Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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!
~in2paints http://rlilbitofcash.blogspot.com/

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!

1 comment:

  1. There were a couple of us that were confused as to why... we wondered if his conformation had changed since the last class. :) But I see what you're saying regarding setup and movement. If the handler shuffled him along during the trot phase, or let him stand all wonky in the line-up, he might not have looked as he did in the previous class. Perhaps the judge was judging without giving the previous class any thought at all. I hadn't really thought about it that way...

    I still have no idea how the overweight pony or the way too skinny Arab placed over the buckskin even if he wasn't set up properly, but I can now see how she might have mixed the top horses around.

    I've seen a lot of championship halter classes where you have to qualify. Only the first and second place horses even get to enter, and I have never seen a second place horse suddenly place over the first place horse.

    First time for everything!

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

    I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question!


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.