Important Rule Changes Effective April 1, 2016 You Should Understand


A number of new rules will be effective 4/1/16. You can check on the new rules at and scroll to near the end (WD) as they are in alphabetical order. Of special note see the following rules for tack and hand(s) positions.

WD120 Permitted Tack

1.      Bridles:

a.      Any Western type headstall must be used.
b.      A Western cavesson (braided or plain), or allowed. No metal, studs of any kind, or other harsh substances can be used in conjunction with or part of a Western cavesson.
c.       A Hackamore (Bosal) is permitted on a horse of any age at any level. A hackamore includes a bosal rounded in shape and constructed of braided rawhide or leather and must have a flexible non-metallic core, attached to a suitable headstall. No other material of any kind is to be used in conjunction with the bosal, i.e. steel, metal or chains. Bosals may be wrapped with smooth electrical tape to prevent rubbing.
d.      A bitless bridle is permitted on a horse of any age at any level. It must be of Western style made of leather or leather like materials.
e.      The Western Two Rein bridle is permitted. This is a bridle and bit, snaffle or curb ridden over a full or pencil bosal with a romal; hence a bit rein and a mecate rein is held in each hand, or the mecate rein can be tied to the saddle horn.

2.      Snaffle Bit:

a.      A snaffle bit may be used on a horse of any age being ridden at any level.
b.      A snaffle offers no leverage or curb action.
c.       A Western Dee bit.
d.      A standard snaffle is a conventional O-Ring, Egg Butt or D-Ring, all with rings having an outside diameter no smaller than 2 inches (50.8 mm), nor larger than 4 inches (101.6 mm). The inside of the circumference of the ring must be free of rein, curb or headstall attachments that would provide leverage.

1.      Bars: Bars of the mouthpiece must be round, oval or egg shaped, smooth and unwrapped, except with latex; and no less than 5/16 inch (7.9 mm) to ¾ inch (19.05 mm) in diameter measured one inch (25 mm) from the cheek and may be inlaid, if smooth.

2.      Three-Piece Mouthpiece: If a mouthpiece is three pieces, a connecting ring must be no larger than 1 ¼ inches (31.75 mm) in diameter, or a connecting piece must be no longer than 2 inches (50.8 mm) and 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) to ¾ inch (19.05 mm), measured top-to-bottom.

e.      A Mullen Mouth (solid mouthpiece), barrel mouthpiece, or Naptha Bits (plastic or rubber) may be used.
f.        If a bit hobble is used on a ring snaffle it must be attached below the reins.
g.      No flat, sharp, slow twist, twisted or pointed edges on mouthpieces are allowed.

3.      Curb Bit:

There is no discrimination against any standard Western bit.

a.      A standard Western bit is defined as having a shank with a maximum length overall of 8 1/2” (215.9 mm). The mouthpiece will consist of a metal bar 5/16” (7.9 mm) to 3/4” 19.05 mm) in diameter as measured one inch in from the shank. The bars may be inlaid but must be smooth or latex wrapped. (The bars may be encased in smooth 5/16” (7.9 mm) to 3/4” (19.05 mm) in diameter tubular barrels that rotate around the bars). Nothing may protrude above or below the mouthpiece (bar) such as extensions, prongs or rivets designed to intimidate the horse. Rollers attached to the center of the bit are acceptable, and may extend below the bar. Jointed mouthpieces are acceptable and may consist of two or three pieces and may have one or two joints. A three-piece mouthpiece may include a connecting ring of 1 ¼ inch (31.75 mm) or less in diameter or a connecting flat bar of 3/8 to ¾ inch (9.5mm – 19.05 mm) measured top to bottom with a maximum length of 2” (50 mm), which lies flat in the mouth, or a roller or port as described herein. The port must be no higher than 3 ½ inches (88.9 mm) maximum with roller(s) and covers acceptable. Jointed mouthpieces, half-breeds and spade bits are standard. Wire on the braces (above the bars and attaching to the spade) of a traditional spade bit is acceptable.
b.      Reins must be attached to each shank.
c.       Curb chains, if used, and flat leather chin straps must be at least 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) in width and lie flat against the jaw of the horse. No wire, rawhide, metal or other substance can be used in conjunction with or as part of the flat leather chin strap or curb chain. Round, rolled, braided or rawhide curb straps are prohibited.
d.      A slobber guard on a curb bit is permitted.
e.      Rein chains with a spade bit are allowed.

4.      Reins:

a.      When the rider uses a snaffle bit, the following reins may be used: loop/connected reins, split reins, buckled reins, mecate reins, or Romal reins without a popper; two hands must be used with any of these combinations. Horsehair, rope reins and mecate reins are allowed for bosals and snaffles. The mecate can be tied to the saddle horn or held by the rider.
b.      When the rider uses a curb, the following reins may be used: Romal reins or Split reins. When using a curb with Romal reins, only one hand is allowed; when using split reins, one or two hands are allowed.
c.      Hand position on reins:

1.      In the case of Romal reins, the Romal is held in one hand with no fingers between the individual reins. The end of the Romal may be held in the hand not used for reining to keep the Romal from swinging and to adjust the position of the rein. The reins must be held so that there is at least 16” of rein between the hands.

2.      In the case of when split reins are held in one or two hands, the rider may not switch back and forth during a test. When the split reins are held in one hand, there are two ways that the rider may use them. The rider may put one finger between the split reins; the ends of the reins fall on the side of the reining hand. The rider may hold both reins in one hand without a finger between the reins; the hand must be around the reins. The ends of the Split reins may be held in the hand not used for reining to keep them from swinging and to adjust the position of the reins. No finger is allowed between the reins. The reins must be held so that there is at least 16” of rein between the hands.

d.      At the end of the Free Walk or Free Jog, riders using split reins held in one hand may use the free or offhand to pull the reins back to the desired length. Riders using Romal reins may use the hand using the Romal to alter the tension or length of the reins from the bridle to the reining hand.
e.      A breastplate and/or crupper may be used.
f.      Whips: One whip no longer than 47.2 inches (120 cm) including lash, is permitted in all Classes/Tests.

5.      Saddle:

A standard stock saddle is customary. A working saddle, Aussie, and Western side saddle are also acceptable. Silver equipment will not count over a good working outfit.

a.      A horn is optional but western style fenders are required.
b.      Tapaderos are permitted except in Western Dressage Equitation.
c.       Padding or pads on the seat of the saddle are permitted.
d.      Rolls are allowed only on Aussie Western style saddles.
e.      Protective “polo” style leg wraps are permitted.

WD121 Illegal Equipment

1.      Prohibited Bits:

All curb bits must be free of mechanical devices. Nothing such as extensions, rivets or prongs, may protrude below the mouthpiece (bars). Illegal bits may include but are not limited to:

a.      Slip or gag bits, full cheeks, half cheeks, bits with hooks and slots, donut or flat polo mouthpieces and kimberwicks.
b.      Roping bits with reins attached to a single ring at the center of a cross bar.
c.       Any rein design or other devices which increase the effective length and thereby the leverage of the shank of a standard western bit.
d.      Round, rolled, braided or rawhide curb straps are prohibited.

2.      Anything that alters the intended use of equipment as provided for in the description of appointments for a given class/test.

3.      Use of martingales, bit guards, any kind of gadgets (such as bearing, side, running, balancing reins, nasal strips, tongue tied down, etc.), any kind of boots (including “easy-boots” splint boots, hock boots, bell boots, etc.), tail bandages, any form of blinkers, earmuffs or plugs, and nose covers are cause for elimination. Protective “polo” style leg wraps are permitted, with color matching natural color of the horse as much as possible.

4.      Fly hoods (ear covers) will only be permitted in order to protect horses from insects. The fly hoods should be discreet and should not cover the horse’s eyes, and will only be permitted in extreme cases at the discretion of the judge. Permission must be granted prior to the class and applies to all competitors in the class. After completion of the test, the exhibitor or his representative is responsible for removing the fly hood to present to the designated ring steward for inspection to ensure that nothing prohibited has been added.

5.      Rein additions or attachments which create additional leverage are not allowed.

6.      Any decoration of the horse with extravagant items, such as ribbons or flowers, etc. in the mane, tail, etc. Exception: freestyle.

7.      Flash, figure eight or dropped nose bands.

8.      Mechanical Hackamores


17 Responses to “Important Rule Changes Effective April 1, 2016 You Should Understand

  • Michelle Williams
    2 years ago

    Considering the verbage under saddles that rolls are only allowed on Aussie Western style saddles…does that make the Circle Y Pam Grace saddle illegal because it has knee rolls…or is that saddle considered Aussie Style?

  • Judy Jacobsen
    2 years ago

    Is a leather halter bridle legal? I use a 3 piece “happy mouth snaffle bit” with it. Thanks

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      Can you upload a photo of the set up so we can review. There are many different styles and some are good and some are not.

  • Jennie Wiskow
    2 years ago

    I have a question on the “Western Two Rein Bridle”. I have never heard or seen it ridden as stated. In the vaquero tradition, a horse in the two rein is ridden one handed and two are only used on the bosalito reins if needed. At no time are the romal reins split. Nor is a snaffle used in this stage of the horses training, especially when a the horse is carrying the spade. Can you expand on the rule so that I can understand it better?

    The rules say a port can be no higher than 3 1/2″. Does this include spades? My horse carries a 4 1/4″ traditional hand made spade. It would be very disappointing to enter, compete and then be disqualified because someone thought my bit was too severe based solely on the height of the spade.

    I had been looking forward to trying Western Dressage with my traditional two rein horse.

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      “The rules say a port can be no higher than 3 1/2″. Does this include spades?” Yes this includes Spades.

      Western two rein bridle:
      You are correct. In the Vaquero tradition the bosal is used to introduce the spade bit. One hand on the curb reins and one hand on the mecate. Or two hands may be used on the mecate reins. One hand on the curb rein.
      This Vaquero tradition is also allowed in Western Dressage.

      Additionally, in Western Dressage the gentle technique of introducing the snaffle bit can also be accommodated by using a bosal with the snaffle bit. A mecate rein and snaffle rein in each hand.

      Later, when introducing any legal curb bit:
      Western Dressage allows for a bosal in addition to the curb bit. Again, in Western Dressage it is recognized that some horses may transition more slowly toward the goal of the Vaquero tradition with the following technique. When using split reins on the curb, two hands may be used on the curb reins and mecate: A curb rein and mecate rein in each hand. Only one hand is allowed with Romal reins.
      You may also use one hand with split reins. And finally, one hand may be used on the curb rein and one hand on the mecate rein Vaquero style.
      Joyce Swanson

  • Shelby Prather
    2 years ago

    I recently purchased a ‘Chris Cox snaffle’. The Rings are solid, they do not swivel out like a normal snaffle. Is this type of bit permitted? Thank you!

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      You can either check out the Equipment Guide on the Education Center webpage or send us a photo through the contact us page and we can review it for you.

  • Waland Burger
    2 years ago

    Can scores from the 2016 World Show be used toward the USEF/USDF bronze medal for riders?

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      You will need to inquire with USEF about their awards programs.

  • Tammi
    2 years ago

    Is a Boucher bit legal?

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      No a Boucher bit is not legal. There is an Equipment Guide on the Education Center webpage. You can find more information about tack there.

  • Pam McCoy
    2 years ago

    Can you use plain buckle in the middle reins with a curb bit? I usually ride with a dressage leather rein.

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      The Rules state that loop reins are allowed with Curb and Snaffle bits. It does not state that buckles are not allowed in the middle of the reins which makes them a loop rein. Therefore it should be most appropriate for you to use the reins you are using.

  • Heather
    2 years ago

    How do you define ‘Western Fenders”? Looking at Australian saddles, some have a 4″ fender available, but it looks like just a wider stirrup leather, square cut just wider. The saddle maker I contacted called that a Western fender, but I don’t want to end up with the wrong thing. Will that qualify, or does it have to have the curved lower and following edge, and what looks like usually at least six inches wide?

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      A western style fender is not simply a leather strap. It’s what is found on all western saddles, not the typical leather strap found on Australian stock saddles. So you would need to get a pair of typical western style fenders for the saddle to be able to use.

    2 years ago

    is there a rule regarding color of leg wraps

    • Deirdre Davenport
      2 years ago

      I believe it is stated the color of the wraps are best suited to the color of the leg as to not draw attention to the legs. If you start using bright colors on the legs, mistakes will be more apparent.