Mar 19, 2022

Rule Refresher: Bits, Bridles, and More, Dressage Edition

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
USEA/ KTB Creative photo.

Looking to change up your horse’s tack for the new season? Be sure to read through the rules to familiarize yourself with what is acceptable for each phase. In this month’s Rule Refresher, we highlight what tack is deemed acceptable for dressage. Text has been taken directly from the USEF Rules For Eventing, with emphasis added by the USEA.

If you have any questions about whether a certain piece of equipment is permissible for competition, consult the Technical Delegate at the event before the start of the competition.

EV115 Saddlery

1. EXERCISE AREAS.

The following restrictions begin at 3:00 p.m. of the day prior to the start of the entire competition and continue throughout the duration of the event. The following are compulsory: an English type saddle and any form of bridle, including double bridle, snaffle, gag or hackamores. Running martingales with rein stops, Irish martingales, bit guards, boots, bandages, fly shields, nose covers, and seat covers are permitted. Side reins are permitted only while lunging an unmounted horse, as are running reins and chambons. Other martingales, any form of gadget (such as a bearing, running or balancing reins, etc.) and any form of blinkers, are forbidden, under penalty of disqualification.

2. DRESSAGE TEST.

a. The following are compulsory: an English type saddle and a permitted bridle.

b. A double bridle with cavesson noseband, i.e. bridoon and curb bits with curb chain (made of metal or leather or a combination), is permitted for some tests. Cover for curb chain can be made of leather, rubber or sheep skin.

1. Cavesson noseband may never be so tightly fastened as to harm the horse.

2. Lipstrap and rubber or leather covers for the curb chain are optional.

3. Bridoon and curb must be made of metal or rigid plastic and may be covered with rubber/latex (flexible rubber bridoons and/or curbs are not allowed).

4. The lever arm of the curb bit is limited to 10 cm (length below the mouth piece).

5. The upper cheek must not be longer than the lower cheek.

6. If the curb has a sliding mouthpiece, the lever arm of the curb bit below the mouthpiece must not measure more than 10 cm when the mouthpiece is in the uppermost position.

7. The diameter of the ring of the bridoon and/or curb must be such as to not hurt the horse.

8. Minimum diameter of mouthpiece to be twelve millimeters (12mm) for the curb bit and ten millimeters (10mm) for bridoon bit.

9. The maximum length of the cheek piece of a hanging cheek snaffle is 7cm measured from the top of the small ring. BOD 1/15/22 Effective 2/1/22

c. A rounded snaffle bit made of metal, leather, rubber, or plastic material is permitted for all tests and may be covered with rubber/latex. The reins must be attached to the bit.

d. It may have a cavesson noseband, dropped noseband, crossed noseband, or flash noseband.

1. The noseband must be made entirely of leather or leather like material, except for a small disc of sheepskin, which may be used in the intersection of the two leather straps of a crossed noseband.

e. A breast plate may be used. For drawings of permitted bits and nosebands see Annex 1 on the Federation website for Approved Bits for National Competitions. Permitted bits for a particular test are specified on each test.

f. Martingales, bit guards, any kind of gadgets (such as bearing, side, running or balancing reins, etc.), reins with any loops or hand attachments, and any form of blinkers, including earmuffs, earplugs, hoods, and seat covers are, under penalty of elimination, strictly forbidden.

g. Any kind of boots or leg bandages are prohibited in the areas around the arena and inside the arena. The boots and/or bandages must be removed before entering the space around the Competition arena or the Athlete will be penalized. See EV136.c.

h. Shoes (with or without cuffs) that are attached with nails or glue, or wraps that do not extend past the hair line of the hoof are permitted.

i. Ear hoods are permitted for all Tests and may also provide noise reduction. However, ear hoods must allow for ears to move freely and must not cover the horse’s eyes and ear plugs are not permitted (exception for prize giving ceremonies). The ear hoods should be discreet in color and design. Ear hoods may not be attached to the noseband. Any piece of tack that impairs the ears to move freely is not permitted. BOD 1/15/22 Effective 2/1/22

j. Nose nets are permitted under the following conditions:

1. The entry must be accompanied by a letter signed by the horse’s veterinarian on letterhead, stating that the horse has been diagnosed with head shaking syndrome and that the horse’s condition is improved with the use of a nose net.

2. The nose net must be made of a transparent material and cover only the top half of the muzzle, not the bit or the horse’s mouth.

k. A neck strap or pommel strap may be used. The strap must be made primarily of leather.

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