Nov 16, 2015

The Five Types of IHSA & IEA Horses

by Kim Ablon Whitney

I love judging IHSA and IEA shows.  Both are great organizations that offer a fun, reasonably priced way for beginners to learn how to ride and for advanced riders to build up their skills and enjoy being part of a team.  And neither organization would exist without the wonderful horses that kindly allow different people to jump on their backs a bunch of times in one day.  In judging IHSA and IEA, I have noticed that there are certain types of horses you see…

1. The Starmaker
He’s pretty, comfortable, and calm.  He has a big rhythmic stride, does auto-changes, frames up, and basically looks like a horse that would fit in at any low level eq or hunter classes below three-feet at most A shows.  

I call him the Starmaker because every single rider—from novice to open—looks good on him.  He’s easy to find a distance on and finds the distance himself when needed.  Everyone is hoping to draw this horse because he makes nearly any rider look like Tori Colvin.

2. No Change Charlie
Not only does he never do flying changes, he doesn’t even like doing simple changes.  He also enjoys picking up the wrong lead on the flat and when starting a course over fences, swapping leads on the flat (beautiful flying changes here even though he doesn’t do flying changes), and cantering in front while trotting behind.

3. Runaround Sue
This horse has one speed—locomotive.  She jigs at the walk, flies around the ring at the trot, and is out of control at the canter.  Somehow, though, over fences she manages to gallop around the ring at breakneck speed yet still add five strides in every line.  Most riders have a look of total fear when they are on this horse.

4. Tiny Tim
He’s 12.3, usually a paint or an appy.  Always furry no matter what time of year of the show.  He’s probably 32 years old but still going strong.  Somehow the largest rider always draws him and her legs hang down to his pasterns.  He’s also usually impossible to get to canter, preferring to just trot a little faster as said rider flails and kicks.  Also prone to breaking five times on course.

5. Rocky Road
Rocky is the most uncomfortable horse anyone has ever ridden.  It’s like riding on a bull dozer inside a tornado.  Even the open riders look like they can barely post on him.  The beginner riders?  It’s a miracle they stay on at all.  When sitting trot is called, a judge just feels overwhelming pity.

But seriously, all these horses are great.  Each teaches the riders in its own way.  And it’s up to the judge to try to look past each horse’s innate differences to evaluate the rider--often no easy feat!

Kim Ablon Whitney is a 'R' judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers.  She's also the author of the Show Circuit Series.

Nov 4, 2015

What Would George Do (WWGD)?

By Kim Ablon Whitney

Dear Mr. Morris,

I'm certain you don't remember this, but many years ago I wrote to ask if I could learner  judge with you.  I was just starting out as a judge at the time.  I had my New England Horsemen's Council judge's card, which I got at the earliest age possible, 18.  I could not yet apply for my USEF 'r' until I was 21.  

I noticed that you were listed in the prize list to judge at the Myopia Hunt Course Labor Day show.  Back then, there were no hunter derbies and Myopia was one of the only shows that used some of its natural obstacles in regular classes.  The show wasn't USEF-rated but it always got good attendance for the beautiful setting and the chance for courageous riders to show over more interesting courses.

I couldn't believe my luck--you were judging at a show so close to me!  I gathered up all my own courage and wrote you a letter (this was back before email).  I outlined my experience competing in the equitation and cited my NEHC license and asked if I might be able to sit with you at Myopia.

Did I expect to hear back?  No.  But then it happened.  I remember the phone ringing in my house (landline, no cell phones yet either).  I picked up.  "Hello?"

Next came your trademark slow and creaky voice.  "Kim, this is George Morris.  I received your letter."

I nearly fell over.  At best I had envisioned you possibly jotting me a quick note to tell me no and sending it in the mail.  I never imagined you'd call.

You said you would love to have me sit with you but unfortunately your plans had changed and you weren't judging the show anymore.  Wendy Chapot was filling in for you and you suggested I ask her.  

I thanked you profusely and hung up, still in awe, my hands shaking.  In the end, I did call Wendy and I had a great, educational day sitting with her.

I never got to learner judge with you.  But I still learned from you.  I learned that no matter how important you become, you are never too important to be polite and responsive to someone.

Too often today, contacting someone becomes a tireless game of chase.  Phone calls go unanswered and so do emails.  I know of learner judges who contact judges or management and often get no response.  

I also know of judges who simply won't take learner judges (I'm not just talking about saying no to unqualified learner judges or to having a learner at a high stress show, such as a WCHR show).  

I suppose when you are a senior judge, you have earned the right to say no to learner judges, but you, Mr. Morris, were pretty senior and you a) would have let me sit with you and b) took the time to call to tell me you weren't able to judge that day.

Why?  My guess is because you dedicate yourself to teaching others better horsemanship--whether that be through riding, auditing, reading, or judging.  And because you simply were raised with manners.

When faced with situations of how to respond to people or how to treat them, I wish more judges, trainers, and riders would ask, WWGD? 

Kim Ablon Whitney is a 'R' judge in hunters, equitation & jumpers.  She is also the author of the Show Circuit series.