Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Language All It's Own

I wrote this about ten years ago and thought it might be fun for the blog....

"Oxer" puzzled my mother. She thought it might be associated with the shirts father wears, the ones he buys only at Brooks Brothers.  The few times a decade she treks to a horse show to watch me ride she shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head when she hears someone scream "heads up over the oxer."  It's like being in another world with a language all it's own.  She never mastered it.

The ability to understand a vocabulary not found on Wikipedia or anywhere on the Internet for that matter is a feat that many of us "horse show lovers" conquer at an early age.  A horse-crazy 12-year old will know what a roll top or an oxer is long before she understands past participles.

Roll tops and oxers are types of jumps used in hunter-jumper courses.  An oxer is a wide jump made with two sets of standards and poles.  The poles are parallel and sometimes placed at the same height, but often the back poles are higher.  Then there are Swedish oxers (for advanced placement h-j speakers only).  Roll tops are typically bright green, two or three feet high and made of wood, mostly used in hunter courses.  The front part of a roll top curves in a semi-circle, meeting the back at a 90-degree angle.

 (In Michael Tang's lovely picture from the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Scott Stewart's horse is jumping an oxer).

(The dreaded green rolltop)

A scrim sheet is used at horse shows to cover a horse's body from withers to top of tail; keeping off flies, cooling the horse down or just simply for decorative purposes.  Sheets are in "stable colors" with monogram or better yet, from some prestigious horse show that displays date, title or possibly a year-end award. 

(Scrim sheet complete with prestigious horse show name and date)

A martingale is a leather strap that's buckled around a horse's neck near the withers (at the base of the neck) with a separate piece of leather running from the girth to the noseband of the bridle going through the strap around the neck.  A "standing martingale" keeps a horse's head from getting too high when it jumps (makes a prettier picture).  There are other types but we won't go there.

Have you heard of a breastplate?  A kimberwicke?  What about studs and caulks?  We aren't getting kinky, I promise.  A hackamore?  A breastplate is leather strap the goes around a horses' neck in a circle connecting at a 45-degree angle to another strap that attaches to the girth on both sides with the purpose of keeping the saddle from slipping back too far.  Often you see these used in the hunt field as it's common to ride for hours on end, giving the saddle lots of time to slip back. 


(A breastplate)

(A kimberwicke)

A kimberwicke is a type of bit that goes into the horse's mouth.  Studs and caulks can be thought of as "snow tires" for horses or certainly tires for inclement weather.  When the ground is muddy and slick the horse may need extra traction.  Studs and caulks are screwed into the shoes and taken out immediately after use in competition.  A hackamore is a bridle without a bit. Some horses don't go well in traditional bridles but these are not allowed in hunter competitions.

Now you should feel knowledgeable when those damned horse people start talking in a language all of its own. 


  1. oh my gosh ann - how timely was this post! i just did one on the blog today about my show horse, Dreamy! I gotta go right back to the top of this post to soak it all in, you had me at Oxer though :)))))

  2. oh i loved this! it IS a language of its own! oxer, cavaletti, flying changes, elevator bit, open front boots


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