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 is...it'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!