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Rules question-"touring" the ring before showjumping

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    Rules question-"touring" the ring before showjumping

    So, yesterday I competed 3 horses at a local horse trials. On one horse (a young, spooky horse at his first event), I entered the ring at a canter to get him away from his friends and into the ring. I proceeded to CANTER through the combination without stopping, turn right around it (not very close to the jumps), head down the long side in medium canter where they then blew the whistle, and then I started my course shortly after the whistle. He was wonderful around the course and got a great experience.

    After my round, the judge called me over. She didn't eliminate me (which I appreciate), but told me (not very nicely) that I need to keep the rest of my horses down at the other end of the ring by the in gate before starting my courses. She said that even though I went through the start flags quickly after the whistle, I showed my horse the jumps by coming that far into the ring. I have a big problem with this...unless someone can tell me it is, in fact, illegal to get in the ring and canter past a few fences before starting.

    I am a professional who works with a lot of green horses that need confidence building experiences. I don't care what place they end goal is simply to give the horse a good experience so it can continue its eventing career. If I were to keep these greenies on a circle at the end, I wouldn't have them in front of my leg in a good quality canter, and I don't think they'd be thrilled about leaving the in gate. I didn't intentionally show the horse the jumps, but I did make sure I had a good, forward canter with the horse listening to my leg. I saw a lot of bad rides that could have been better had the rider gotten the horse forward before starting the course. I worry that if others got yelled at, they will start waiting for the whistle and then just head to the 1st fence with a bad canter...something I would never encourage my students to do.

    I am a little frustrated because I take a lot of students and horses to this event (and it isn't the first time I've had an experience like this). I'm wondering if I should contact the judge (I didn't talk to her much because I was still in the arena) or contact the event organizers and tell them my thoughts on this subject. I just wish BN events would not be treated like the Olympics and people would let us do what is best for these horses and their futures. Again, please let me know if this is an obvious case of breaking the rules and I will take these horses to jumper shows instead and stand corrected but still frustrated. Thanks for listening!

    I'm a newbie to eventing, so probably shouldn't post, but this was something I was a bit concerned about after reading the eventing rules as is sort of sounds like you aren't supposed to do much touring. Almost sounded like you only went by the ones you needed to. My interpretation, of course. In a former life, I showed rating jumpers and in my very humble and limited experience opinion, eventers seem to tour a bit less. I realize that jumper rules apply in the absence of something stated in the eventing rules and admit to not having read the "pure" jumper rule very carefully.

    My mare spooks at standards unless jumping the fence between them, so touring wouldn't help me anyway...but I will be interested in responses to this thread.

    BTW, I was at a trial in WI this weekend as well...
    "Fool! Don't you see now that I could have poisoned you a hundred times had I been able to live without you." Cleopatra VII


      That's a pretty common thing to do so I wouldn't feel bad. I defiantly did some "touring" at my last HT and no one said anything to me. Some courses are set up so if you don't "tour" a bit your warm up circle is super small and awkward. - Lets build your dream barn


        I think this is the same HT where my daughter was eliminated after SJ because her horse was wearing an ear bonnet. The judge didn't tell her she had been eliminated, so when riders were called back to the arena for pinning, the TD found her and told her about the elimination (she was expecting to have placed). Luckily I was able to catch up with the TD and ask her why my daughter had been eliminated, then was able to point out in the rulebook that ear bonnets are permitted in the jumping phases. Neither judge nor the TD knew the rules well! We were new to recognized HT at that point (first one), never had a trainer with us to give advice, so I didn't fill out an evaluation form after the event - didn't even know there were such things. We haven't been back to that HT since.
        "Another member of the Barefoot Eventers Clique"


          Touring is accepted

          Though many push it too far. Boyd Martin serpentined through the triple at Virginia Horse Center last month before starting his round. Show jumping was in that big coliseum, and the horses that went well either galloped in and started jumping pretty quick, or did a big tour like he did.

          Janet, what's your take?


            I ALWAYS tour the ring My guys are normally babies and so my normal MO is to go a full turn around the ring so they can get the layout. Never been told not to do it or gotten in any trouble for it. I have been to several events where they have taken longer to blow whistle because a horse was spooking. Most judges want everyone to have a successful time and realize that folks are on babies and why make it tougher.

            Hopefully the judge was just having a bad day.
            owner and friend of members of the Limping And Majestic Equine Society.


              I'm having trouble finding the exact rule in the book.

              It was my impression that you couldn't "show" a horse an obstacle, however you could circle around (past scary fences, as long as you kept going) until the bell, after which point you have to enter the start flags within 45.

              At events where the start/finish are a line that crosses the whole arena, as opposed to just in front of the first fence, I've seen people charged with stops when the judge buzzed them just before crossing the line and they still had to circle back to the first fence (in other words, they crossed the start line, but not in a place from where they could jump the first fence).

              I've also had the stewards ask us to circle at one end, warning us that the above could happen, but I never interpreted that as a USEA rule, rather a request to keep the show moving.

              I'm sure someone will pipe in with the actual rule soon.

              I understand your frustration, since the "showing obstacles" idea is subjective--some judges may be more tolerant than others. IMO (pure) jumper judges rarely enforce the rule at all. That said, I think we all care more about positive experience than placing with babies, but are still stuck having to follow the rules as interpreted by the judge/GJ on that day.


                It's very subjective. What one judge classes as showing a fence, another will call just running past.

                I've always thought and heard that you can't approach the fence directly (as if you were planning to jump it), but it's okay to go past on an angle or parallel to it.
                Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


                  I never thought of this before as a problem, but I haven't been to many events outside of my home-farm, when I was showing a few years back. However, with a plan to compete next month, I guess it's important.

                  Is there a reason why you couldn't speak to the judge or a ring steward prior to entering?


                    Original Poster

                    I have been competing in eventing for more than 15 years, after switching from hunter/jumpers. I have never been yelled at for doing this even though I have done it on most of the horses I ride (even the experienced ones) just to get them on my aids. When the 1st fence is away from the in gate and I am on a baby, I want to make sure they are willing to leave the other horses and get them going forward. They didn't blow the whistle right away, so I took the opportunity to make a very large courtesy circle (more of a figure 8). All they would've needed to do was blow the whistle sooner after I entered and I would have made less of a loop around. If this were a higher level than BN, I'd be more willing to accept the scolding, but this just bothered me. Thanks for everyone's opinions and experiences.


                      I too usually take a 'tour' and try to pass by anything that I think my horse might find suspect (usually it's the decorations and the judge!) but make sure we're looking purposeful and forward. Never been called on it. Be careful not to go through the flags first by mistake, but this sounds like a cranky judge.


                        I read the rules for showjumping, there is nothing about "touring" the ring, or a specified area the competitor must remain in before the bell, or a specified area the competitor must stay in after the bell but before the first fence.

                        You just have to make it over the first fence in 45 seconds post bell.

                        The stadium judge was wrong. Perhaps you can submit some sort of review to the organizers?



                          Yup. I have a spooky horse. Tour all the time. Never show a fence to the horse. Just try and get him on the aids by changing the bend, and in front of the leg.

                          Judge has a whistle. They can use it when they are ready for you to start your round. If they are not chatting and wasting time. They sure don't want you to waste time, though. Heaven forbid. If they want you to hurry up, "put your lips together and blow"....

                          I have heard the whistle within ten steps of stepping into the ring (Novice level), when Phillip Dutton who was the rider just before me, toured the ring for two minutes on a half broke novice horse, before he got the whistle to start. Whatever.

                          Judge can't tell you where your warmup circle should be. TOTALLY incorrect. I would report this, if I were you. Call the USEF and ask them politely how to do that. Disgraceful.

                          It's subjective -- but should not be. These officials are getting paid, what -- $75 to $100 an hour? Can't they brush up on the rulebook?
                          Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                          Read me: EN ( and HJU (


                            The best recourse in these situations is report these actions (especially the ear net case) to the USEF LOC. Yes, it is the responsibility of an official to know the rules - or at the very least, know where to look them up and apologize if they were wrong!



                              Judge can't tell you where your warmup circle should be. TOTALLY incorrect.
                              This. I saw your ride. Getting to the far side of the start/finish flags is exactly what I would have done. Green horse or experienced horse. Touring the ring if time is allowed by the judge is not against the rules. I noticed the judge blew the whistle pretty quick on your next horse, tho IIRC, you got to the middle of the ring despite her best efforts. You rode beautifully. Don't let it get you down.


                                Touring the ring

                                PLEASE, PLEASE send a letter to the USEF Licensed Officials Department, with copy to Eventing Technical Committee regarding this judge's behavior. Also, please try to let the rider eliminated for the ear bonnet know that she should do the same. In both cases, the judge was WRONG; in the ear bonnet case, the judge violated the rules by eliminating her.
                                The USEF should also know if the TD knew about these situations and if he concurred with her decisions. This sort of lack of knowledge on the part of Licensed Officials is not acceptable and must be brought to the attention of the USEF. I am sick and tired of seeing this sort of report, or hearing about it after the fact. The Eventing Technical Committee is not willing to support this level of incompetence on the part of Eventing Officials.

                                Malcolm Hook


                                  One of the riders we knew at Rolex did a little "tour" of the liverpool as she entered the arena . Her horse had been eliminated at a liverpool at Red Hills and I'm pretty sure that's why she rode around it. Her coaches are some of the top eventers in the country. I see nothing wrong with that, in fact, I think that' probably a smart thing to do as long as it's not too obvious or blatant. As for a greenie, more power to you!


                                    Absolutely nothing wrong with what you did. I was advised by a very BNT to "take a tour" of stadium at one HT before the whistle blew. I still do this as much as possible and have never had an issue with any judge.

                                    Just read Malcolm's post: There's the absolute answer.
                                    Last edited by Snapdragon; Jun. 6, 2010, 10:12 PM. Reason: Just saw Malcolm's post


                                      Original Poster

                                      At least she didn't eliminate me, but I didn't appreciate being yelled at. I will report this to the USEF as you guys suggested to hopefully help prevent future problems. Thanks!

                                      Ha! Gry2yng, I totally galloped into the ring on my next horse (who is much spookier than the 1 I got yelled at on and got about 1/2 way in (knowing she would probably blow the whistle on me right away, which she definitely did). I had the little girl who owns that one "begging" me to ignore the judge and do it anyway because she didn't think her horse would jump those scary jumps and she didn't want him to get eliminated! Ha! It is funny you noticed that though!

                                      I'm just so glad all of the horses I rode had good experiences and didn't know I got in trouble with the judge


                                        Originally posted by Beam Me Up View Post
                                        I'm having trouble finding the exact rule in the book.

                                        I'm sure someone will pipe in with the actual rule soon.
                                        Because it isn't there any more.

                                        The show jumping rules were extensively rewritten a couple of years ago, and a lot of rules we "know" are there- aren't.

                                        For instance the rule about a rail that falls after you cross the finish line is gone. As well as the one about "showing" the fence to the horse.
                                        Last edited by Janet; Jun. 7, 2010, 09:29 AM.

                                        chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2019.