Judging in General and Shadbelly Colors

In Hunters, I know shadbellys are acceptable in evening classes and championships, but I was wondering, what was everyone’s take on shadbelly point colors and the shirts that are underneath? According to USEF rules, points and shirts must be canary yellow, with the points looking as an extension of the shirt. But more and more I am seeing all kinds of crazy colors and designes underneath those shadbellys. Is this allowed? Because according to USEF, it it not. So would colors with shadbellys be appropriate or looked down upon.

And also, i was just at the Morgan Gold Cup Horse Show, and I saw more horses showing in illegial bits that those showing in legal bits. In Hunters, a good 50% of these horses had curb shanks exceeding the legal limit, and the curb bits looked the size of a saddleseat curb.  And also in saddleseat i saw many horses showing in a sort of pelham bit, with 2 reins, but not 2 different bits. And many horses had strange curb bits going on, where they connected underneath the horses mouth, and were one U shaped shank, not 2 straight ones. Aren’t bits like this illegial? and why are judges not penalizing against this?


It just goes to show, the Morgan World is not at good at following USEF rules as they say they are.

15 Responses to Judging in General and Shadbelly Colors

  1. GraceMorgn says:

    The only parts of a formal hunt outfit that are dictated by rules are the color of the coat, pants and vest points. The points are an extension of the vest, not the shirt, and must be canary. There are no rules on the colors of the stock tie, which might look like a shirt while the jacket is on. They can be whatever color the rider wants and I have seen them in everything from red to paisley.

    As far as bits, I think it would help to see pictures of the bits, as to respond correctly.


  2. kflower says:

    The U shaped bit you are refering to is in fact illegal in western classes. however, Saddle seat horses must be shown in a full bridle consisting of a snaffle and curb bit, i believe that is close to the direct quote from the rule book. and the bit has been approved by several stewards in our area.

  3. j.a.b. says:

    were you out there measuring bits and checking the mouthpieces? Its awfully hard to do from ringside and be accurate.

  4. Flmorgan says:

    There are a wide variety of pelham bits that are legal to show in. The lengh of the shanks vary. Kimmerwicks are also legal as well as the double bridle with shorter shanked curb. Of course hunting snaffles are legal as well as twisted moth piece snaffles etc. I personally don’t care the Shadebelly suits as being Hunter. Definatly should be conservative colors regardless of the rules which everyone should follow.

  5. colwilrin says:

    It is my personal preference to see hunt coats rather than shadbellys. IMO, they are a fad that is thankfully on the way out. If worn, they should be of conservative and traditional colors. Adding loud colors is putting one faux pas on top of another. Much like what irridescent silk day coats were to the 80′s and 90′s…a fad taken too far.

    As for bits, I agree with jab. Unless you are measuring shanks and dropping bits in a class it is difficult to see from the rail exactly what is in a horse’s mouth. If you feel that a bit is illegal, you may want to tell the person. If that doesn’t work, there is always the option of filing a protest and having the steward check it out.

    Sometimes people don’t know something is illegal and appreciate the info so they won’t be DQ’d in the class. It has been my experience that it is more common to see gross violations by people who are just starting to show and don’t know the rules, or how to find them. A gentle and kind reminder can be really helpful to encourage new people to learn more and come into compliance with the rules.

  6. alyssaboohbear says:

    i was not measuring shanks, but at the Gold Cup show, the box seats are railside and the horse is right next to you. being a hunter rider, i know the difference between an acceptable hunter curb and a non acceptable one.

    and as for the shadbellys, i think they are appropriate for championships, because they complete the formal look you are going for, and as for stock ties, you still have to wear a shirt underneath, the stock tie will not totally cover the v neck of your shadbelly. so many colors are not being used.

    the reason i asked was because i wanted to have a purple stock tie, light purple, with plaid blue and purple points. My trainer told me that it was not allowed, while i have seen points and stockties in every color of the rainbow, some not even solid colors, like black and orange.

  7. leslie says:

    What’s the limit on curb shanks in hunter classes? This is all I found in the USEF rule book:

    “If a full bridle is used, it must be of hunt style and excessive length of curb
    shank will be penalized.”

    As for formal hunter attire:

    “Recommended formal attire consists of a hunter shadbelly with buff or canary breeches, stock tie, canary vest, top hat and hunt boots.”

    It does just say recommended, not required. I’ve seen riders at some of the big hunter/jumper shows wearing vests in colors other than yellow, and they’re much bigger sticklers for tradition on that circuit. The vests don’t bother me, especially compared to some of the faux pas that show up in the Morgan hunter ring (Black breeches? White hunt coats? Really??)

    But I am a boring traditionalist.

  8. alyssaboohbear says:

    i’m pretty sure its 3 inches, because curb shanks are sold in 3 inches and smaller, than jump to 6 or 7 inches.

  9. colwilrin says:

    Dover saddlery has a selection of hunt curbs with 4 and 5 inch shanks as well. Some are listed in metric 11-13 cm.

    Leslie, as another boring traditionalist (I actually prefer to refer to it as having classically good taste!) being legal doesn’t make something less tacky. IMO those coloring up the shadbelly will look back at photos in 10 years and wish someone had stopped them. I also agree with the black breeches and bright/light hunt coats as being a faux pas…much like dyed to match western hats on anyone over the age of 17. Legal…but not correct

    Another note on the shadbelly. It should never be made in anything above a size 6. Not a flattering look for a mature or average/plus figure.

  10. j.a.b. says:

    I haven’t looked at the rule book lately, but assuming that Leslie did for her post it just reinforces the fact that many of the rules are more open or vague then people realize. Wording like “excessive length” and “recommended” are not the same as stating a specific length or saying required/prohibited etc. It does get a bit confusing.

    I personally can’t stand shadbellies in the show ring. They, like white breeches, are a dressage outfit, not a hunter pleasure outfit. Many trainers don’t even wear them. However, if you’re going to wear it with colors be careful. Most judges won’t care but there are some judges (I know of one specifically that gets used a lot but won’t mention names) that are very traditional and will refuse to use someone wearing a colorful shadbelly even if it is legal, regardless if it is a pleasure or equitation class. The person in mind flips out over brass buttons. Since I don’t wear one I forget now if it’s required (in this person’s mind) or prohibited, I think prohibited.

    I know of another popular judge who does not like the bright colored hunt shirts. Knowing these things I dress to their preferences when I show in front of them.

    While its nice to brighten up our outfits and have fun things its smart to look to the top riders/trainers in that division and take your que from them.

    By the way, I saw those rounded bits at Bowman Harness recently, they developed them with Lynn Peeples. I knew they were used for In Hand but was shocked to learn they were being used under saddle too. I had intended to watch at Gold Cup since I knew some of the folks there were the ones who were buying them, but sadly I completely forgot about it. The reasons stated by Bowman, as relayed to them by their trainer customers, was it is nice for the new/amateur rider who is unsteady with their hands, it doesn’t pull on the horse’s face as much. I find it an interesting, and legal (in certain divisions) concept.

    BTW, if you ever have the chance to attend an AMHA convention they usually have a judge’s school type seminar that they offer. This is very enlightening for the non-judge to attend. It gives you an idea of what they are looking for as well as the realities of what it is like center ring. It is a whole different view then the one most of us have from ringside. This is also a great opportunity to ask experienced judges questions like how do you feel about colored shirts and can you clarify the rules on bits etc.

  11. leslie says:

    The wording in the rulebook is really vague and inconsistent. For example, in the park harness specifications:

    “A full bridle (curb bit and bridoon) will be proper.”

    And for English and Classic:

    “A flat, English style saddle and a full bridle (curb bit and bridoon)
    should be used.”

    Both of those sound like recommendations, not rules. And why is it worded differently? I don’t think that we have an overwhelming problem with improper bridles in the saddle seat division, but this popped out at me while I was scrolling through the rule book. Why wouldn’t it just say, “Horses in this section must be shown in a full bridle”? Or can you actually legally trot into a saddle seat class with whatever bit you want?

    I’ll definitely plan on attending the judge’s seminar when the convention is here in Lexington. Sounds interesting.

  12. colwilrin says:

    Technically, the language suggests that you “could” ride in with a different bit/saddle…but the language also doesn’t prevent the judge from heavily penalizing someone who did.

    I remember back a few years there was great discussion about words such as “may” “should” “must”…and what the true meaning was in terms of penalty, disqualification. If you have a rule book handy, check if there is a section which defines terms used in the rules…it may clarify the matter.

    Rules forums are great places to discuss this stuff as well. They are held at Regional shows.

  13. IED says:

    The rules on shadbellys are a bit foggy for me right now, since the last time I looked at them was in 2006. (Last time I showed with one too – in my not size 6 body, and it looked fine.) I used to LOVE to show in a shadbelly at any opportunity (what can I say… I had a shad to wear and I was SOOO excited about it!) but now I think they should be reserved for the most formal of occasions – that is to say, Championship night at the Grand National or what have you. I don’t like seeing them during the day, regardless of whether or not it is a championship class. I think it lends another rung of formality and excitement to a big Championship class at night. That’s just my own weird opinion on it though :) I don’t even own a shadbelly anymore – I just wear my hunt coats.

    I actually kind of like the colored stock ties and points – yeah the white and canary is traditional, and that’s great, but it’s also kind of boring. If we all had to wear white hunt shirts and navy blue coats with tan breeches it would be awfully boring, too. A friend of mine in the barn did something quite tasteful with her shadbelly – fawn colored breeches and a burgundy and black paisley sort of mix stock tie and points that looked utterly divine on her medium chestnut mare. There is a picture of them that I see floating around every now and then and the entire effect is really gorgeous. It adds to the picture wonderfully and doesn’t detract in the least. (For what it’s worth, she got her highest World placing ever with that mare wearing that outfit – I’m not saying her outfit did that for her, but I don’t think it hurt.)

    I really love the variety of hunt coats, shirts, and breeches that people have been wearing these past couple of years. The shirts are fun, the coats… well, I still like tasteful coats (not a fan of the white [really? around horses?!], really light blue [aqua colored almost - my trainer has a great lighter blue that I adore], or mustard yellow so much) and I like the colored breeches (as long as they’re not blue – for some reason that drives me NUTS). I think it still has to be tasteful while being interesting and trendy. I think the hunters would be a lot more of a yawnfest without the interesting colors to change it up. However, a good hunt outfit should perhaps make the judge look twice, but not in consternation. Even though I’m just a railbird, I’ll admit to looking at a horse more than once because his or her rider had a really neat shirt or breech/coat combination.

  14. IED says:

    Also, did anyone ever figure out what the “legal” limit of curb shank is, or is it just “excessive curb shank length to be penalized”? Curb shanks come in a huge variety of lengths… from an inch to like 11 inches and everywhere in between. They don’t just stop at 3 inches then jump to 7 inches. Incidentally, a 3″ shank isn’t all that long; if I had to guess I’d say the majority of hunters probably wear a 4-6″ curb shank, with 4″ being on the smaller side. I poked around a little on Dover, SStack and a couple of other sites to see the median length and that seems to be about right.

  15. Jennifer says:

    I did see the horse I believe you were referring too and it does use a saddleseat curb of 7″. Since the horses that win have more motion than most Classic pleasure horses, maybe it is only fitting.
    Jennifer (who had a fabulous fun time at the Michigan All Morgan)

Leave a Reply