Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to all and a small but powerful request

Please go to and sign the guestbook. The owner of the mare that lost her ear has taken it upon herself to use their guestbook as a personal blog attacking me and the rescue. I have to say it's quite disparaging. Please even if you cannot donate, a kind word on their guestbook helps to keep their spirits up and continue the thankless job they do from day to day, even on holidays. That in itself will be a great uplifting gift to them and push the disparaging remarks of the former owner of the horse who sufferred so much, back into the archives. Thank you so much for reading about this mare and donating so much in this time when donations are not a high priority to many. I understand that buying a gift for someone special is more important so even if you cannot donate financially, a kind word left on the guestbook will be as important and appreciated as a monetary donation.
Merry Christmas and for those that have other believes, a happy and wonderful holiday to you. I mean to offend no one and with the scant knowledge I have for others that are not of the Christian faith, I wish everyone to be safe and do what is right in your hearts. Just remember the family that IS Beautys' Haven will be scrubbing the wounds of those rescued and tending to the sick and unwanted horses even on Christmas day. Their work should not go unnoticed and neither should these defenseless horses. So even a kind word on their guestbook is greatly appreciated.
I know this a blog about judging horse shows and I ask for patience as I navigate my way through this horrific ordeal. As a judge, I do not see this type of injury on a horse and I do not see these types of horse owners so it has been quite an ordeal even for me. Not that I did not know of animal neglect and of people that do not show the kind of perception to their horse as I see in the show ring. But this is beyond anything I've personally dealt with and maybe some of you also.
I wish everyone safe rides and fair judging for the new year. I also hope and pray that some of you will leave a kind word for Beauty's Haven on their guestbook. The words of encouragement and acknowledement of their work is worth as much as a monetary donation. You do not have to use your own name and you do not have to fill in the other blanks for the guestbook form to work. Whatever you feel in your heart about people who so tirelessly continue to work with recues such as Lady Angelica will be enough. Enjoy your horses and family on this Christian holiday if you are of such faith. Those that are of a different faith or different believe, I also wish you safe rides and a guidance in life that never brings you ill will.
Believe that Karma will enhance your life even by leaving a kind word of encouragment on an obscure website guestbook. It's not always about money. Sometiomes words can mean so much more. The continuance of rescuing animals in need by Beauty's Haven is of utmost importance.
Anyone that has any reservations about BHFER, please leave a contact. They are within driving distance although a ways out, but if you want any more evidence that what is shown on their website, I will be happy to oblige. They are a true rescue that considers kind words as much as a monetary donation.
Bless everyone that has helped bring attention to Lady Asngelica's story. If your blog doesn't deal with this sort of situation as mine did not, please consider posting it.
$300 that I was going to give to the former owner to buy Angelica to get her to medical treatment but gave to BHFER when they were able to retrieve the mare
Recent donations - 12/24/09 - girl scout troup in Michigan did a penny drive and raised $27 plus change for Beauty's Haven
Two neighbors of mine - 12/24/09 - $20 for peace of mind
Everyting adds up and if you want to consider a penny drive for any club or group, please email me for a penny drive packet that I'm putting together.
Sincerely praying and wishing and hoping that all is safe and well this holiday season for all

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I can finally sleep!

I would like to preface this post with an apology for my absence. I so hope and pray for all to have a great holiday season and a safe show season as well.

Now here is a short synopsis of what I have been doing lately and I would like to impose on everyone to please pass this story around as much as possible. Go to click on our horses, then rehab and read the story of ladybug. Donate through paypal or snail mail if you are able and please sign the guestbook. The owner of this horse actually had the nerve to sign the guestbook, her name is Amber and you'll see her entry there.

The picture is after the mare was finally negotiated away from this neglectful hoarder and her ear was removed. Notice her weight also

Finally....12 DAYS after this mare was attacked by dogs and the owner did nothing....yesterday the mare was finally saved. I tried buying her, bribing this crazy woman, anything to get that horse away from her. I have had people tell me to leave this woman and her beloved horse alone......I saw the mare for the first time on Dec 11, the attack happened supposedly Dec 3 and Dec 14 along with some law enforcement, the mare was brought to a safe haven and is getting medical attention. She lost the ear and this picture is the least gory one so I didn't make anyone sick.....I'm just on cloud nine because I just spent an hour with the mare!!! The owner actually said she would only let the mare go if I never saw the mare or had anything to do with her.....what a freakin' moronic woman!!! This mare got out but that lady still has more horses just as thin AND a dozen or so skinny dogs still on her property. I have not slept in days working on getting this terrorist holding the mare hostage to let her go. At one point she almost sold me the mare for $300 then upped it to $500, then it was a thousand as of Monday. When I went to viisit the mare, I gave the rescue where she is, the $300 and I'm going to see again on Friday and hopefully I can raise some more money for her care. If anyone has even a dollar to send please go to and donate through paypal and or snail mail. I want to rename the mare..her former owner called her ladybug and she's got way too much heart and just so sweet....I like Angelica but not sure. Anyone with fundraiser ideas, let me know.

I'm going back tomorrow, Dec 18 and taking a friend who is donating also. She's close enough that she wanted to meet the mare and she was also very helpful with dealing with the county officials of Dixie County Florida.
God bless everyone this holiday season. Safe rides and I hope to have an update. I know my blog is about judging horse shows and at the shows we never see things like this. This is my first time dealing with such low life horse owners and such a neglected pitiful animal. If all you can do is sign their guestbook and follow the story as it is chronicled there, that is greatly appreciated too. You can also cross post this to anyone and if someone can get it on Fugly, please do. If you're blog is not of this topic, consider posting it anyway. I'll give the mare a thousand hugs for everyone who is praying and sending her cyber well wishes!  Remember, read her story under rehab horses and please, SIGN the guestbook and tell 'em I sent ya! If you can donate, that is hugely appreciated. Everything, even notes are greatly appreciated and all are read.
PS I want to rename the mare Angelica and I hope she will eventually live on my little farm here with my big one eyed thoroughbred, my 42 yo paint and my baby of 10, Belle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Part 2 of RailGal's Question - Traffic Jams

My second about flat classes. I often find people riding up my butt, so

to speak, and all jumbled around me. Is it alright to circle away from the jumble...and

if so, what is the best way to do this? Should we simply cut the arena in half, putting

ourselves on the other half of the arena, far from the jumble...or should we just make a

5-10m circle, and re-join the jumble at the back of the line? It's been suggested that we

should circle across the arena to be in front of the jumble...but then I find they just catch

up and I have to circle again...which in my mind, makes me look bad... or if I do a small circle

and rejoin the line behind the group, they seem to slow down and I get stuck...having to circle

again...again, in my mind making me look bad. How do you handle the on-the-rail jumble?
As this does happen often, it's a great question! If in fact I'm starting a class and exhibitors are jumbled, I'll ask the announcer to ask them, to spread out. Try to start by yourself. Don't assume if you are next to what you percieve to be the best horse, that you'll get noticed more. (I've actually heard trainers telling exhibitors to employ this tactic.....silly!)

If at sometime during the class, you find yourself jumbled up on the rail, please, by all means, feel free to circle out. Just as in driving a car, make sure you are not going to cut anyone off and as soon as you can safely move away from the other horses, do so. This is not a fault of any kind. Some riders are never taught class protocal and some just don't pay attention to where they are going. If you stare at the back of your horses' head to see if it's 'down', your attention is not on the class but rather on whether your horse will lose his head during the class..... I assume. Your horses' head is not going anywhere without you and if you have done some preparation and practice prior to the show ring, your horse will do what he has been schooled to do.

Cutting across the ring, shows a sign of greatness, not weakness. You are able to safely move away from the other horses and it's much more of a desirable trait than trying to change your pace to suit your fellow exhibitors. Besides, pace, whether in hunters or western pleasure is everything! Set your pace according to your horse and the type of class, then keep it.

If you chose to circle as opposed to cutting across the ring (depending on the ring size and where you're located within), make your circle large so you may not have to circle again and again. If you do not circle large enough, not only could it put you back in 'traffic', but it's more likely your horse will change pace or break gait.

Circling or cutting across the ring is never wrong. It shows proper ring ettiquette, safety and control. Don't compromise your pace to stay on the rail. If you do the latter, you're liable to end up staying in 'traffic' and the judge will miss the attributes you have worked so hard to attain.

I hope that clarifies things. I can and usually do state, that this is a subjective job and this blog reflects only my personal preference and interpretation of the basic AQHA & USEF rules. BUT.....along the same lines, there is no rule, only common sense when dealing with traffic jams in the show ring. Be safe, consistant and win or your best and be gracious!

First of a 2 Part Question - Handler Presentation

I'm trying to stay up to date here so I'll post a few this morning. I recieved a very nice email from Railgal who has 2 questions. Since they differ in nature, I'll split it into to different posts. Here is the first question....
In halter classes...I was always taught to check over my shoulder to make sure the judge is paying attention. Basically...the "routine" we were taught was to walk to the rail (we were asked to walk to the rail and then trot down the rail away from the judge, rejoining the lineup at the end of the rail), check to see that the judge is watching, pick up our trot, and halfway down the rail, while trotting, to check again to make sure the judge is watching, and then finish the trot and take our place at the end of the lineup. Problem's hard to maintain a straight trot when you're looking over your shoulder, and it seems rather repetative to me. Is it suggested to check over our shoulder to see if the judge is paying attention in the first place? Isn't the judges JOB to pay attention? What are your thoughts?
First off to say, I have seen this done more in showmanship classes than in halter classes. The only time you need check to see if the judge is ready or paying attention is at the beginner of your pattern or halter presentation. The judge will nod and you commence with your pattern (showmanship) or presentation (halter) as prescribed by either the judge or ring steward. When you are finished, watch for the judge to either nod again excusing you back into a line up which is appropriate for showmanship.

 In halter a judge may watch you present your horse in motion the entire way around into the line up. Sometimes, I spot faults immediately, sometimes, I see greatness immediately, sometimes, I like to watch not only the movement in linear form (away or towards me) but also from the side view. I may watch you all the way into a line up during a halter class or I may make a few marks on my card and move on. Either way, it doesn't mean I've dismissed or disregarded your horse.

After all horses are presented and lined up, I'll do my 'walk arounds' for conformation and up close inspection. I usually set a score on movement and then combine it with a score for conformation while standing in the line up. I then will compare my scores and marks on the cards, re-evaluate my picks visually and then call in my winning line up to the announcer.

At no time during halter will I be looking at the handler unless they get in the way of seeing the entire horse. That's why (I also referenced this in an earlier blog post which I'll try to find the link to) I recommend in halter classes that you NOT do the showmanship 'dance' (i.e. Quarter Method). It's distracting to me to have you changing sides constantly. I'm really looking at the view of the horse.

You are completely correct to point out that if you are looking over your shoulder at the judge, you may not be doing your horse justice as I see it trot away. You may not stay straight and certainly if you are not on the rail, it could really inhibit a nice straight jog/trot.

You are also correct to assume it is the judges' JOB to be paying attention!! If in fact you see at any time a judge not looking directly at you, do not assume they have disregarded or dismissed you. Although your horse is judged on an ideal for his breed, he is ultimately compared with the other horses in the class. Sometimes, there is an obvious winner, sometimes, not.

In halter classes, it is best to move only side to side if you are obstructing the judges' view from any part of your horse. That whole looking over the shoulder thing with regards to showmanship, is also inappropriate, distracting and much of an oddity. Maybe they do this at beauty pagents while walking the runway, but remember it's a horse show and not a beauty pagent. If your trainer instructs you however, to constantly look back while moving with your horse.....
1. ...inquire as to how you can make sure to get a true steady straight line while doing that
2. .... ask why your trainer doesn't think the judge is paying attention?
3. ...Another point to ponder along the same lines is, let's say you are looking over your shoulder and decide the judge isn't paying attention. What would your coach have you do then? Stop? Holler? Change sides?

Look where you are going, not where you have been. You won't miss anything if you don't look back me!

Is it appropriate for someone who is not exhibiting a horse to approach the judge and ask questions?

This question comes from the comments from yesterday's post. It is never appropriate for anyone except show officials (ring steward, manager, secretary, etc) to approach the judge directly. There are several reasons for this but the most obvious from a judges' point of view is the distraction. Sometimes we (judges) look as though we are not doing anything. In fact, keeping a running tally of our top picks, adding up scores, deciphering our own shorthand and even possibly running a class or eating a quick bite are all things that we may be doing without your knowledge of it. If you are not exhibiting, you should still use proper protocal for asking any questions of the judge. Go to any show official and they will either point you to the correct official or take your request and present it to the judge. The judge will then find the best time to take a moment to answer any questions. You may get a written response, a rulebook reference or possibly a moment with the judge directly. Another big reason not to approach the judge is bias. There should never be an implication on part of a judge towards a bias to one horse and/or rider or another. It is just inappropriate. Most all rulebooks address this situation and actually, I can't think of one that doesn't. USEF, AQHA, APHA, ApHC, POAC, FOSH, and the numerous other governing bodies address this directly in their rules.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oops! Better late than never I hope!!

Oh my~! I have overlooked a question in the inbox. I must apologize for answering this late and I hope you won't hold it against me. I'm certainly not playing favorites with the email for sure!! LOL! The question.....
Hi, I have a question for you, not sure if you've already covered anything like this in your blog or not (I haven't read it since it started, I only started reading it recently), if you have feel free to ignore this and point me in that direction. I'm not an experienced shower by any means (I've been to one local schooling show, with a horse I'd only been riding for a couple months after I switched barns). So this question can probably be explained from my level of inexperience. At a show is it ok to talk to the judge? Ask them about your flaws, or what you did well, etc? After the class is over, of course. I know debate and horse showing are not comparable, but one thing I remember about going to debate tournaments (I was at tournaments almost every weekend as a high schooler... Never did very well, but that's beside the point) you could talk to the judge any time you wanted, whenever you happened to catch them, and ask them about the round they judged you in. You could even ask them if they thought you'd improved since they last judged you, and half the time they'd give you a critique at the end of the round without being asked for one. Now, being a shy person, it would probably never occur to me to walk up to the judge and ask their opinion. But at my one show (very small local schooling show, there were all of six entrants in my divisions, 2'3" hunters and 2'3" equitation, and the show placed 1-6) the judge actually walked up to ME and told me she just loved my horse and that if it hadn't been for the refusal I'd have placed very well in equitation over fences. That refusal brings up another question... When you have a refusal and you have to retake a fence, do you redo the whole line or just the one fence? In eventing it depended on whether the jumps were 1 and 2 or 1a and 1b. If they were 1a and 1b you redid both of them, if it was just 2, then you jumped two. My refusal was at the second fence of a bending line, and being unsure, I just redid the second one. Thanks!
1. How, when and should you, ask the judge a question. Well I did kind of answer that in the previous post but since you wouldn't know that (I apologize for overlooking again)..... yes, you should ask the judge a question if need be. Now something I really do not like when I show or when I judge, is for a show manager to ask me to do more than a short bit of critique in any class. If the judge carries on conversations in the ring, giving critique on every little thing, that is a clinic and not a show. I don't mind sharing some information but just quick notes that stand out to me. If you want to ask the judge something they have not made verbal note to you about, then approach your ring steward, show secretary, show manager, the gate person, anyone associated with the running of the show is probably fine. They should then ask the judge for a moment to speak to you or relay your question to the judge. The answer to your question may be on the judges' cards but sometimes they are illegible or the class was just too small or too large to take notes (barring individual performances such as over fences and patterns). My notes are mostly in short hand & not always translated in an obvious manner. I would recommend that you never approach the judge directly unless the judge addresses you first. This is because if you approach the judge, they may be in the middle of judging a class and not need the distraction. As a judge, you also want individual requests so that there is no misconception of bias by the other exhibitors. I also suggest you make your request in a timely manner. After seeing a few classes of bays and chestnuts, I may not remember your lovely Plain Jane with the banded mane and I may not have made written notes on my cards. I too, find that at hunter shows, everyone wearing a helmet and hunt coat, looks the same. When they approach after putting up their horse, shaking out their hair and changing into a pair of shorts & tshirt, I have no idea who they are even if they say they were wearing a taupe coat with a melon ratcatcher riding a dark bay gelding. It's not a fashion show, therefore I don't really notice the outfits. You can even cover yourself in swarovski crystals and own a solid silver saddle and unless it blinded me, I would not take note. I hope after all this rambling that answers the question of how, when and should you speak with the judge. On to another matter.... when to jump the whole line again or just the refusal fence as related to hunters and hunter equitation courses. If the element is an 'in and out' which is one to two strides in length, of course, you have to jump the element again as it is considered one element and would be designated as an 'a' & 'b' fence with the same number. In a combination, faults are considered seperately but in case of a refusal, you do have the right to rejump the obstacle previous to the obstacle refused. Of course, you run the risk of taking the previous obstacle again and getting a less than desirable jump which puts you into the second obstacle awkwardly (NOTE: If you take the previous fence and then the refusal fence, the previous fence will not be scored again). I personally would take a huge liberty circle and come back to approach the refused obstacle as straight on as possible. Case in point...let's say there's a five stride vertical to oxer. Your vertical comes off very nice but your horse puts the brakes on for the oxer. Although much prettier to take the vertical and float into and over the oxer, it is not a guarentee that it will be the best approach to the oxer. If you gather your horse and prepare yourself, circle towards the inside of the ring, going around inside fences if you have to and roll out as close to the inside of the vertical as possible. Leg yield into the line and use seat, leg and artificial aids (crops, bats, spurs, etc) to take the oxer. I hope that answers your question and if there is need for any clarification, please do not hesitate to ask. Don't be shy! The more you show, the more you know, the less shy you'll become all around!

Question from the inbox.....

WHAT THE ????????

Today's post comes from a question from the inbox....
Sometimes I'm at a show and I see something that just makes my head spin... and I wonder how in the world that just happened. Today was one of those days! I was at a local open show and I was observing the halter classes.

The stock type class had what I consider 4 "contenders" and then 5 "filler horses" that will place because they give out 8 ribbons. The winner was a buckskin, 2nd place was a bay, 3rd place was a chestnut, and 4th place was a dun. All very nice horses.

Next halter class was saddle type. The winner was a gorgeous Morgan and the rest were "filler horses", to include a couple ponies, and a really thin Arab.
Here's where I got confused.
They had a championship halter class, which they allow anyone to enter. No qualifying required. So our top 4 stock type horses were entered, along with the Morgan, and a few assorted saddle type horses and other stock type horses from the other classes.
The judge pinned the bay stock type horse first, the dun stock type horse second, the Morgan 3rd, a fat pony 4th, the skinny Arabian 5th, and finally our buckskin stock type class winner was pinned 5th.

What in the world? Why would a halter class winner go from 1st place to 5th place, placing below horses he beat in the previous class?
Thank you for your time!

Well, to start with, thank you in2paints for sending me the question. Just to reiterate, I'm only one judge and this is my opinion based on your information without actually having seen any of these horses. In any class, I attempt to judge what is there at the moment I see the horse.

In halter, if the handler has set the horse up well and I can actually get a good look at the legs, shoulder, poll to croup ratio, I love it. If the handler has not set the horse up to allow the best attributes of a horse' build to shine through or prepared in a shoddy manner, I cannot assume substance is there if I don't see it. This is one big reason that I don't like to arrive too early to a show and I don't like to watch warm up rings or horses on the sidelines. It's difficult but if you see a horse in the warm up area or practicing on the sidelines, it can influence your decision on how that horse may look or perform. In other words, it may be stunning in the warm up area, come in the ring and completely fall apart. I have that stunning horse in the back of my mind but I need to keep focused on what is in the ring for the time I'm judging.
Another influence to halter is preparation. If you have a horse with a long back and short neck, make sure you present the horse stretched forward from the shoulder, ears forward and possibly nosing out a bit. Rub some peppermint extract on your hand or wet a piece of candy and rub that on your hand. Practice setting your horse square and then stretch that neck and head. A shorter mane will also help a short necked presentation.
Now on to the question you've asked. How does the top call get the bottom of the barrel in the championship class. Well, without seeing this for myself, I can only assume that there was possibly a break down in the presentation of the buckskin stock winner. When presented in the stock class, he may have well been the best looking horse in the lot. Possibly when presented in the championship class his movement could have been off or not presented in a way that the judge could see it.
When you trot a horse in halter classes it needs to be directly to the judge and the judge will then step out of the way for you to pass. My personal preference is to also see a reaching movement. Even if good old Blaze is a champion western pleasure horse, I want to see his shoulder and hocks engage in the halter class. Move him off with a nice big sweeping stride. I can see his pension for small strided jog steps later when it is appropriate in the pleasure class.
There is also another way to look at this and that is to take another look at the other horses presented in the championship class. Quite possibly the buckskin stock winner was presented exactly the same and possibly the other horses were stepped up a bit in their presentations and the judge saw something more in them that he/she may have missed earlier. As far as condition, in reference to the fat pony and skinny arab, I cannot say exactly.
It is not always why did Blaze get first in one class and not the other but just as you thought of this, it's quite possible the handler of the bay horse may have thought the same thing. Why did the bay pin under the buckskin in one class and then move up to pin over him in another class? Without having seen this class, there are all of the scenarios in the world to consider.
  • Presentation in both classes
  • The judge saw something less of the buckskin in the later class
  • The judge saw more of something in the other horses in the later class
  • Preference or bias to a certain type or a certain breed on part of the judge.
  • Not judging within the confines of the snapshot you get in the class at hand
  • These could all be reasons or not the reason at all.
You said this was an open show. It would not be out of line to have asked either your show manager, show secretary or ring steward to either see the judges cards for any notes or ask a question of the judge. Make sure you approach this procedure with an open mind; ask the official of the show and then be respectful of the judge's comments. You may come away enlightened or you may come away still confused. I also would suggest that if anyone would like to request to see the judges' cards or ask the judge a question that it always be done through an official of the show, not directly to the judge and that your request be presented in a timely manner. I don't know how many times I've been asked about a horse or rider hours and hours after the fact. Sometimes, days or weeks after a show, I've been asked for tips, pointers and opinion. Usually only a few classes later, I will have deleted the info from my brain. Unless I have written notes, which in halter is not likely unless it is a huge class (then I just request to run it in heats anyway).
Now you are probably still confused but I hope I may have given you some insight on what MAY have happened at the show. I hope you are not discouraged by any of it and continue to show. It can be frustrating at times. Who here has not been baffled by the judging at a show? Show of hands please!
Raising my both of my hands, but of course, I was not judging those days! LOL!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Just five years old and already jumping what appears to be 2'9" or 3' oxers. This horse did not just start jumping like this at this height. The horse had to be started over fences much before his 5th year. Will his legs last until his 10th year? Fifteenth? Some would say depending on the breed, the horse could peak in performance earlier than other breeds but the argument I have with that is he is still in a high impact sport regardless of breed. It's akin to the Olympic sport of gymnastics where little girls start at birth, peak before puberty and retired from the sport at the ripe old age of 16 or so. Growing skeletons in a high impact sport, cannot develop while having to maintain such stress. But again, this is a society of 'get ' er done' attitudes and make a quick buck. I really do not believe that a 5 year old horse of this size should be jumping at this level. It's just too much stress physically and mentally. Will this horse be able to carry riders well into his teens or even twenties? I don't know but he's for sale if you'd like to buy him and find out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guess the age?

USEF : Basic Rules for Hunters

❚ Article 2423. General.

1. All classes must be judged on performance and soundness and when indicated,conformation, suitability or manners.
1.1 When a horse makes two faults at one obstacle only the major fault will be counted.
Article 2424. Soundness.
All horses must be serviceably sound. All horses beingconsidered for an award must be jogged for soundness with rider dismounted. (Exception:Under Saddle classes, unrated classes and classes at Local Competitions.) Horses that are not serviceably sound are ineligible for an award, including under saddle classes.

Article 2425. Conformation.
Quality, substance and soundness. Judges must penalize but not necessarily eliminate horses with structural faults, defects and blemishes (such as pinfiring) in areas which might impair their activity and durability. Horses must be stripped for conformation in any class in which conformation counts more than 25%. (Exception:Under Saddle classes.)

Article 2426. Performance.

1. An even hunting pace, manners, jumping style together with faults and way of moving over the course. Manners to be emphasized in Ladies and Amateur classes; brilliance in Corinthian and Formal Hunting Attire classes.
2. When the class is held in a ring, the performance starts as the competitor enters and ends when he leaves. When the class is held outside, the performance starts at any spot designated by competition management and ends at any spot so designated. If the start and finish are not clearly set forth, it is suggested that a judge consider the start approximately 50’ before the first obstacle and the finish approximately 50’ after the last.

Article 2427. Faults.
The following faults are scored according to the judge’s opinion, and depending on severity, may be considered minor or major faults.

Minor or Major Faults
  • Showing an obstacle to a horse.
  • Missing a lead change.
  • Kicking out.
  • Spooking.
  • Jumping out of form.
  • Jumping into corners of obstacles.

Major Faults
  • Knock down of any part of an obstacle.
  • Refusals.
  • Trotting while on course when it is not specified.
  • Bucking.
  • Stopping for loss of shoe or broken equipment.
  • Circling while on course.
  • Dangerous jumping.

  • Three refusals
  • Off course.
  • Jumping a fence before it is reset.
  • Bolting from the ring.
  • Fall of horse or rider.
The following may or may not be considered as faults, depending on their severity and frequency.

  • Light rubs.
  • Swapping leads in a line.
  • Late lead changes.
  • Excessive show of animation.
  • Adding or eliminating a stride in a line.

General Rule for Judging Western Pleasure

Since I've been talking about the standard rules from which most open shows are defined, I thought I should quote the rules here.
Western Pleasure AQHA Rules
"465B Western Pleasure (a) A good pleasure horse has a free-flowing stride of reasonable length in keeping with his conformation. He should cover a reasonable amount of ground with little effort. Ideally, he should have a blanaced, flowing motion, while exhibiting correct gaits that are of the proper cadence. The quality of the movement and the consistency of the gaits is a major consideration. He should carry his head and neck in a relaxed natural position, with his poll level with or slightly above the level of the withers. He should not carry his head behind the vertical, giving the appearance of intimidation, or be excessively nosed out, giving a resistant appearance. His head should be level with his nose slightly in front of the vertical, having a bright experession with his ears alert. He should be shown on a reasonably loose rein, but with light contact and control. He should be responsive, yet smooth, in transitions when called for. When asked to extend he should movee out with the same flowing motion. Maximum credit should be given to the flowing, blanaced and willing horse that gives the appearance of being fit and a pleasure to ride.
465B (e) This class will be judged on the performance, condition and conformation of the horse.
465B (l) Faults that will be cause for disqualification, except in novice amateur or novice youth classes, which shall be faults scored according to severity:
  1. Head carried too low (tip of ear below the withers consistently)
  2. Overflexing or straining neck in head carriage so the nose is carried behind the vertical consistently."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mr Popular

Someone please tell me why this is one of the most sought after hunter riders in a breed specific organization because I cannot find a reason on my own. I have seen this rider several times in the ring, live in action. 90% of the time over fences this is their position. The only thing that I've seen that they do differently at other fences, is to pinch with their knees and allow the leg to slide back . The heel is almost never down and they spur entirely too much. Roached back and close to a left side duck is usual performance from this rider. Leaning on the neck with no visible explanation for a release is also common from this rider. His eyes follow the rails as they go over them and again, that's par for the course from this rider. You will never, ever, ever see gloves on this rider.
With all that said, I'm still wondering why this is one of the most sought after riders in a breed specific organization? His position forces the horse to hang horribly in the front while making up for his weight being thrown over the shoulder but with an unforgiving hand. I don't understand it. I really don't. This is one of those things that just stump me. In front of me I find the horses losing good to excellent form over fences as victims of the rider. Yet he continues to catch ride on some of the best of the best. The trainers don't see it I suppose; the judges keep rewarding it; and it utterly astounds me. I guess this is one reason for my next post. This type of riding should not be regarded as a standard nor rewarded as outstanding. I just don't get it.
This is a rider which I have seen 'live' several times and not someone I'm just simply picking apart for any personal reason. I do not personally know this rider. I only know their riding ability and the fact that they are much sought after as a catch rider. It's just my opinion so please feel free to jump in and correct me. I know a ton of riders who are much better that would catch ride for free just for the shot at riding something great. Why this rider?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Follow up on today's post......A Baby Running the Show

Well, I just thought and thought about today's earlier post. I know I tend to ramble on but I do have a bit more to say on this topic which was spurred by the first comment on the first post of today.

As much as I see wrong in today's open shows, I see just as much right. Those are the ones I reward. I know the rules, the standards for the baseline and through tons of practice, I believe I can apply them to the class at hand and rate them accordingly.

The biggest 'festival of ugliness and impurity' in my opinion has been big money thrown out there for people to win with the youngest of horses. You'll see plenty of 'wrongs' in the show ring but the worst of all, again, in my opinion, is the youngest of horses being harvested for the almighty dollar. These are not show cars to be fixed when their gaskets blow. A good horse, no matter how it is built, is a good horse for the long haul.
Case in point....I have a friend that has shown her mare in lower level dressage for over 15 years. That mare cannot move up past 3rd level tests due to conformation flaws but my friend and this mare still show. Still get excited about having a new judge assess them. She has done right by the mare by not asking her to pinch, pin, strap and sizzle up into 4th level or higher. She knows her mare is at her peak at 3rd level. Why continue to show her? They have fun together. The mare is physically and psychologically healthier staying in this niche. I believe she still scores in the 60's on occassion at the ripe old age of 24. This mare didn't get to that age and still be able to do 3rd level because she was started as a yearling and pushed into a high dollar futurity at the age of 2.

My personal opinion is that all classes for 2 and 3 year olds whether western pleasure or hunter on the flat (or under saddle as some ridiculous organizations thought it ought be named) should be banned. If high dollar amounts be paid out to anyone, it should be a reward for taking the time to allow the horse to mentally and physically grow into a specific discipline and performance. That's not to say that I do not think a 2 or 3 year old should never be ridden. It's how much and how high of an impact any horse should have to endure for the purpose of showing. 
Many will try to equate the argument to the thoroughbred racehorse who is started as a yearling, raced as a two year old and sometimes retired by the age of 3 and usually by the age of 5 or 6. That argument doesn't hold much water for me since the entire industry of racing is based on money and the horse is a commodity. That is completely different from the show horse although a show horse can contribute to many bank accounts throughout its' lifetime. You must also know what happens to thousands of thoroughbred racehorses every year when their careers end. They don't all get to stand stud or produce foals for regenerating the racing industry. So again, the argument of the thoroughbred racing world in comparison to the show horse is again squelched. Another point to ponder is the early growing cycles of stock horses versus the thoroughbred.
I cannot ever see the justification of pushing a stock bred horse into the show ring to be rated on the standards of a mature horse. There are plenty of dollars to be had from a horse that performs well into his teens or twenties but what is to become of the horse asked to endure so much at such a young age? It is ridiculous to consider that this baby horse will move accordingly to the standards set forth for mature horses in certain disciplines. Equate that to asking a twelve year to conduct business at the executive levels of a fortune 500 company and you'll have your answer.
Ask Mrs Mom who sparked this very post. I'm sure she could share a few stories seeing as she is one of those who attempt to rehabilitate those mature horses who were asked to an adult's job when they were only babies.
I guess you could say that out of my pet peeves, those high dollar 'festivals of almighty ugliness' shows for the youngest of horses, are number one on the list of my pet peeves.

Standards of Subjective Judging

For every discipline and every breed, there is an organization who sets the standard for the purpose of judging. Most western classes follow the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Associations) rules and stock breed registeries follow suit. For hunters, it's the USEF (US Equestrian Federation formerly American Horse Show Association or AHSA & they had a couple years calling themselves the USEA aka US Equestrian Association) that sets the standards. For reining there is the NRHA (National Reining Horse Association) and dressage has the USDF (US Dressage Federation). There are many other disciplines that are subjectively judged but we'll stick to the basics of open show classes being hunters and western non timed events.
For the purpose of judging, we have the standards set for hunters by going to the origins of show hunters. A show hunter is the condensed version of the optimum fox hunter. A horse  that exerts minimum energy to execute a ground covering stride at all gaits and has impeccable manners thereby freeing up the rider's mind for the strategy of following the hunt.
As a standard rule, a horse that has high knee action, does not cover much ground in his rather vertical gait. The leg does not swing freely from the shoulder and this is heavily penalized. A horse that is inverted in his topline is not using his hind quarters to propel forward and thereby also inhibiting a forward moving, ground covering stride. Again, heavily penalized. A horse that twitches and flinches at garbage barrels and outside distractions has not the experience to calmly negotiate a course of even more unfamiliar obstacles. A horse that does not travel well in company, is definitely not a good example of a mannerly mount.
Unfortunately these types of horses are not always common at an open show. Breeding is not always selective and people end up with all shapes and sizes of horses that may well go the distance but not be optimum for the show ring. Should these riders even bother? Of course! Your horse may not fit the exact standards or even come close to an efficiently built hunter but consider that the other horses who show up on that day at that show, may not either.
You need to know how your horse measures up to the standards set forth for the hunter ring and go from there. Knowing major &  minor faults from the USEF rules is also something everyone who shows hunters, whether a backyard type show or rated USEF show, should know. Sadly, reading the standards for hunters, rules and faults, is not emphasized by trainers and coaches or saddder still, some judges. There are plenty of riders that have never cracked a rulebook and it shows.
In today's society of 'get'er done attitudes, many organiztions have pushed the boundaries of when a horse should peak in performance. By that, I'm referring to the 2 year old and 3 year old classes, divisions and futurities of several breed organizations and even national awards. If you are jumping a horse that is less than 5 over fences in excess of 2' 6" (and I'm being generous with that height), how can you expect this horse to hold up in the long run. Maybe he looks gorgeous and has the mindset of a saint but he is not done growing. The high impact placed on his muscular, skeletal and neurological systems will most likely show symptoms of break down by the time he is 12 or so. So you're planning on selling him by then and if he achieves this award for the youngest of hunters, he'll bring extra zeroes along on that check from the buyer. He won't be your problem when he breaks down and by then you'll be long gone. This is just my opinion of course and only one short synopsis of yet another crappy standard being set up by big money to further push the imitation hunter out of the nest way too early. I say imitation because I cannot imagine seeing many (any) 2 year olds showing hunter on the flat (or under saddle as some organizations refer to it) correctly.
Then of course there are the monkey see, monkey do crowds that worry more about getting a horse' head to his knees, than engaging his hocks. Take western pleasure for example. Artificial doesn't begin to make a dent in todays models of western pleasure. There is nothing western nor pleasurable about it. READ THE RULES!! The standard for western pleasure is set forth by the AQHA and most breed groups and open shows, follow these rules.
A pleasurable western mount should have stride, in keeping with his conformation, that covers ground easily with minimal effort. A free flowing gait that is relaxed. The western pleasure horse should have a relaxed topline, keeping his poll fairly even with the withers; slightly above depending on conformation and never below. He should carry the bit willingly either on the vertical or slightly forward but never behind. He should possess the manners of a saint. When was the last time I saw this? Hmmmmm, it's been a while.
People get so over the top trying to get their horse to 'keep his head low' they miss the whole point. The horse gets stiff. The gaits become impure (4 beating lopes and 2 foot strides at the jog). The relaxation is so lost that some horses I see have created ways to please their riders, but become convaluted in their mindsets.
The standards that are not adhered to in training a horse for either western non timed events or show hunters can become so lost that the horse moves with the utmost artificial and imitation means. So what has all my rambling about standards accomplished here? Well, for one, you need to know how your horse measures up to the standards set forth for subjective judging.

So as a judge, you must know the standards. The baseline by which a horse is judged for a certain discipline whether open or breed specific. Then, as you watch the class at hand, you must incorporate the weight of a fault, also set forth by the rules of the guideline association. On top of that, you now have to decide if this horse is closer to that baseline than the others in the class. It takes alot of reading, practice and keeping up with the changes to be a judge. I do not think it is for everyone and I also think there are a few out there that could use a good updating seminar but that's coming in another post later on.
My point is that you should read the rules. Assess your horse by the standards of the discipline and/or breed. Know what the major faults are that you can fix by riding better or gaining more knowledge. Recognize that just because old Dobbin is fearless over fences, maybe he doesn't have the flat kneed, free flowing gaits to win the hack. Improve on his strong points. Get your points over fences, ride the flat the best you can and if the tri colors are to come your way, they will because old Dobbin nailed those courses.
If you are showing in western non timed events, i.e. pleasure, horsemanship, trail, etc.... read the rules. Know what is wrong and even if the one who keeps winning top call has the movement of a foreign robot from distant lands, rest assured you will come across a judge that knows their stuff. That robot will not live long and proper.
For whatever your opinion is on subjective judging, there are a thousand arguments for and against it. My advice here is to
Read the rules
Know the major faults
Don't compromise your horse' happiness and well being for the quickie award or because everyone else is doing it. There are plenty of shows, awards  and programs to enhance your collection. Try a different circuit, association or discipline. You'll find your niche and keep your horse on his feet for more years than you can count on both hands and feet. If in fact you want an award or recognition, just because, then buy yourself a trophy online. There's Trophy Depot, Crown Trophy, Winning Ways East, Hodges Badges, and those are just a few that I read on the bottom or back of awards laying around the desk and mantle.
The show is not the means to an end but rather a rest stop on the journey.

I'm Back!

I have to apologize to the readers of this blog. I have been out of town and very busy but I am back and have a ton of topics to write about!! Here is just a few that will be coming up in the next few days....
  • Judged on a standard or against the others in the class : which holds more weight?
  • There's a judge in the class!
  • A sought after hunter rider in a specific breed organization - why? why? why? What's the attraction?
  • Can breed specific organizations ever get it right by their own rules?
  • What to do when the judge sucks!
  • Why open status? I'm nobody's bitch!
Stay tuned.....I'm back!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taking the top call .......

So you enter the ring for your flat class. Let's say it's a pleasure class for judging sake.
You're now being judged at the walk. You take note that there are some really nice looking horses in this 'pleasure' class. Although your horse is obedient, he may not be the best mover. Most of the time, you place but maybe not so high as you'd like. 
Trot please, all trot (or jog if your in western pleasure). Don't rush into it. Good. Nice departure. Here and there you take note of some of the other horses in the ring.
Canter, All Canter (or Lope if you're in western) Okay, gather yourself and make sure you're ready. Apply leg and yes! I got the lead!! You got all the transitions and even your diagonols and leads. Wow, you have a real shot at winning this class! What a great feeling! You take note that out of the corner of your eye, you saw a few wrong lead departures so your chances are really getting better.
Fast forward to line up and pinning. You're waiting in line for the announcer to call you for the blue. But wait!......Are you kidding me? What is this judge looking at! The horse I was right behind busted his lead in one direction. His pace set mine very well and he was a helluva mover but come on......he busted a lead for at least 2 or 3 strides before changing. This judge is blind and I may as well go home now!!
Have you been in this class? Unfortunately, from the back of your horse in a class, you cannot see everything that happens with the other horses.
The horse that picked up the wrong lead for 2 or 3 strides and then swapped, either flying or simple change, was a very nice mover. He definitely had the whole package. Quality gaits with transitions that showed excellent control. His expression showed calmness and his overall conformation was suitable for his job..
Your horse was good. Just because he falls out of gait for transitions, doesn't mean he's the worst. Of course not. Maybe your horse is not the best built horse around but he held a great pace and you did everything right!
Something to consider is that the horse you thought 'wow, he blew his lead so that's one less I have to beat' may just possess more ability that shows through.
In this scenario, the better horse has to get the blue. If a lead is blown and corrected within 2 or 3 strides, I make note of it for tie breaking purposes but that is not to say I have weighted that fault heavily for a better overall horse. I know that's hard for some people. Wrong lead through the whole direction, I would definitely have to discount much greater and they would forfeit the win. But you always have to reward the better horse. The most you can do is your best. Some judges would weight that blown lead more heavily, not taking in account the quick correction.
You may not always always agree with a judges' opinion. Our job as a judge is to reward the best horse in that class on that day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Critique Today

This is a critique of the rider as requested only. The setting is schooling and not a show.

The Leg - this rider appears to be pinching at the knee instead of riding with her weight in her heels. The leg has fallen back behind the girth and they have lost upper body balance. Either they were simply left behind on departure due to the inability of the weak leg or fell back into the saddle over the fence.. Either way, this rider is really in the way of the horse by being in the saddle over a fence. Though her heel is below her hip, the amount of bend in the knee and the lack of rising her weight out of the saddle, shows a weak leg a la knee pinching.

Hands - I'm not seeing a release here. It appears as if the rider was trying to balance off the rein and pull herself up into two point, using the reins. This simply jabs the horse in the mouth. Even if you get left behind at a jump, it is best to at least have enough independence in your hands to move them along with your horses' mouth. Impeding the horse with your weight on his back is hard enough but if you also are hanging off his mouth, depending on what bit is in there, your doing everything wrong. Grab mane if need be!

Eye - this rider appears to be looking at the back of her horses' head and not up to where she really wants to go. Her chin is tucked, her eye is down and her shoulders are rotated forward. Keep the eye up beyond your present jump and it will help to keep the shoulders and back in check also.

I don't want to go on and on over this rider's faults. I see many faults but it looks as though she is a novice so as not to discourage her too much, I just stuck with the basic aids. I did not include seat as I don't think this rider has much independence or experience.

I would suggest this rider doing a lot more ground work. Jumping is fun especially if you have a mount that just goes on about it regardless of what you do. But you can also end up discouraging a horse from jumping with so many faults. You can cause a loss of confidence in your horse also depending on his personality. Some horses take faults personally and this can greatly hinder what used to be a packer over fences.

You don't have to just driill posting trot and trotting in two point with no stirrups and extreme short (jockey) stirrups to build a leg although those are two definite ways to get a leg! Put out a series of ground poles approximately 6 feet apart. Get in 2 point and trot into the poles moving your hands forward and back to the rhythm of the strides. The distance your hand moves along the neck should not be extreme. Don't throw your hands forward, nor bring them back behind your shoulder. Once your hand is moving independently, it makes it easier to work on your leg. Another good thing is to post to the trot for 5 strides and then 2 point with half crest release for 5 strides (as long as your horse maintains a rhythm without contact.). This exercise will help you move from one position to the other. If you feel unstable in your upper body doing this exercise, you're probably pinching with your knee. Go back to walking in two point and the trot remembering to relax your hips and knees to follow the motion of your horse through the barrel.

Overall my suggestions would be to just leave the cross rails alone until you are able to trot and canter on the flat, moving through 3 point, half seat and 2 point with independent legs, seat and hands. That's not to say that this rider doesn't appear to have potential. Her mount looks willing enough from this picture. The rider has taken great care in providing her horse with leg & hoof protection. She has prepared her own appointments well with a helmet and body protector, boots and gloves. I do not know how long this pair has been schooling cross rails so my suggestions are based completely on this picture with no assumptions to the ability of either the rider or horse. Good luck, keep up your safety habits and always try to end on a high note!

Monday, October 26, 2009

When Disciplines Collide

Well another weekend of judging over! I have again, a plethera of topics swirling around in my head but I've chosen this for today. First off, look at the clock and take note of the minute hand.

At many open shows, classes that are not over fences are just referred to as english. This usually brings out a hefty variety of saddles in the ring. When the show has English Pleasure, English Equitation, etc designated as classes, you never know what you're going to get. The only distinction you can possibly use in these classes are the judging designation such as pleasure, equitation, performance, etc.

English Pleasure was announced and in came two saddle seat riders, one side saddle rider and several variations of hunt seat. There was a  western horse in english tack, a gaited horse ridden side saddle, kids on ponies, a big floating horse, 2 animated saddle seat horses (or were they) and a high headed, skinny minny looks to be OTTB.   That is definitely a recipe for questions to the judge when I pin this class so I'd better be rather exact in my notes.

Here's the line up
  1. Large dark bay, hunt seat rider, naturally large gaits, flat knees, nice carriage and obviously great natured pleasurable mount.
  2. Large chestnut, saddle seat rider, well animated gaits, very light carriage and very well mannered
  3. Gray large pony, hunt seat rider, nice carriage, a bit animated in the knees but moving out well, obviously well mannered 
  4. Large chestnut, hunt seat rider, obvious western horse in english tack, a bit animated but light carriage and well mannered
  5. Gaited dark bay, nice flat & running walk, side saddle rider with a heavy hand, nice manners but rider doesn't keep it in gait.
  6. Small pony, hunt seat rider, fast but small child rider had control. Didn't look too pleasurable but ok.
  7. Thin, large dark bay, hunt seat rider, large strides, poor carriage, fast and high headed but flat kneed, with some problems with attention and manners (my guess it was an OTTB that was still very green to show and treed saddle)
  8. Small gray horse, saddle seat rider, very spooky, rider has death grip on long shanked bit, rider & horse look scared.
 I made sure to take note of the gaits, the horses' manners and their overall appearance of being a pleasurable mount with happy riders. Although I must say, hunters is my first choice to ride, show & judge. I cannot say that I am biased in a generalized pleasure class such as this.
 I like to see the saddle seat horses show their animation and still be so light in their carriage. That is a very pretty picture. I love side saddle and on a gaited horse with decent flat & running walk, who wouldn't find that a pleasurable ride?

A big well conditioned, flat kneed hunter type horse with light carriage, good manners, ground covering stride without the aid of the rider's spur to keep the stride open and reaching? Well in this field of 8, I see it as the obvious choice for all day pleasurable hack. The rider wasn't over schooling, see sawing the reins or balancing off the reins. Good conformation supported the natural movement that the #1 horse had. Swinging from the shoulder, flat kneed, ground covering natural stride.... hands down my top pick.

Big red gelding with a nicely appointed saddle seat rider. This horse was well suited and trained for saddle seat. No heavy shoes or obvious scarring showed that he was a naturally gifted saddle seat mount and not something inhumanely manufactured. A victim of a bit too much leg from the rider during transitions which ended up being rather sticky going from the trot to the canter. I think the rider was a novice and just anticipated the gait changes a bit much. Once the horse went to the canter, she let go of the choke hold reins and the horse just floated along with really nice gaits. Just a tad fast but again, I think the rider just may have been a bit nervous. Otherwise, a great 2nd place. Nice to watch, looks like they are a pleasurable, mostly relaxed duo.

The gray pony was ridden by what appearred to be a happy and correctly positioned 'tween' aged girl. This pony was run up on by some of the other entries and never missed a step or batted an eye. The pony had a bit more knee action than I would like to see for a hunter style pony. A little long in the barrel which may have contributed to the knee not moving through from the shoulder, but otherwise, looked like a happy pair with good gait transitions. Okay .... that'll be my third pick.

Oh my! Small gray horse crow hopping sideways down the rail and about to collide with the little pony. I better call quick for a walk!! Wow, not such a great horse for a pleasure class and not looking forward to it coming back in the ring for safety sake but ... whew! Collision averted and if the rider would let the horse get off that choke hold long shanked bit just a little, maybe they'd have a snowball's chance....okay, I have the bottom of my list. You don't always work with first place down in order. This duo was not suited for each other at this time in their training and I'm not sure this horse was ready for a show environment.

Let's see, what's left that I haven't placed. This should not be too difficult as I have my first three placings and a definite last.
  • I have a western horse in english tack and the perverbial western rider in english habit, hunt cap, no harness, make up and eye down. Horses' stride is a bit short but they've a fair pace with nice manners on the horses' part. He too, was a close call victim of the gray crow hopper.  
  • I have a possible VOR - victim of rider - side saddle rider on a walker of some sort who does a nice flat and running walk. I believe this horse has nice barefoot gaits for a walker or walker cross. The running walk is a gait that takes conditioning on the horses' part and this horse had a nice one but it's possible the rider was new to side saddle although the horse was well suited for it. They broke gait twice (that I saw)  but no excessive speed, suitability and a nicely matched pair.
  • Small or possibly a large mini pony with small child on board. This pony gave a few head down upward hump backed jumps transitioning up from trot to canter both times. Not so mannerly but the size is suitable and rider does not seem rattled at all. Cute pair, pony stretching for the stride but rather fast, even passing the large dark bay. Doesn't look pleasurable to post that fast.
  • Thin horse, looks to be a thoroughbred and possibly just off the track. He appears willing or this rider would have not made it to the end of the day. Although willing, he doesn't seem to have any idea of what is being asked of him. Looks like they have some work to do. His nose is pointed straight out to evade that bit but he looks to be built well enough to eventually have a nice stride. He's looking all around and having some attention span problems which makes me think he's new to the arena but he's not appearring spooky. I see a good prospect for a nice horse with training and time. The rider also appearred a bit of a novice but had a good balance and didn't seem to be too rattled by her mount that was making his own path around the ring.
These are my remaining 4 horses to place, keeping in mind, it's a pleasure class. I think the skinny propect is, at this stage of his development, not a pleasure to ride and is excessively fast. They'll be good in the future but right now, all he can beat out is the crow hopping gray horse that I really wish would leave the ring. He had a few breaks at the canter and the pace went up and down depending on whether there was something for the horse to look at or not. I don't see volatilility and there's a lot of willingness on part of the rider and horse. Okay, he goes above the unruly gray horse but won't beat out anyone else in the ring.... I have my 7th place.

Just a note - This show only pinned through 6th place but having only 8 in the class, I'll place them all so as not to discount an opinion for any of them in case they wish to see my cards or ask a question.

Okay, 4th place isn't too hard. The western horse in english tack. Nice manners with a rider working way too hard for a pleasure class but nonetheless better than the 'breaking gait' walker, the 'funny fat mile a minute' pony and definitely over the skinny OTTB and gray crash about to happen horse.

Now what to do with the gaited and the tiny pony? Does speed and slightly bad manners (remember the small pony may have humped his way from the trot to the canter but was almost taken out by the gray crash waiting to happen without so much as a laid back ear, so the manners were not that bad).  Hmmm, oh my, better make a command decision and be done with it. Breaking gait vs. speeding pony, breaking gait, speeding pony, break, speed.....I don't like speed especially in a pleasure class but this is a tiny pony in a ring with horses upwards of 16hh +. Breaking gait is a major fault but I believe this rider to be new to side saddle and therefore not keeping the horse in gait allowing him to drop down.

Wow, how long have I had them at the trot? Better call for the walk and line up.

Although breaking gait is a major fault, excessive speed should be weighted more heavily in any pleasure class also a major fault. So along with his speed and little hump backed canter departures, little pony gets the green with pink going to the side saddle walker.

As they exit the ring, there are so many things I would like to tell them. I sure hope that little girl on the little pony gets a chance to ride a really nice pony, just once. I applaud the side saddle rider for keeping the discipline alive while learning on a gaited horse that was highly suitable. I want the western horse in english tack to do well in western and the rider not to wear make up .... oh and get a helmet with a harness. It's not a fashion statement, it's a safety device. I want to tell the tall, dark and handsome winning horse that he is gorgeous and I would love to see them over fences. I want to tell the gray crow hopper to please go home and practice. Go out to some venues without showing as you are dangerous to other riders and you can get experience without going in the ring. Oh and please don't over ride that OTTB. He needs some down time off the track to grow, be a horse and by all means, eat. He looks like he's lost his muscling from the track but hasn't settled enough off his high protein diet to start gaining some weight. Go slow and be as willing to him as he appears to be to you, OTTB rider. Tween Suzie on the gray, keep up the good work. Hope to see you popping little jumps in short stirrup. Saddle seat chestnut with the 2nd place..... if you relax a bit and let your horse do what he has obviously mastered, you may have won this class. Go to lots of shows and then you'll relax and your horse can win in the collision of disciplines pleasure class!

I would like to have made those my notes on the card but I'm not conducting a clinic. I'm judging a show and with that, the next class is called in to the ring.

How many minutes ticked by? All of those thoughts and more ran through my head in probably five minutes of this class. Keep in mind, I'm writing in symbols and short hand without looking pretty much the whole time this class was floating and hopping around the ring. That's judging. Factor in some rather unseasonably cool breezes and cold coffee and that was my Saturday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recommended Reading for All Disciplines

There is a book that I don't think has had enough promotion and accolades given for it's valuable information. (If you click on the book title here or at the bottom of the post, it will take you to Claire Lilley's website.)
Schooling With Ground Poles : Flatwork for Every Horse Every Sport by Claire Lilley
I would include in the title For Every Rider since it has some skill enhancing techniques that even a novice backyard horse and rider can benefit from.  I stumbled on this book while perusing Ebay one day a while back. When I was instructing riders, it's so hard sometimes, to get a particular bit of detail across in more than one way so I purchased the book for ideas. It's a fantastic arsenal of information for riders, trainers, instructors and owners.

The book covers the basics on everything from scant ground equipment needs, lunging, in hand work, rider's aids, retraining an ill tempered horse, jumping and dressage movements through Prix St. George level. You would be surprised at how many intricate details of riding can be enhanced with simple ground pole exercises.

I've always tried to drill equitation riders on course elements set up with ground poles but no matter how hard you try, most do not want or will not, believe that the jump does not come from jumping but rather the flatwork a rider and horse put time into. Until you can easily see the lines of course elements and ride them smoothly, jumping them is not going to ramp up your equitation wins.

Claire Lilley's experience spans the upper levels of not only dressage but show jumping, vaulting and instucting in all of her unique specialties. The book is well written and extremely well illustrated with easy to understand explanations for lessons and goals.

Schooling with Ground Poles was first published in 2003 by Trafalgar Square Publishing. I do not know if there have been subsequent editions as mine is a hard back copy from the original 2003 printing.

I would recommend this book for anyone who has anything to do with horses. Whether you show or not, train or not, instruct or not, ride or are a care giver, handling horses only in halter; this book has something for you to enhance your skills or teach you and your horse new elements.

Just about everything that can be corrected, initially trained for horse and / or rider is covered in well illustrated, easy to understand language which also makes it wonderful reference for beginners all the way to master instructors.
If you can have only one horse book, get
Schooling With Ground Poles : Flatwork for Every Horse Every Sport by Claire Lilley

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yesterday's Comment is Today's Post

One comment from yesterday I'm making the topic of today's post. If you didn't read it, .....
"You've covered how you feel about the rider's look, and the tack used on the horse, but I'm curious if any thought is given to the look of the horse in the class.

Where I used to show in my youth, you didn't dare show up without trimming your horse's fetlocks, ears, bridle path, and muzzle, or with a dirty horse. Basically, your horse was spotless.
Where I show these days, at least in the open shows, people pull their horses out of the pasture and haul to the show for a day of fun. Some of the horses are muddy and hairy, and it is quite obvious that no effort was made to groom the horses in preparation for the show."
Absolutely the horses turnout condition is taken into account where appropriate. Halter: judged on the conformation of the horse, sometimes includes color and / or pattern of coat but is heavily weighted on conformation. An ill groomed horse will downplay his attributes in the ring. If the coat isn't shiny and giving the appearance of health, that will detract. Consciously or subconciously, it will come into play. Grooming of the horse can actually shape it's appearance, enhance conformation flaws and distract them also. If your horse has a nice even topline with great proportions poll to wither, wither to hip but the mane is long and not drawn up in some manner of presentation, your horse may appear to have a shorter neck. A thick mane in the middle may give the appearance of a cresty neck which can indicate that he's out of shape or not in proportion to the standard of the breed he is representing. Grooming to enhance & downplay your horses' best and worst, is an art form. I will notice long toes even if they are painted with hoof polish and it, more often than not, will hinder your horses' ability to perform pivots in hand and under saddle.

Unless everyone at the show, shows up with no apparent preparation, your horse' turnout will definitely play a part. For one, a horse that is just caught up out of the field with no grooming and such, will most likely show that he/she hasn't been working for the classes under saddle either.

"I would expect a horse in this condition to be marked down in showmanship, but what about other classes? Would you give preference to the groomed horse? What about horses that are too thin?"
In horsemanship if the best rider that executes a pattern or works the best on the rail but has the dirtiest horse, they will still win. It is doubtful though, that someone who works and practices their riding prowess, is not going to pay attention to their horse' turnout. But if this turns out to be the case, the best rider takes the blue.
In pleasure if the best horse has engaged his hocks, is moving straight and light under the rider, has the best movement overall with true gaits, he will win without me taking into account that he has muddy hocks. Again, those that work and practice to win in a pleasure class are most likely to show up ready to go as will their horse.

I would hate to think that an exhibitor left a show thinking that the judge pinned a clean horse with poor conformation over a dirty but highly correct horse just because of coat polish, face oil, baby powder and black hooves. Those exhibitor's who gussy up their standardbred / welsh / shire  cross that has the movement of a sewing machine with a needle stuck in leather, are trying to play up what few good conformation points that their horse possesses. It doesn't mean they should win if a beautifully built, natural moving quarter horse comes in looking like something just caught by a BLM helicopter round up in the dusty red rock valley unless the class is grooming and conditioning or showmanship. Then again, showmanship has a lot of other criteria i.e. execution of the pattern, presentation in the inspection, etc.

I split ties using the smallest of nit picks. There are always those tiny little flaws no one else may see. A halt that was a bit too short; a bobble on the backing steps; a shoulder dragging transition....something. There is always something, however slight, that will give me my order to place. When I pin a class, I know that if asked, I could give detailed reason as to why I placed how I placed and no, I was not on a 4H judging team.

If I have two horses that I just cannot decide who is first and who is second because they are both good movers, well built, with suitable riders who are showing them to there highest of abilities, what would I do?

 I would split a tie using turnout as a mitigating factor only if I could not find any tiny flaw in 2 riders' pattern and rail work. Turnout of the horse does reflect on a rider and therefore I would give very low weight but consider the horses' turnout if everything were equal. I would like to think every judge could give good reasons if asked about their placings with reference only to the rules and expectations of the class (i.e. pleasure, halter, horsemanship, etc).

I wish I spoke for all judges but unfortunately, I have double judged with a judge who did take fancy clothes and silver things into account when placing. Those judges do exist. I suggest you be proactive with your chosen show series or club and try to find a resource list with fair and knowledgable judges.

I just noticed I left out the thin horse question. By thin, I assume that you mean, underweight. Working horses can be fit and may appear a bit thin but their condition is usually well defined by their performance and muscle. Now the underweight horse will never pin over a nicely kept but possibly poorly conformed horse. In this case, the lesser endowed horse would win over the underweight horse. Again, being underweight, can and will define the outline for that horses' conformation so it's most likely not going to come down to a well conformed underweight horse tied with a nicely conditioned but poorly built horse. If in fact, it came to that, the healtheir horse will win even if it's covered with mud and the exhibitor wore a burlap toga.

I hope that covers the question you asked. Please feel free to comment and ask for further clarification if I left something out. I am not a trained writer and therefore sometimes my thoughts do not come out the same on paper or monitor in this case.

Hava great day....the weekend is coming up....are you ready for the show?  

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bling it on!

Again, a million topics to post on went through my head this weekend. Again, I did not jot the ideas down but this one just crept into my thoughts and I think everyone, exhibitors and judges, has an opinion. This is mine.

Attire in the Western Show Ring
I'm asked all the time what I think of the amount of silver on saddles, halters and bridles. Many times I am within earshot, most likely on purpose, of people making comments about so and so's glossy lambskin and rhinestone outfit, gawdy and otherwise. Whether anyone believes or not, I do not judge a HORSE show as a beauty pagent. Unless you are wearing flannel pajamas, I am not staring at your attire. I do not care if you look like an easter egg or a bland dinner salad. Truly I am judging what I need to judge. Whether it is the conformation of your horse, your horsemanship and execution of a pattern or the movement of your horse for pleasure riding.
There are some tricks to make yourself and your horse hide or enhance specific areas. As we all know, dark colors can shed a few pounds for people. If you don't have the quietest hand, I'd say leave off the french cuffs. If your horse has a really nice looking face and expression, don't use the widest, heaviest silver donned halter you can afford.
I do get offended when I hear comments like, the judge pinned by the amount of silver on the saddles. Or, Ann had custom glossy smooth lambskin chaps with a matching shirt and little Suzie only had a plaid cotton shirt & jeans, so that's why Ann won. Give me a break! I can't even tell you what someone was wearing if it was a pleasure class. I can tell you who schooled too much in the class. See-sawing the reins and staring at the back of their horse' head looking as far from having a pleasurable ride as driving down a dirt road in a car with no shocks.
If you are riding an individual horsemanship pattern, I can tell you who knows the difference between an oval and a circle but most likely, I cannot tell you whether they wore chaps or not. Your attire is not what is on my mind even as I look to see the effectiveness of your aids and your position over your leg.
If you are wearing something so loud and so gawdy that it draws my attention to you, you better know how to ride! I look at everyone who comes into the ring. I may only look at a green unsuitable pleasure mount moving like it's in the starter shoot to run down a steer once to catch the exhibitor number but I will look at everyone.
I have to say, too much will draw attention but it will probably not be the attention you want. The most extreme example of too much that I have come across was at a western mixed class show. There was a woman who had a very nice horse which placed well in pleasure classes but it was very hard to see her horse. Why? She wore a cowboy hat that was completely adorned on the underside of the brim with rhinestones and there was a tiara around the crown of the hat.
When the show was over and I saw the woman at her trailer, I couldn't resist. I went over to her and asked what the hat was about. She said, she always wore that hat because she couldn't afford the silver saddles and crystals custom show clothing. I replied that she had a nice moving, suitable horse to ride, she only needed to meet the show attire minimum requirements. She asked me if the hat had helped her be seen and I said no, it kept my eye above your nice horse. Honestly, I don't know how she saw out from under that brim. It was blinding! Had she taken it off and held it towards the sun, a huge fireball would have pelted out and blinded me! She told that the hat did what she thought.....get her attention and she would continue wearing it. It had become lucky to her.
I think if she qualified and won a high point award from that series, that they buy her a hat in leiu of a trophy.
You can wear it but it doesn't make you a better rider. If you want to stand out, train your horse, practice your riding and you will stand out. If you want a lot of silver tack and crystalized outfits, that's fine. But you better have something to show if you really want everyone looking at you! So bring on the bling! Unless it blinds me, it won't change my decision and I doubt it sways any other judges' minds either.
Oh and next time you place or think someone else placed because of glitzy silver and AB rhinestones, ask your show secretary, manager, steward or whomever is halfway in charge of your show to please ask the judge for a moment of their time. I think you'll find out that no one else' tack or attire was the reason for the placings.

The above picture on today's post is from the 2006 American Paint Horse Association Vegas Horse Show. Ms. Thompson, the rider in the picture was riding in the gambler trail class. Her outfit was used as an example of extreme outfits but was perfectly appropriate for the venue and class she was riding. I thought ya'll might enjoy seeing it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Judge Did Not Get Top Call....

What do you do when you want to cancel a horse show and it isn't for weather conditions? Managers work hard and plan everything for a horse show only to have it come to the entry closing date with only 4 entries. Maybe it's the economy, maybe they didn't plan it well enough in accordance to conflicting shows within the area, maybe they need to revamp their divisions or restrictions to widen their clientele range.
So, they put out the word. Posting cancellations on their websites, online calendar sites and send out the word in their email lists. It's hard to cancel a show when it isn't for obvious reasons like a typhoon or a blizzard. But I would like to offer this tip to all show managers when cancelling a horse show. Ad this to your checklist for cancelling.


Yes, I showed up to judge a show on a very nice spring day. I had been booked for that show almost a year in advance. It was an annual show that was well attended from what I knew and had heard. Even if I had 24 hour notice, that is better than nothing. Sometimes I think because they have signed a contract with the judge to protect themselves from a no notice no show, they think that if the SHOW is cancelled, the judge will still require payment, partial or full, depending on contract requirements. Personally, I would not require any payment regardless of what a contract says, if I get at least 24 hour notification and depending on the circumstances, may waive fees even if it's less than a 24 hour cancellation. This particular show manager, did not even offer to compensate me for gas for driving to the show. I drove 210 miles round trip.
When I arrived at the show, the manager sort of hid from me, sending a child volunteer out to tell me they were just there picking up things from the showgrounds. I asked to speak with the manager and was told she was busy. HUH?????? So am I!!! I'm SUPPOSED to be judging a show!!
Finally with some pushing, I found the manager. I told her my mileage to the show and it seems I should at least be compensated for the gas to get there and that was being generous. Many judges' in this situation would demand payment in full.

So today's post is actually my venting after a few months of stewing about this particular show manager. I see where the show is being planned again for next season and they are already begging for sponsor money and have posted the judge they have booked. I would love to contact that judge to tell them my experience and to be wary but then I don't want to cause bad blood. It seems their returning clientele were not loyal to them last year and I don't want to sabotage any plans for their attendance in the future. Besides, every judge has to learn for themselves I suppose.

Blessings to all showing this weekend!

Send me a picture and I'll critique it in the fairest manner possible. Maybe that could be my next post!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photo Submission - Description from rider - In this picture, my horse, a 13 year old off the track thoroughbred, and I are schooling a fairly difficult grid for him. It was 3 trot poles to 3 bounce x-rails to a one stride 2'6" vertical to a two stride 3' vertical to a three stride 3'6" oxer. All strides were set a little short for him to encourage him to get a little deep and have to round a bit over the fences. He is very much a long and flat kind of jumper. The eventual goal was to compete at USPC Show Jumping Championships. The picture was taken in March while it was still a bit cold here so please excuse the extremely informal attire on my part and Jazz's slightly less than gleaming winter coat.

is it okay to post the picture with your description (below) along with the critique on the blog? I just wanted to be sure about that before I posted. Thanx~!

Most definitely! Feel free to edit it or whatever if you think it would read better/be easier to understand.

I added the email dialogue so everyone would know I have permission from the rider to post the picture and her description of the work being done in the photo.
So that said, attire is not an issue, nor turnout of the horse. I was very happy to see an auto release. This type of release just isn't being taught these days and it is so much more efficient especially when working through some tough gymnastics. I'm so tired of seeing upper level hunters and riders using half crest and even full crest releases. So I commend the rider for having such a nice hand and auto release. Following well as you can see the straight line from the bit to the elbow. Her rein is merely an extension of her arm. I can see a little slack in the rein. Just a slightly shorter rein and you could have brought your arm a little more forward and not test your center of gravity to the nth degree. As with any release, you need to keep those thumbs up. Although your hand is showing towards an angle downward, it is not enough to keep your elbows in, which is why when you look at the photo, the elbow draws your eye to it. Ideally your hand should be parallel to the horses shoulder angle as seen from the saddle. When you are mounted, turning your thumbs up is fine for full & half crest release riders but the most efficient for auto release is to keep the hands apart the width of the neck and look down at your horses' shoulder. Position the hand with thumbs turning up and carry your hand parallel to the downward angle of the shoulder. It is so efficient and nice to see this technique in hunters or jumpers. By using the auto release you simply keep your hand following the motion of the horse and your horse is able to stay easily between your hands. Can you tell I really am partial to old school and the auto release? Well, it's not really old school. It's still the release that should be taught but I believe that as competition has evolved into something geared more  towards a 'get it done now' attitude, it just isn't taught. You should be able to watch any national level medal rider come out and use the auto release on course and now time just isn't taken to do that. SO, I commend your use of the auto release, just shorten up a little on the rein so as to keep contact at all times over the fence. Get your hand parallel to the neck with thumbs on the up side.
Nice leg, right at the girth. You're neither falling behind or forward of the motion. The only tiny nitpick here which if it wasn't a still shot, I probably wouldn't notice is that it seems your iron is slightly forward of the ball of your foot. Not a huge problem but it has kept your upper body very conservative within the hip angle. For this kind of gymnastic work, you need the utmost of security and I would like to see you close that hip angle a bit more but I think I am seeing the correllation with the center of gravity due to the iron being set a tad forward.
Shoulders back and open..... I love it! A keen eye with chin up.....I love it! Freeing up your horses' back to work and show such a nice bascule off the departure is really nice.
Now I didn't see the approach but with regards to your horse not being square behind on departure.....and this is purely speculation... but it could stem from not having held medium contact in the rein to the fence. If you were not able to sit a stride into the base of departure in order to keep contact through legs, seat and hands, your horse can lose a tad of balance compensating, and come off with a less than square departure. Remember to ride the back end of the horse. Get used to knowing where the hind legs are in reference to your stride and departure.
Now I know some of this seems intricate, but being a picture of perfection means being an efficient, handy rider able to use small subtle aids to optimize their mounts best attributes. Sometimes I see trainers and parents only worried about the presentation if it's a hunter judged class. If it's equitation, they don't always understand that unless you are using yourself AND your horse to max efficiency, you are not the best eq rider.
That's why you'll see at upper levels of equitation, horses that are specialized as equitation horses. Just as stock horses are specialized for halter, pleasure, trail and what not, so are hunters. Not all good show hunters are good equitation horses and not all equitation horses are good show hunters. Jumpers is a whole different 'animal' and rarely is a horse good in the jumper ring and good in the hunter ring although a handy jumper can make a very nice equitation horse.
If you see everything in my critique seems directly related to what is going on in the picture, then you are ready to start adding the small details to finesse your equitation, thereby bringing out the best in your horse. If you don't, please feel free to ask for clarification.
Overall, this appears to be a nicely paired horse and rider working well within their abilities. If the rider tightens up their equitation a bit, the horse may also be tighter and more confident in the legs, giving a picture of more symmetry.
I'd also like to ask that no ill comments be left or I will have to moderate them. I was worried about doing individual critiques, but if we all play by the rules and understand this is for positive constructive opinion, use tact and diplomacy, it should be just fine.
Thanx for your submission and I hope my critique will help you. I mean not to offend you in any way and if you've a need for me to clarify anything I've said, feel free to ask.