AN eagle-eyed reader has noticed that when an eventer has ridden for Britain and has a union flag on their hat silk, there’s a small embroidered number beside the flag. We find out why it’s there

What’s the number for?

THE number on the hat silk represents the number of riders to have represented Britain at
a senior championships.

British Eventing (BE) began this numbering system before the Athens Olympics.

“It was adopted from other mainstream sports such as cricket and rugby,” says BE spokesman, Winnie Murphy. ”Each ‘new’ person is awarded their jacket flag and hat silk. Sharon Hunt was the latest — she’s number 181.”

This means that the riders who were first “capped” some time ago have earlier numbers. Oliver Townend is 179 and Zara Phillips is number 176 — they both represented Britain at senior level for the first time last year — while among the older team members William Fox-Pitt is 157 and Mary King 153.

What about the red border on the union flags?

THIS is down to personal preference — some riders trim around the flags and have less red felt showing.

Who can wear the union flag?
IN eventing, you can wear the flag if you ride as an individual or as part of the British team at a championship.

Once you’ve been given a senior flag, you will always have the right to wear it — which also applies to dressage and show jumping.

When pony riders, juniors and young riders represent their country in eventing, they are only allowed to keep wearing the flag for two years after they leave that relevant age group — unless, of course, they are chosen as team members again for the age group above before the two years expire.

In dressage, they can keep their flags for two seasons — roughly a year — following the last time they represent Britain, while in show jumping the riders wear the badge until they are out of that age group.

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (30 November, ’06)