Jul 25, 2016

Emptying Out the Mind of a Judge

By Kim Ablon Whitney

It's mid-summer with many shows already in the rear view mirror.  Here are some random thoughts from my judging adventures.

1. Too many horses look sour, going with their ears back.  I keep finding myself writing "ears" on my card.  When pinning several hack classes recently the best mover's ears were solidly pinned back... but so were the horses I had in second and third, leaving me without much choice.  Too many horses are rubbing (sometimes clonking) the jumps too.

2. Speaking of hacks, a little frame is a good thing, but this is not dressage or an equitation class, people!  I want to see your horse carry himself on his own with a nice light rein.

3. Coming into the ring, picking up the wrong lead, and coming back to the trot to change leads counts in the hunters (and equitation).  Everything you do from the moment you enter the ring to the moment you leave the ring counts.  The in-gate is the timers of the hunter ring.  

Why do people seem to think everything you do on your opening and closing circle doesn't really count?  Breaking stride to change leads before the first jump or after the last jump is the same as doing it in the middle of a course and shall be treated as such, at least when I'm judging, with the exception of baby green or beginner classes.

4. The most important person at every show might just be the in-gate person.  He/she is much more important than the judge!  The success of an exhibitor's and judge's day is due in major part to the in-gate crew.  They should be treated like royalty.

5. If a study was done I think a direct correlation would be found between going within the first ten trips in a class and getting a top ribbon.  This is because the barns that are organized and regimented in getting to the ring are also the barns that are regimented and organized in their training, no matter how big their barn is.

6. When you fall off, if you're not hurt, do you:

a) Roll up your stirrups, take the reins over your horse's head, and lead your horse out of the ring?


b) Leave your stirrups dangling, leave the reins over your horse's head, and wait for your groom to come help you walk him out of the ring?

Sadly, I see a lot of b.

7. Some horses have amazing, floating trots but then they canter and it's not pretty.  The canter is what gets you to the jumps and one drawback of warmbloods is that their canters can be very different from their trots.  You might be winning the hack at the trot, only to plummet to third or fourth after the canter.

8. Moving kids down in the conformation is perhaps harder on the judge than the kid.  When I do it, I feel like I'm committing a crime.

9. I know you have to wait for your trainer to school you, but can you learn the course yourself?  That might speed things up a little!

Well, that's it for now!  Hope everyone has a great rest of the summer season!

Kim Ablon Whitney is a 'R' judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers.