Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Western patterns for the Hunter Horse. Go or no go?

So this has been bothering me quite a bit. So much so, that I decided to resurrect my blog. In the past couple of years I have acquired some stock horse judges' license. That said, take notice of the posted pattern. Since I judge with at least one other judge at some of these 'stock' horse shows, I am not always the judge to supply the patterns. I do love building patterns and I don't use those online services that spit out whatever required pattern without much thought. I like to think of the division (amateur, novice, junior, etc) and then take note of the required elements and build a pattern from there. Unfortunately most of the people I judge with that provide patterns, not only use these mindless online services to print out whatever but they, for the most part, do not have a background in hunters.
Take note again of the pattern. Would your hunter mount be able to execute this with such acute angles at the markers?
These patterns seem to be quite popular amongst the stock horse crowd for hunter equitation. Now the only horse that can really execute this pattern is a western pleasure horse in english tack. I know this, you know this and yet, the pattern is used quite often. AND, quite often, I'm not seeing a hunt seat rider but rather a western pleasure rider on a western pleasure horse executing these patterns. It is ridiculous.
This pattern is not conducive to showing the quality of a hunt horse' gaits and strides. It does not showcase a horse that can swing freely from the shoulder in the trot along with a rider that can hold their weight in the heel while properly using their back and hips to sit the trot with impulsion. It does not promote a graceful, sweeping turn at the canter and most of the time it is set up with the markers so close, you have no room for proper transitions.
I feel this type of pattern should NOT be used whether at a 4-h show or a 'stock breed' show. This type of pattern with these acute turns do nothing to promote a graceful, easily guided and free flowing hunter type horse. Equitation aside, the pattern should not be the focus as it so often is at 'stock breed' shows. I don't care if you ride a stock breed or a thoroughbred. It's hunters people!! Graceful, sweeping turns and ground covering strides from flat kneed horses is what we expect in the hunter world, stock breed or not.
After seeing this, or a close facsimile of such a pattern, I wonder why I am judging shows that seem to have no problem with this. Nor do they recognize that it does nothing but give a western pleasure horse in english tack the advantage since the execution of the pattern is heavily weighted even in the equitation class.
I wonder is it me? Should I continue judging this or walk away from the stock horse world? Would walking away make me part of the problem of the stock horse world of judging?
I believe the latter.....for now, I'll stay. I feel I'm helping to make a difference in the stock horse world, albeit small.
Next time, my fellow judge decides their patterns are best, I'm going to exert my opinion on the hunter patterns if they look like this.
What have you experienced? Do you show in stock horse breed shows? What do you think I should do when presented with patterns such as this? Or do you even see a problem? Let me know! The blog is back and so am I.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Making An Entrance - Equitation Over Fences

Being quite frank, I have to say that I do like when a rider enters the ring and makes a 'grand entrance' on the flat for an equitation over fence class. One of the best things to do is to catch the judges' eye the SECOND you enter the ring. Keep the judge looking and expecting more from you every time you enter the ring for any class but this post is on the 'presentation' entrance to an equitation over fence class. 
To properly decide how to make your grand entrance you need 2 basic things....

  1. where is the 1st jump in relation to the in gate?
  2. does my horse and I do a fabulous sitting trot with impulsion? 
If the 1st fence is coming towards the in gate, then you have plenty of space to cut across the ring on the diagonal at a sitting trot and wait to pick up the canter on the turn towards the 1st fence. That is a grand entrance. 

In the course above we have the first fence going away from the in gate. The best 'grand entrance' for this particular course, in my opinion, would be to enter at the walk, immediately picking up the sitting trot between fences 8 & 9 then leg yielding left (or turning left depending on the distances) to the rail prior to passing fence 4 and just beyond fence 4, pick up the right lead canter, rate your pace and go directly to fence 1.  
Now with the below course....do you circle prior to the 1st fence or do you go directly to it, keeping in mind this is an equitation (not a hunter) round. 
Well, just my opinion, remembering there is no hard and fast rule.....I would walk through the gate and immediately pick up the right lead canter (rating the correct pace) to the first fence without circling. This would show confidence and skill that you could rate your pace for the entire course in the short distance to the first fence. Would that put you ahead of a rider who circles for the pace? Well if you were a tie on my score card, the one who took the short distance and pulled it off would have the upper 'hand'. They presented themselves with the most confidence and skill. THAT...is a grand entrance. 
So remember whenever possible, in an equitation over fence class, present yourself in the best way possible, on the flat into the course. Is that just MY opinion? Yes! Is there a rule on this? No! The only rule that applies to the presentation on course is if there is a dotted line in affect or if the first fence is a trot fence and that is a whole other blog post! 
Dress appropriately, shine your boots and present yourself on the flat when entering the ring for equitation over fences or an equitation medal. It can make or break your score! 
Have a question about a particular course? Send it along and I'll show you what I would like to see, for a grand entrance and post it for everyone, names not mentioned of course. 
Safe rides! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Narrator

One of the most important pieces of advice I'd like to give to parents and trainers who just cannot seem to keep themselves in check along the rail of a flat class....
Refrain from yelling change diagonals; change leads; sit a step; look up; smile; blah blah blah.....
The only thing yelling from the rail does, is point out to the judge (that's me), that your student or child is doing something wrong and I, the judge (that's me), should look to see what they are doing wrong.
This is my opinion and other judges may differ on opinion but for me (and many other judges), I will not count off for a wrong diagonal if it is changed within a stride or two. I will not count off for a wrong lead if it is immediately corrected unless I need a tie breaker for placings. I may write the back number down on wrong lead pick-ups in a canter/lope if they change directions and I want to see if they can 'cue' for the correct lead/the horse picks up the correct lead, but at a schooling show for sure, I may note it, but it doesn't mean I'll completely kick you out of the placings if you post on the wrong diagonal for a stride or two picking up the trot. It would have to be a dead heat with another rider in contention for placing for me to worry about a stride or two off the correct diagonal at the trot in an equitation class whether it's a medal or short stirrup division.
So my advice to trainers and/or parents yelling from the rail during a flat class.....

  • think twice about whether the rider needs your advice
  • remember this is a show (schooling or otherwise) and not a lesson
  • will your commands be heard by the rider or the judge? 
  • maybe this could be a good learning opportunity for the rider (short stirrup and the like division).
  • how much does my voice carry? 
  • will the world end if this rider does not win the blue? 
  • does the tri-color ribbon mean more than the lesson to be learned by the rider?
  • are you more obnoxious than an entry that makes the judge wait 10 minutes for your trainer to be done in the other ring? 
  • do wheaties get soggy in whole milk or skim milk? 
Yep, that last one will really tell you if your yelling, is just hurting your rider more than helping regardless of the type of show.... schooling show and/or rated show and/or breed show and/or any show. Schooling show just means it is a show that is not sanctioned by a higher governing body. It doesn't mean every (or any) class, is a 'lesson'. Yes, it's a learning tool but as the 'rail yeller', please ask yourself

  • does the judge need you narrating your riders mistakes?  
  •  are you helping that rider or just pointing out their mistakes to the judge? 
It's really not a big thing. It's a horse show; it's a ribbon; it's a title; it's series points; it's zone points; it's points towards an ROM or whatever; it's points towards a scholarship....it's what it is...a show. Let those students make mistakes and SHOW what they have learned. 
Safe rides and best of show to everyone!!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The highest and lowest of 2011

The low point of 2011 was, by far, losing my 43 year old paint, Riffraff. I miss his loud alpha personality; I miss making him soup; I miss him cantering into the barn to eat and I miss him always being there, always. As we are experiencing a very cold snap here in Florida, I am happy to say, Riffys' blanket now belongs to his longtime friend and paddock mate, Miss Flower. She will have a big warm hug from Riffy every time it is cold. She is lucky and Riff would have wanted it that way. RIP Riffraff 1968 - 2011

The high point of 2011 was again, by far, the birth of my grandson, Bentley Michael. Ironic that it is the opposite of my lowest point in 2011.....circle of life and all that stuff. Bentley brings us all much joy and he's my first grand baby. I'm a Granny and that is good, very good. Welcome Bentley Michael! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Counting Strides Part 2

I thought that I would just add this quick post about counting strides, while we're on the subject. Canter strides start at the back end. Not that I think anyone reading is stupid but sometimes those little details just aren't explained and I know there are a lot of riders these days 'going it alone' sans trainer. Notice the horse in the picture is at the beginning of his stride....with his right hind leg going first, what lead is he on? Just an added extra credit question....

  • (a) The sequence of footfalls when the left foreleg is leading: (1) right hind, (2) left hind and right fore together, (3) left fore (the leading leg)  followed by a moment of suspension when all four feet are briefly off the ground.
  • (b) The sequence of footfalls when the right foreleg is leading: (1) left hind, (2) right hind and left fore together, (3) right fore (leading leg) followed by- a moment of suspension.
Therefore it's necessary to count when the moment of suspension is broken by the rear leg starting the next stride. When jumping, remember to start after your horse is completely over the fence. After the front end lands, then the back end comes underneath of them to start the first stride in that line. 

Not that I think anyone reading is stupid but sometimes those little details just aren't explained and I know there are a lot of riders these days 'going it alone' sans trainer. Good luck and safe rides! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Training Vs Judging on Counting Strides

I'm posting this topic as I had a trainer recently question my ability to judge a hunter equitation over fences class since I do not count strides while judging.

When training any rider to ride over fences it has always been a part of my curriculum to school riders to count fences. It helps them to start learning to see the spot they want at the next fence and it helps regulate pace without harping on it along with many other advantages. When a rider is ready for a bit more strategy, I also train them to ride a 5 stride line in 4 strides and in 6 strides regardless of their horse natural stride length. That is what I do when training.

When judging hunter and hunter equitation classes over fences, I do not always count strides. I do not assume if the horse/rider chip in at a fence, that they will finish long over the second fence if set in a straight line. Each fence gets a score separately unless it is a combination, in and out, etc. If a line is set to a 12 or 13 foot stride and calls for 5 strides, that is all based on averages and except for the occasional really bad spot or oddly strided horse, it's best ridden in 5 strides. A skilled rider riding a small mount through a line calling for an average of 5 strides, may very well ride that line without a fault, in 6 strides. They may ride it in 6 strides looking just as smooth and elegant as one who rides it in 5 strides.

So my reasoning of not counting strides on a hunter or hunter equitation course is really very simple. If it looks good and everything stays subtle, graceful and elegant, counting strides is only the job of the rider and/or trainer, not the judge. For someone adding a stride but the add didn't cause them to chip in, go long, drop a rail, etc and was unnoticeable in every other way, I do not penalize. Usually if a stride is added, there is another fault more prominent to address anyway. There is no language at this time in the USEF or AQHA rules, that mandates a certain number of strides be ridden in a line on a hunter or hunter equitation course. If you are judging and counting strides, it is your preference but not a requirement. If a line is set for 5 average strides, most likely it will be ridden in 5 average strides.

So next time you go to a show, local, regional, backyard or national and the course shows distances which reflect what is expected to be a certain number of strides, go for it. Be cognizant of the size of your horse and their stride length; listen to your trainer and count out loud if you need to, but don't expect the judge to be counting along with you. Have fun and safe rides!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

RIP Argus and Ridge

RIP Argus and Ridge. For those of you not familiar with the blog, "From Hell to Heaven: Saving Argus" it's powerful good reading. Argus has now passed away and the final post for his blog is up. I recommend going to the very beginning and reading all of the posts if you have not been following this blog. Argus' journey mirrors many a rescued horse' story but the bittersweet ending to this true story, is something beyond powerful. RIP Argus and Ridge.