By the Numbers

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It doesn’t happen very often any more, but an on-deck rider in the ring where I was judging last Sunday showed up without a bridle number. Thus, I couldn’t let her ride (and technically she could have been eliminated, according to USEF Rule Book DR 121.11, which requires a number any time a horse is being exercised or ridden). Since it had been raining hard, she had the benefit of the doubt that the number could have melted off her bridle, but there was no time to get to the barn or show office for a replacement.

USEF rules mandate that a horse have a number attached any time he’s being exercised or ridden.

USEF rules mandate that a horse have a number attached any time he’s being exercised or ridden.

I then found out that this particular show had a rider-friendly alternative for such an emergency, a bag stashed with the main ring steward containing numbers left over from previous shows and a black marker. Result: instant number and the rider was able to go on and compete for a qualifying score.

The show was Dressage at Waterloo, run by Kevin Bradbury’s BCMI Corporation. Kevin is the most-wired show manager in the country, and his show office has a couple dozen computers and a variety of screens there for posting scores and schedules. A judge’s scribe enters the entire test – not just the scores but also all the comments – in a computer, and the score comes up instantly. The tests are printed out and are easy to read because there is no handwriting involved. Judges can give longer comments because they are dictating to someone typing rather than writing. Riders can get their scores right away onIine.

Another neat aspect of Kevin’s system is that any scratch or additional ride goes into the system from the office immediately and comes up on the schedule in the judge’s booth. If there is any delay, the times are immediately recalculated. It’s wonderfully easy to keep up with any changes that way.

One of the most frustrating things for a rider is to wait a long time for their score after the ride. It’s great to hear a score announced while the rider is still doing their bit check and see them hugging their horse and high-fiving their friends when they get a score that they hoped for. Instant scores – that’s rider-friendly!

I have my own solution to the lost-number dilemma when I show. I don’t want to take any chances about being away from the stall or trailer without a number. If the show issues two numbers, I put one on my bridle and one on the horse’s halter and twist that flexible metal clip around the leather so it won’t come off in fly-induced head tossing or gale-force winds. If the show issues only one number, that one goes on the bridle. I keep old numbers in my show bag and have my own black marker stashed there. I take an old number, double over the cardboard on the clip to the blank side, write on the correct new number, and twist it onto the halter ring. I have enough old numbers buried in the bottom of my show bag that I’m usually passing out spares to neighbors in the show barn if needed.

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