their jobs.”

    This is my pet peeve. These horses are not trained to “turn it on”….They are kept in their stalls for 23 hours a day, fed a high protein diet and never left to be horses…OFCOURSE they are going to “turn it on” as you say when they are stimulated with noise, it’s what horses do.

    I like an awesome show horse just as much as the next person, I love it when they perk up and trot out, but don’t kid yourself…they are responding not because they are “trained” to, but because they are responding to a stimulous that is making their synapses scan for reason to flee….its basic biology of the horse

  19. colwilrin says:

    I agree that in the Classic division, manners are key. However, a little extra safety can’t hurt. What is the harm in a handler standing in front of a horse as a precaution. 14 of 15 horses in the class may be able to stand still without any help, but if the 15th suddenly has a meltdown everyone there is going to need a header for safety. The pros know how to jump out of a buggy and save the day…but the amateurs, who don’t work with young inexperienced horses, don’t always have the knowledge to do that safely.

    If the concern is politics…that is moot…the judges certainly recognize the trainers as they walk down the chute next to the entry as it comes in the ring. Also most judges are in our breed, so they read the trade publications and are usually familiar with which amateur belongs to what trainer.

    Also, your impression of saddleseat training is not exactly my experience with saddleseat horses. Perhaps I am the anomaly. When I had mine, much to the shagrin of my blacksmith, they were turned out almost every day…and I would often trail ride them during show season with a friend of mine and her 3-gaited show Saddlebred.

    Both horses loved to turn it on in the ring, and were both safe and suitable for kids. They both also gained about another 4 inches of motion and a snorty attitude as their feet touched an in-ramp. This wasn’t because of sensory deprivation, nor a feed buzz, they just really loved to show.

    Mine however, did tend to want to leave the line when the clapping started…seemed he always thought that first place was his ribbon to claim. It wouldn’t take much for that to startle a walk-trot rider…and if the novice rider accidently snatched the curb rein as a reaction, rather than just saying “whoa”…well…that would be a situation where an experienced header could be helpful, if just to remind the kid to release and say “whoa”.

    I just don’t understand what is wrong with having a safety net in the ring in case something happens.

  20. anonymous says:

    There is nothing wrong with safety. I am asking what is wrong with training?

  21. CRF says:

    Nothing is wrong with the training. You cannot drill these horses to stand still, occasionally even the safest horse that has never freaked in his life will freak…they are unpredictable animals. No matter how much you train them you can never try and predict them, especially in a ring full of amateurs. They need headers, you see time and again drivers in the classic reverse wonky and the header is the one that sorts it out, preventing a problem with the next horse in the line up. As for Walk trot horses I totally think they should have headers, the kids are so young it is a huge experience for them and for nothing else I think it is great for moral support. It can be kinda scary to sit there all alone for a young child. The Majority of headers don’t even interfear, so in my opinion I do not think we need to eleminate headers in these divisions. It would perhaps create far more problems.

  22. susan overstreet says:


    I am in agreement with you all the way. I absolutely support headers in walk/trot and at a minimum, Junior Classic P.D.


  23. kad says:

    If car manufacturers made a “perfectly safe car” would you want them to remove the seat belts? I know I wouldn’t -especially if I had a child in the car!
    Don’t discount the fact that even a “well trained” horse is capable of being freightened. It simply is not possible to train ALL of the fear from the horse.
    An ounce of pervention is worth WAY more than a pound of cure in this case. If there is a way to avoid a potentially horrible accident/injury why wouldn’t you?
    Let them in!

  24. 2girlsmom says:

    I would like to agree with headers in the ring for walk-trot especially. I am the mom of a 7yr old walk jog child. Our horse is a good boy, but he is still a horse. A perfect example of when nothing could have been something was at a local show. Our walk jog classes allow headers. My daughters horse, as they were leaving the ring, decided to trot rather than jog. My daughter started to post. If the header was not there to stop them they could have been hurt or hurt someone else. Neither the horse or the kid were being “bad” just being a horse and a kid. I think a little extra safety for our kids goes a long way. As for a pleasure driving horse I think the same thing a little extra safety is just a good idea. Even when we are talking about a professional driver. It just makes sense.

  25. I think to make everyone feel safer about the classic classes, we need to look to the judges to hold the standards. A classic horse shouldnt (in theory) need that extra safety net, but until we can have well mannered classic horses (not dulled down pleasure/park horses) in the classes, then there will always be a need for headers. The judges need to not place the unmannerly horses that require the extra assistance, and bump up the well behaved animals that are truly classic horses. But on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with having those headers in there just in case things go wonky. As long as they don’t interfere with the riders/horses then I see no harm with being there just in case.

  26. PS. things can go so wrong so fast when there is a horse and cart involved, i think headers in driving classes are absolutely necessary no matter who the driver is.

  27. shortiedu says:

    I read back about the post about the accident at New England in a Classic Driving Class. I absolutely remember proffesional trainers literally salvaging the safety of the exhibitors left in the arena. I am a firm believer in having competant headers of any driving horse. Things just happen. This year at Nationals, in two separeate carriage classes, different horses, almost a buggy wreck in the line of those large classes because for whatever reason those carriage horses were tired of standing still. Now in carriage, the header is optional, and it was clearly evident that there were near disasters averted because of our competant ringmaster came right to the situation and walked the horse off and another turned a horse around straight so it didn’t jacknife.

    Walk Trot, while I grew up in an era that our walk trot horses were just so dead broke and nobody bothered. Today I see no harm at all to have headers. Should headers be required, probably not, I see a local trainer often walk out there with 5 kids in the ring, and only choose to stand in front of one that might need a friend, the others she doens’t even worry about. The point at which I see the biggest need for headers is on the way out, most horses act up at this point, some might like to take off towards the out gate, some get excited because another kid suddenly wizzes by them on the way out, but I certainly see the safety need.


  28. lulu says:

    thats not fair to say that saddleseat horses are kept in their stall twenty three hours a day and fed high protein diets. My 8 year old gelding was turned out daily from eight till five and was fed 4 flakes of hay a day and some grain, and he was the most laid back horse during the normal times, little kids would even use him for showmanship. But when he got ridden into the ring he fired up. Its not because he was stall bound all the time, its just the way he was.

  29. Flmorgan says:

    I think Headers are needed in both classes for safety reasons. I’ve seen some very dangerous situations in both classes. Many horses just don’t like to stand in the line up when the crowd starts cheering.

  30. jyn says:

    I agree totally with kad. You are right on. And I know some amazing park horse world champions who were either trail ridden in the winter or turned out a lot. It is sad to see these ongoing misrepresentaions of professional training methods of our Morgans appear here. All I can say to the poster is you are wrong. And there are amatuer owned and trained classes just for you where professioanls are not allowed. Classic morgans have the right to be shown properly and safely with professional assistance. Thats what the rules and the majority of the Morgan breed want. And who wouldnt want children to have a professional attend to them in a show ring? It is just good horse sense.

  31. valiantfarm says:

    As the father of a walk-trotter, and the long time owner of an amateur trained classic driving horse, I have found this discussion very interesting. Sorry to be a late-comer to this thread, but my comments are as follows:

    I am completely in favor of having headers in the classic division. Headers are in the ring to ensure safety, and 95% of the time they are not needed (thankfully). Its the chance of the other 5% of the time that makes me enter the ring to head my wife’s horse every time. We’ve got way too much time, money, and emotional investment in our horse to risk an accident. Yes there are bad actors in the line-up, and I think they should be tolerated. The bad-actors need their ring time to improve, and you really can’t reproduce that scenario at home. A good judge will pin a horse down for poor manners in the line up, so what’s the big deal?

    I’m also in favor of having professionals as headers in the classic driving division. In the days when there were only amatuer headers allowed in the ring we used to win a lot, but the line-up was always a very tense time. I can remember one big class out in OKC in those days when I looked down the line-up and at least half of the amateur headers were tugging on the bits, and really getting the horses PO’ed. Same year in OKC I watched an amatuer take such a strong hold on a horse that it flipped itself over in the line-up. It was too bad as the horse had a great go and really didn’t need to have a hand on it in the line-up. That header cost the horse what should have been a first or second. Now that we have pro’s in the ring, it’s much safer. The classes are more competitive (horses don’t “fault out” in the line-up as much), and I like that. I’d rather see my horse lose to a better horse than win because some human screwed it up.

    Pro’s and Politics…How many times have you come out of the ring and listened to somebody whining about politics when they got the ribbon they deserved? I’ve bitten my tongue so hard it’s nearly come off. Yes politics happens, but not nearly with the frequency that people claim. Just once, I’d like to say “Your horse got what it deserved, stop whining and start training”.

    On to walk-trot…In my opinion this division should be about the kids having fun on horses, and not about who wins which ribbon. A big part of having fun in the ring comes in the line-up when the trainer or parent comes in. The kid feels safer, and the trainer/parent is boosting the kids confidence. I think the header in this division is more important for the psyche of the kid than safety, but am happy to have them in there for both reasons.

  32. Mocha Mom says:

    ValiantFarm makes good points, and I am persuaded to agree. However, if everyone is so much in favor of safety over all things, why is there so much opposition to wearing helmets?

  33. Jill says:

    I think that both the classic pleasure division and walk-trotters should have headers. Its more of a safety reason than anything else. I’m about to start driving my classic pl horse soon, and I sure as heck will want my trainer in there as my header. Sure, a classic pl horse should be perfectly mannered, but thats not always the case. People say that then they shouldnt be in the ring, but I dont think thats true. tons of them are very well mannered, but if the most mannered of horses can still spook or something. Most of the time its not even your horse that spooks, but another horse down the line that freaks out, which causes a chain reaction. With having a header there, they can help you out when something happens, that may not even be your fault. Now i’m not saying you should have just anybody as your header. It should be someone who knows what their know, and knows how to react in case of something happening.

    In our shows, for walk-trot, the headers must go into the ring with the riders, and i think thats a very good idea. In the ring, they can react more quickly if something happens, instead of having to open the gate, and dash to where ever the kid is. In one of out shows last year, one of the walk trotters fell off. The horse didn’t even cause the kid to fall off, she just did. the headers were there to quickly run to the girl and make sure she was okay, and to round up the lose horse. the other headers were also there to make sure their kids were okay. The funny thing is, the girl went on to win the class. And it was Eq.

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