A bit of bling | An Eventful Life

A bit of bling

One rider’s bling is another rider’s bland. How do you know if your bridle bling will distract an eventing dressage judge?

A very plain bridle is probably what the judges are looking for

Chris Burton’s recent blog and tweets about FEI ‘bling’ rules caused a bit of a horse dressing headache at the recent Melbourne International 3 Day Event. Unsure of exactly what was and what was not allowed, grooms and riders with a fondness for a bit of bridle dazzle were dashing around the trade stands looking for a ‘blingometer’

The pre-M3DE panic started when Chris Burton (@TeamBurto) tweeted that he had been reprimanded by a steward at an event in the UK for too much bling on his bridle – the bling turned out to be brass rather than leather strewn with Swarovski crystal. By Australian standards, it was probably downright dull.

As Chris and Bec wrote in their blog

“...we have (begrudgingly) toned down the amount of brass on our bridles to appease the Brits taste for shockingly plain leather bridles. It now seems that somewhere along the lines this has become an FEI rule. We discovered this at a local one day event where a very polite steward pointed out that my new traditional English brass clincher brow band is not allowed as it is too distracting to the dressage judge”

Now the Brits are much more traditional and would probably have a bit of a heart attack if they came across some of our Australian riders’ blingy bridles, boots and yes, even points on waistcoats. We can pretty much guarantee that one popular Victorian rider won’t be moving to the UK due to their strict adherence to this rule.

A quick look through our latest trot up gallery at Luhmuhlen certainly reveals limited bling on the European horses and, maybe not surprisingly, Kevin McNab’s brow band on Clifton Pinot (below) was the most glittery.


But how are our riders supposed to know what is and what is not too blingy?

We asked super steward Chris Wallace, who has been the steward general for eventing in Australia since 2008 and was officiating at Melbourne for her thoughts and she admitted that this is a bit of a grey area. After all, one person’s bling may not be blingy at all to someone else and each steward may have a slightly different view

“I think that the best word we can use to describe how dressage tack should be is ‘discrete’” suggests Chris.

 In other words, if the dressage judge can’t watch you for the glare coming off your bridle, you’re in big trouble (maybe that explains some of the discrepancies in scoring at Melbourne this year)

The ladies at Flexible Fit Equestrian know a thing or two about bridles and their range of Mix 'n Match bridles are very popular with eventers. We had a chat with them on their trade stand at Melbourne about the new rule, which, it turns out, is not new at all.

“Quite a few riders have been asking us for some guidelines about the amount of bling allowed on bridles” they say “We looked into it and found that there has been discussion about it for quite some time on various forums but the difficulty is the ambiguity of it”

Two of the popular Flexible Fit bridles

Like the riders, they can’t get a definitive statement about exactly what is and what is not allowed but are thinking of submitting some of their bridles for approval. There is no doubt that, looking around the horses at Melbourne, bling is in but there were none that really looked over the top although some may have been bordering on belonging in the hack ring. On the other hand there were a couple of trade stands selling bridles that were pretty over the top (not FF we hasten to add)  – we just didn’t see anyone wearing them.

Luckily the rule only applies to the dressage phase so you can go as blingy as you like for cross country or show jumping. Maybe those Aussie team airvests should have some crystal encrusted stars ......


For those interested in what we have found on the subject, check out the British Eventing Handbook 2013 which says bridles shouldn't be “decorated with tassels or any other additions" on Page 56

Also, some FEI guidelines on the EA site which state” In some cases using very shiny or reflective materials can be disruptive for the judges during dressage. It is therefore suggested that when in doubt riders ask judges before the start of the dressage if a decorated/shiny brow band is acceptable or not”