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.

1 comment:

  1. I read this with great interest. I love to see from the judges eye. When I've been in the ring, I focus mainly on myself (and of course potential wrecks coming my way). I like to sit out and watch classes and play the "placing game" just as much as riding though.
    Interesting you take note of who's looking like a pleasure to ride. At the first little show I took my Quinn to, we did a walk trot class. He's OT, so I figured our first show we qualified for that class (can you say GREEN AS GRASS? lol). He truly is a pleasure to ride, so I came in with a big smile on my face and I just had fun. We won that class (of 4) simply because of my enjoyment (judge commented that she placed who seemed to be enjoying riding their horse the most)
    I've never forgotten that lesson. Bottom line - It should always be fun and a pleasure to ride.


I am just one judge with one judge's opinion. Almost all of the classes I judge are based on the rules of USEF & AQHA. Judging a horse show is very subjective to the interpretation of the rules. Please keep this in mind when commenting.