How do you feel about the braids and ribbons children now adorn themselves with at the show?
I like the braids, but try to keep the ribbons and bows small, because it can be quite difficult to read the rider’s number. This is particularly true in the under-saddle class, because there is no assistance as in the over-fences class, where a gate person calls out the number to me. I will sometimes make the extra effort and go into the ring to get the number, but judging can become quite hectic and not all judges will have the time to do this.
At the canter, are you supposed to sit or be in a half-seat?
It depends on the horse, but it shouldn’t be one extreme or the other. If the horse prefers a lighter seat, that’s okay. I prefer to see a rider sit at the canter, but a little bit of half-seat is fine.
Do you, as a judge, walk equitation courses?
I always walk the bigger classes, especially when I have to design a ride-off. I am looking to join a new line of jumps, understand the distances, and view the possibilities of optional turns.
If you are judging both the beginner adult and the low adult divisions, other than the height, what is your approach? Are beginners judged more leniently because they are beginners? What separates a great low adult horse from a great three-foot horse?
I would likely be more appreciative of the ‘Steady Eddie’ – the horse that does his job like a soldier, going evenly, not jumping too high, and basically taking care of his rider. On the other hand, when I am judging the more advanced divisions, I am expecting a better or brighter jump – a more precise and accurate ride. Please remember that all of this is relative to the other performances on that day.
At a recent horse show, I heard some folks discussing the importance of the horse’s ears being positioned forward during the under-saddle class. My horse usually has one ear focused on me (pointing back) and the other ear pointing forward. From your perspective, where should the horse’s ears be positioned?
Your horse’s ears should be positioned up and forward, not back, pinned or sour-looking. They do not have to be overly alert and I would not penalize one with an ear back, or lazy, relaxed ears, if he is the best mover. Remember, it is a movement contest and ear position would only come under scrutiny if there was an equal mover to compare to.
Can you jog a class mounted, and under what circumstances would you do this?
I find jogging a class mounted particularly useful when bad weather is coming, it’s getting dark outside or it is a very large class. This gives the grooms a chance to put the horses away, rather than putting them back in their stalls, tied-up, braided, and waiting for up to three or four hours to return to the ring to jog. Then they have to go back to the barn to be unbraided and bandaged – far too late! I will ask a horse and rider to trot to the ingate, then walk out of the ring after they have completed their round. This is where the soundness is being judged. A class that is jogged mounted is reminiscent of traditional shows where appointment classes were jogged back for soundness and then judged on their individual appointments (right down to the lunch kits and wine flasks!). Today, hunter classics and derbys are often judged mounted, as there is a victory gallop to follow.