Saluting (Or Not)

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It never fails to surprise me when a rider forgets to take the reins in one hand during the first or last halt in a dressage test. Seems it should be easy to remember, but I guess it’s not.

Credit: Dropping one hand from the reins is required during a salute.

Credit: Dropping one hand from the reins is required during a salute.

Sometimes when I’m judging this might not happen for several months, and then it suddenly occurs a couple times in a weekend, as it did last week.It’s just not with newbies at Intro or Training Levels, as you might expect, but has happened with me at even Second and Third Levels.I suspect it’s due to nerves, with the rider trying to keep the horse motionless with both hands on the reins, but I also think sometimes the rider just forgets.

(The USEF Rule Book specifies, in Rule DR 122.2: “At the salute riders must take the reins in one hand. All riders shall let one arm drop loosely along his/her body and then incline his/her head in a slight bow.”)

When it happens, I am agog for a moment and then wrestling in the folds of my scarf to find my whistle.The poor rider disappears even more into her fog because she hasn’t even made it much past X and is being whistled for an error.When I tell riders they forgot to salute, they usually look at me like I’m nuts.I wonder what’s going through their heads:“Of course I can’t let go if the reins” or “I forgot?Really?” or “Salute. What salute? I have to salute?”I always think: Bummer, it’s a minus 2 points right at the start and please, please keep heading in the right direction from now on so you don’t get a minus 4 points for a second error.

The one-handed salute is a very clear requirement. Moreover, there are so many pictures of salutes around – even the USDF logo is a salute, albeit an old-fashioned one with a top hat.I would think dropping a hand for the salute would be automatic.I’ve certainly made plenty of boo-boos in the tests I’ve ridden, but forgetting the salute has not been one of them.

The most elegant form of the usual salute, as far as I am concerned, is to simply drop the hand to the side.I have seen some rather elaborate salaams, with that hand wafting in circles from shoulder to hip.Then there is the version where the rider sticks the arm straight out from the side.At least that one is very clear, but if the horse is really crooked, the hand drop can be hard to see.In that case I will give the rider the benefit of the doubt.

Please note that if you are ever in a situation where there is more than one judge, you only salute the “president of the jury,” in other words the judge at C.You do not nod at a judge on the side which, however gracious, would be incorrect although not penalized as an error.If there are three, five or even seven judges, that could be a LOT of nodding.

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