No Billboards on Our Horses

This year’s forum for USEF judges was held last week in Florida, and it started with a review of rules. The rule that caused heated discussion among the judges involved logos on saddle pads.

Yes, this is a rule that has been around for several years, but it is mostly misunderstood by riders and often just plain ignored. However, judges are now being asked to take note of it. Many judges are balking because they just have too much else to do in watching the horse and rider without policing saddle pad logos as well.

The rule is found in the USEF Rulebook, DR 120.1:

“When present in the competition area and during prize-giving ceremonies, and when sponsorship is permitted in accordance with GR1306, the name and/or logo of the individual’s sponsor(s) may appear on a surface area not exceeding 200 cm squared on each side of the saddle cloth. Breed logos (for horses registered with that breed), national flags (for citizens of that country), riding club/business/farm names or logos (used with permission of riding club/farm/business owner) and USEF or USDF names or logos (used with permission of USEF or USDF, respectively) are also permitted and must have the same specifications as sponsor logos. No other advertisement or publicity is permitted on saddle cloths or horses.”

Let’s start with size. How big is 200cm squared in inches? It’s about 31 square inches. (By comparison, a logo that is 7 inches wide by 4 inches high would be 28 square inches.) I guess that is going to keep our horses from resembling NASCAR race cars. There is also a logo rule for dress (so we don’t look like professional golfers?) but it hasn’t been mentioned as prominently recently as the saddle pad logo.

The general rule mentioned, GR 1306, defines professional/amateur status, and that is part of the problem. I mostly don’t know (and don’t care) whether a rider I’m judging is an amateur or professional. But amateurs can’t have a sponsor logo, unless it just happens to be a company owned by the amateur and, how would I know that? A breed logo is okay if it is the breed of the horse it is on, but am I supposed to match the logo with a brand? Or registration papers? I have no way of knowing whether a farm or club logo has been used by permission. Those are just a few permutations of the rule that are simply impossible for a judge to sort out, and ring stewards should face the same difficulty.

A rule change proposal is being suggested that would put the responsibility for a legal logo solely on the rider. That doesn’t address the issue that aspects of the rule are simply too complicated to sort out by the riders. The USDF has put a very useful explanation on its website–you need to log in as a member and then go to eTrak or put “logo” in the search function to see it–but after reading it I still feel the rule could be hazardous to my competitive health. Thus, as a rider, my own solution will be to avoid showing with a saddle pad that has a logo.

I won the pad in the photo above a lot of years ago, and it went to a bunch of shows with me. But, since I no longer belong to that organization I just can’t be sure if I can show in it legally, and I don’t want to hassled about it as I leave the ring after a test. Organizations that use saddle pads for awards may be better off as well giving awards like the hat box on the right.






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