Monday, January 31, 2011

Author, Anna Jane White-Mullin has a new book out!!

I just received this email and had to post the information!

I was reading your September 24, 2009 post, entitled "So You Want to be a Horse Show Judge," and noticed that you have my first book, "Judging Hunters and Hunter Seat Equitation," on your reading list.  I wanted to let you know that I have a new book, "The Complete Guide to Hunter Seat Training, Showing, and Judging," that was recently been endorsed by both the USEF and USPC.  Also, I have a new website, www., that features a weekly Blog, Horse Articles, and Horse Videos.  I hope you'll take a look--Best wishes, Anna Jane White-Mullin
I know I'll be getting a copy soon. I had no idea there was a new book from her. If anyone has read it, please feel free to leave a review in the comments. I love, love, love the first one! Her writing is in such easy terms, even a beginner or novice would easily understand and benefit from reading it.
Thank you Anna for taking the time to drop me a line!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Asking for Tips From Everyone....

Question from a reader asks.....

Any tips on making white hooves look better in the ring? My paint has four white legs past the knees/hocks. I think painted black hooves look silly on a horse who obviously has naturally white hooves. I currently use clear hoof polish and a top-coat of spray shine. They're shiny, but they still show uneven color. I have heard that it's possible to "sand" the hooves to remove the darker areas, but I'm unsure of the safety of that practice. I've noticed his feet look perfect when he's turned out in the snow, but I've tried scrubbing and it doesn't seem to work well enough. 

Personally I like the shiny white hooves and uneven coloring does not bother me at all. Depending on the coloring on the legs, black polish may just make your horse appear to be wearing clunky bell boots and could detract from the overall appearance. It could also make less than stellar movement stand out much more than it would otherwise. 
I'm not sure about sanding the hooves except for the smallest of uneven nicks or a sloppy nail filing from the farrier but that's just me.
So anyone and everyone with a tip for this reader? Please feel free to chime in with your experiences and preferences!
Oh and as for white, I'm still using corn starch or baby powder so I know I'm way behind the times on that! LOL! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Judges

So many topics have crossed my mind at just the worst time for me to sit at the computer and write a post. Thank you for the award...I will pick it up and post here soon, I've just been busy and away for a bit. I'll get caught up. Anyway....
So I'm sitting at a hunter show and was told that another judge would be joining me as this show was 'double pointed' (I guess it was a make up for a bad weather day when the show had been cancelled). After a few hours of the beginner classes of various names, everything was going along fine. A few comments between us and we seemed to get along fine with the same regards for the performances in front of us. Then it was on to the greener horses and a bit more experienced riders and ponies. Still, our scoring seemed fairly on point together.
And then came the medal rounds. These were 2 phase medals for ponies and junior riders, junior riders on horses and amateur adults riding whatever they felt comfortable riding. Now this was not the ASPCA Maclay and the riders were, for the most part paired well with a suitable mount, save for a few that should have either rethought their ability or their mounts' ability to perform rollbacks and trot fences. Some had obvious major faults  which makes it easier to pin in a class of 8. You don't have to be so nit picky about form and function if they ride a long approach as if they had been asked to 'gallop home' through the timers on a jump course!
So when it came to pinning this little class of 8 I had already given numerical scores. It was just a matter of calling in my results which I did. Then I noticed all the fiddling and tallying going on next to me. This other judge seemed to be adding up numbers and making notes and writing a novel. I didn't really understand as they were using a similar shorthand to mine up to this class. The other judge had not really been using numerical scoring for rounds but then it wasn't required and the classes were fairly small. Not hard to figure out your placings anyway. Still, they scribbled, fiddled, tallied....checked and checked another. Okay, I'm starting to think I must have missed something and looked back at my own card. No, nothing hard about this. A rollback ridden out wide as though it were just another long approach hunter fence....a halt to trot fence ridden as though it was merely a hesitation to a downward transition and then, pushing way too much with her seat so as to canter her mount a stride in front of the fence, late or no lead changes....easy stuff. Noticeably easy for anyone to score. Okay! Finally, the other judge has written the order of pinnings for the class and is calling them in.
WHAT THE HELL DID I MISS???? Did they just put my winner in sixth place and my sixth place as the winner? Did I call my placings in backwards, did I write them down backwards? I scrambled again looking at my card and my scores and my shorthand ticks, scrawls and hieroglyphics.....the other judged placed the EXACT OPPOSITE OF ME!! I was shaken for a moment because I hate making the mistake of pinning backwards or calling in a number and they announce it and you have to take it back (or war will break out amongst the 'rail yellars') and then someone in the ring is either humiliated or feels like they did better than anyway I just went at it assuming it was me who had made a mistake. No, I could not find a problem at all with my pinnings, even after checking back numbers and the horse color (which I always note beside the back number just in case 2 numbers get confused or something ...i.e. fat paint pony or bay with pink shirt rider, something that makes them different from the other thousand bays...). So I'm thinking how in the world do I broach this subject without asking the other judge if they were blind or could I pick them up some glasses or perhaps a strong shot of whiskey? Well, lucky for me, they started announcing my placings first. Then the other judges' placings were announced.  And then even though this mad scoring and my crazy dash to recheck and check, had all taken place in the course of maybe five minutes, the placings were now 'out there' and I was about to find out either from the other judge or oh no! No!!! War was breaking out all around the ring. They were lighting torches and storm clouds gathered. Flashes of lightening and loud grumbles of thunder were seen and heard gathering around the gate personnel and ribbon bearer! Suddenly the porta potty looked inviting so I ran. I did NOT want to know what I missed anymore I just wanted to be invisible and hopefully no one would push the porta potty over!! The 'blue smell' was overwhelming but the scary hoards of horse show moms and trainers were even more ominous looking after those placings were called. I still didn't know if it was my head or my counterparts, that they wanted. Slowly, after breathing through the very proper mongrammed cardigan I was donning for the day, I could take the smell no longer. I had to face this monster or that one, head on!! I peeked out the door.....the judges' stand was engulfed with people. People on horses had ridden up to it; show personnel were there; even the little girl who was the ribbon bearer (or passer outter if you may) was there but I couldn't see the other judge. I noticed a flash of metal in the mob. It was my clipboard...I recognized the stickers on it. Well, just gotta go over there now and try to scramble my way through this. Let's see....I could say the sun was blinding me, my glasses fogged up, my proper straw hat had too big of a brim, if that all failed I'll fain stupidity and start rambling incoherently. I know how these scenarios go and they never end well for at least one involved party. I didn't want to be that party and I still couldn't figure it all out.
Approaching the judges' stand, the other judge calls out my name to come over and I shot a glare from my eyes that would have put Satan on his knees for mercy!!! Judges' do not rat out the whereabouts of another judge when a raging mob of judge haters breaks out to question an entire pinning! (Remember that...) I slowly walked to the gallows of the judges' box. I felt the icy stares and the armor piercing finger pointing....what did I miss already!!!???? What is it I did?????? Climbing those three stairs to my fate was excrutiating. I plopped down in the really uncomfortable high directors' chair. But then, the clouds parted, rays of warm sun started pouring down on me like one of those movies where Moses parts the ocean! IT WASN'T ME THEY WANTED TO HANG!!!! Yes!!!! It was the other judges' blood they wanted, not mine!!!! Whew!
Okay, now I could do no wrong. But what did the other judge do???? Well I almost didn't care because at that point you would have thought I had just flown down from the heavens and was a golden ray of light in this dark mob.
The secretary asked for my card. I gladly pulled it from the box attached to my clipboard and turned it over saying that I could explain any of the writing on it to whomever needed an interpretation. Cool and calm I asked if there was a problem? The other judge asked to speak to me privately and I said well, what is wrong?  (with a hint of cool innocence ). The other JUDGE asked me to interpret my card. What? It was only eight rounds over fences and a simple one direction trot and canter on the rail with some variances (sitting, posting, no stirrup work, yada, yada, yada, the usual stuff). I could relay almost every riders' performance from memory and I'm not a young person! So I did. I referred to my notes a bit and explained each round as though I was teaching a clinic.
The other judge then spoke. She said she did not know what I was looking at but that is not at all, what she had seen. So I asked  her to interpret her placings. She refused to go through the whole line up saying that whatever I was looking at when I judged the rounds was not correct. She accused me of placing the winner who, in her opinion did not get one single spot to a fence correct and cut her corners off too sharply. Huh? My winner? My winner?
Okay, I could go on like this for hours explaining what happened in 'novel' fashion but it's getting dark and I need to get out to the long story longer.....
The other judge placed her riders by simply checking off whether or not they got a good spot to the fence. Or to simplify that ... the optimum take off distance in front of a fence in relation to the rounding over the fence and having an equal spot upon landing on the other side. Her logic was that if they could do that, then they must have ridden everything else correctly or they would not have found that 'spot'.
Okay, I'll admit it, I make note of a chip or long spot if I believe it was the fault of the rider and yes, it usually is but I also know that someone is NOT cutting corners when riding through an element called a ROLLBACK!! Yes. She did not know about rollbacks. She assumed the person riding to the second fence of the rollback while using the entire ring was more correct by riding it as a long approach. And if that isn't bad enough she also claimed that her placings were completely changed after the flat work. Huh? I rarely change or make drastic changes after the fence course to the flat. You may gain a little bit or lose a little bit in the flat work but you would have to be hanging off the tail or fall off completely to really have the flat make a huge difference in your score. Why is that? Because the course work is more complicated. The one who rides the course the best may not be your best 'no stirrup posting trotter' but they are most likely going to be in the top of the flat class.
What an experience! It was not the first time I have double judged and of course when you are learning you sit with all kinds of judges with all kinds of personalities, likes and dislikes but if you look back at them after the show, you usually have the idea of where they were 'pinning' from and getting their scores (even if you really didn't care for the view on politics or the fact that they would not speak a single word to you all day but we'll leave that to another post).
Anyway, I left that day feeling like a golden true blue judge. I was right and they were so very very wrong!! I actually found myself to be a bit obnoxious on the drive home that day. I knew it would not be long before I would judge again, and all things wonderful about me would be humbled once again!
The moral of this story? You just don't know what some judges' are looking for and even if they tell you, you might still not understand it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

To Braid or Band for 1 day show?

"Another question: How do you feel about Braiding vs. Banding on a horse that's shown both HUS and Western during a one-day show? My trainer told me to do what was most appropriate for the discipline my horse was "better" at, stating some sort of psychology that the judge would be (for example) more forgiving of a less than perfect lope on a braided horse because the horse is clearly primarily English.... Is there any truth in that?"
Yes, I realize the western horse is not banded but it was a quickly found picture depicting two different disciplines. 

My take on this is what your trainer told you to some degree. Braid if your horse is more hunter built; band if more western built. If you braid and show in halter and showmanship, please match your attire accordingly. Use a bridle if braided and a well fitted halter if banded for the halter and showmanship classes.
As for forgiving a less than perfect lope on a braided horse? Don't bet on it. If it's a pleasure class, it will be judged per pleasure standards and braids and bands won't matter. If it's a performance class such as hunter under saddle or western pleasure, again, it will be judged on the acceptable standards and the mane should have no affect on your placing. I say 'should' because there may undoubtedly be someone judging a show that could be biased to the turnout and weight it much heavier than I would. If you've braided or banded, most likely the rest of the turnout is going to up to showing standards so the style of the mane would not sway me one way or another. 

The two links below are great, short tutorials on the subject of banding and braiding. I suggest you practice a lot. It's not hard to make great braid buttons or band but does take some practice to get it right. 

How to braid a mane
How to band a mane

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pivots In Regards to Western Horsemanship

Another question continued from the previous post....

" it still desirable to keep a planted pivot foot during a horsemanship turn, or is it more acceptable considering the increased speed to have that foot raise and lower in the same place or even have both rear feet changing position but keeping the hip more or less in the same place? ..."

It is not only desirable to keep the pivot foot planted, but it is the correct way to perform a pivot. When executing a pivot, also known as turn on haunches, it is never acceptable for the horse to raise the 'pivot' leg. That is the hind leg that would be on the inside of the turn. The front legs must cross in front. If you are going to execute the pivot with speed to maintain your pace throughout the pattern and your horse lifts the pivot leg, you will be counted off. That is another reason to remember that just because you can do one maneuver swiftly with precision, does not mean keeping up that pace throughout isn't going to cause you problems with other maneuvers you may still be finishing in training at home. 
Most horses that are being trained for western classes that are not classified as speed classes (i.e. western pleasure, horsemanship, etc) usually learn the pivot in hand as it is also a maneuver acceptable in showmanship patterns. 
Remember if the pivot leg lifts, it's a fault. To what degree it is penalized on the final score is up to the judge. If the front legs are crossing in the front and not behind one another and the pivot leg is only lifted once, possibly twice if the footing is grass or firmer ground (it's easier for a horse to pivot on loose footing, sand, sand clay, crushed stone, etc) I would probably only count down a point but that really depends on many other factors. 
When practicing pivots at home, it is wise to use hoof and leg protection whether practicing in hand or under saddle. 
More from this readers' inquiry yet come...! 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Question on Western Horsemanship Patterns

I recently received an inquiry with several questions to it. I'll break these down into the specific questions.

".... noticed that the patterns are being run much faster than I am used to,nearly at reining speed, and one included a roll-back. ...."

Okay, the easiest answer first. Yes, roll-backs are an allowed maneuver for horsemanship patterns per AQHA rules. It is not a required maneuver, just an element that can be included.

As for the speed of a rider executing the pattern... of course you want continuity between elements. Unless the pattern specifically states that you halt or hesitate going from one maneuver to the next, you should always try to transition smoothly. Which brings us to the speed of the overall execution. The only way to do the pattern with fluidity is the same for a hunter medal or any other equitation class. The pace must be maintained throughout. Speed in a horsemanship pattern is most definitely going to 'up' the degree of difficulty. If you can maintain that increased speed throughout the entire pattern, you are going to show that you can handle the higher degree of difficulty and probably gain a point to two on the overall presentation. But if the speed is not maintained through all maneuvers, your pace will suffer and the mistakes that you may make because of that, will count you down.

So that said, how fast should you execute the pattern? At the top levels which are the various breed sanctioned shows like AQHA's World and even Congress shows, you should be 'up to speed' for the pattern and maneuvers. Will it win you points at your state breed association show circuits? Yes,it should, because those shows are also judged by judges who are governed to use the same rules as the highest level shows within that breed association. Will speed which shows an increased level of difficulty win you points at your local non sanctioned shows? If you execute the maneuvers well with precision, it should as well. Just remember that increased speed needs to be maintained throughout all of the maneuvers otherwise the pace will suffer a half point or so casualty on your score and may also contribute to further mistakes within each element of the pattern, also placing your score lower.

You should not rush through any maneuver no matter how well you and your horse can execute said maneuver because you may not be able to maintain that level of speed throughout.

For reference the exact wording from the AQHA rule book regarding speed in western horsemanship patterns falls under the performance section which is judged on a ten point scale....

"the exhibitor should perform the work accurately, precisely, smoothly, and with a reasonable amount of promptness. Increasing speed of the maneuvers performed increases the degree of difficulty; however, accuracy and precision should not be sacrificed for speed. Exhibitors that perform the pattern sluggishly and allow their horse to move without adequate impulsion, collection or cadence will be penalized. "

See, the rules do not specify a time limit or minimum time allowed but the most subjective part of this, in regards to judging a pattern is the amount of points a judge will penalize you. Speed will undoubtedly open up a can of mistakes if you cannot perform well but on the same token, speed will influence a higher score if you can maintain it and perform precisely all maneuvers.
There is more from this same readers' inquiry but since I've already written a novel here, I'll answer those in upcoming posts. Feel free to discuss or ask for further clarification in the comments. I'm open to hearing all of your opinions and even direct experience regarding this topic.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Squirrel Evictanator!

Okay, another off topic post but I wanted to share this little tidbit of info with others who may not know it. I surely didn't.
So I have had a problem with squirrels getting into the tack room and now the feed room. Nothing I have built, fenced in, painted with smelly or foul tasting stuff, nothing....has worked!!
It was time for our bug man to come out and clean the eaves of the house and put down the new 'barrier' spray for termites (we have them by the ton here in Florida year round.). I asked him if they dealt with larger pests, such as squirrels. He told me yes, I told him where and was given an estimate of $250 to have them eradicated and with a guarantee. I thought that was a bit expensive and how could they guarantee they wouldn't come back? I was told they would install what they referred to as an 'evictor' light which is a light that puts out random flashes and sometimes stay on for a minute or so just like someone switching a light on and off and sometimes a strobe effect. Hmmmm, I told him I'd have to ask my husband if we had the money for that and he went on to his next job.
Then I got in the car and drove to a party supply shop and bought 2 strobe lights that have little dials on them to set the pattern at random or noise activation or whatnot. For 2 of them, it was $30. I'm thinking of going into the 'squirrel eviction' business. There seems to be quite the mark up for profit.
I would think this could also work for raccoons, opossums, rats, bats (although I like bats here with our mosquito population), maybe even mice too. I would make sure that you put some weather stripping on the bottom of the door and make sure windows are blacked out somehow so it doesn't drive your horse insane.
So in case this has never been a problem in your attic or barn or wherever, you're lucky. For those who didn't know this, head to the party store to stock up for your next 'squirrel eviction' party.
An 'on topic' post is coming soon I promise. I've been busy being the squirrel evicta-nator!!  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Off Topic ...

Way off topic but I just had to write this, more as a reminder to myself than anything. When I come back to read it, if it still applies, I'll definitely make sure to use it. What is it you ask?
Lately I've been cleaning a lot. Getting ready to paint some rooms and put in new flooring and tile. I've noticed that when I clean, the other residents here clean more too. I know everyone has always heard about 'set a good example and blah, blah, blah'. This has never happened in my house. Never. Maybe it's the new year or something but I like this!
I'll be back with a new post on  point soon.  Happy New Year!