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.