Guest Blog post # 86: "Lines Disease" by Bill Woods

Lines Disease

Many of us are followers especially in a circumstance that’s new to us, a circumstance where we may lack surety or self-confidence. “If you don’t know where to go, go where someone has gone before!” But this approach won’t always work to your benefit. I remember judging a show back in the day when Training Level 3 included a 20 m half circle from B to E. This was an adult amateur class first thing after lunch, and the ring had just been dragged. Not a single hoof print was evident when the first rider began her test. Her novice half circle was more of an hyperbola worthy of Halley’s Comet.

Predictably those neat hoof prints like magnets attracted the next six adult amateurs to follow exactly the same errant path.

Another time the deviation was more devious. Out in Pocatello the arena was meticulously dragged before the whiteboards were set up. Somehow the furrows did not run parallel to the sides of the arena or the centerline. If you entered at A and followed the raked groove all the way to G, you ended up about 4 feet to the right of true center. Lots of riders were beguiled by the ruts and did exactly that!

There was a time that a line which was meant to help the riders did the opposite. As recently as the mid-1980s when AHSA (now USEF) shows tried to conform to the FEI rule of marking every centerline. Many more shows used to run on grass then. Sometimes the centerline was mowed closer. Sometimes it was marked with a white chalk stripe reminiscent of the foul line on a baseball diamond. More than a few horses when encountering this for the first time said “No way!” and proceeded to jump over the white line every time they came to it—a practice not necessarily conducive to relaxation and rhythm! Modern arenas with a high fiber “diet” have removed this hazard from a show rider’s list of concerns.

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