Morgans In-Hand

I have been thinking all day about Nancy’s and Bill’s comments on my post about Morgans In-Hand.  I am interested to know what Nancy feels is not user-friendly about the Morgan shows that made her stop showing in-hand “years ago.”  I would think that shows would want to do everything they can to be user-friendly so that they will stay in business.  What do they need to do differently?  Do you see the in-hand classes for Classic, Hunter and Western horses as an attempt to include more horses in the in-hand division of a show, or is it an ill-conceived notion?  I would also like to know what was different about the in-hand classes at the northern California show that drew so many exhibitors.   Were the class specs written differently?  This could be important information for other shows to consider.  Shows are more likely to stay in business if they have more participants in each class.

It seems to me that what Bill is describing  is like the Sport Horse Suitability class that is described in the USEF Morgan Division (MO) rules, which in some respects is a performance class, as horses are judged on the way they move in addition to conformation.  This class is usually judged by a dressage judge and scored similarly to the way dressage rides are.  It also appears that Bill likes the feedback.  (I have often thought that it would be great if judges had to give reasons the way we did in 4-H.) 

With such a versatile breed as Morgans are, individuals are going to excel in different divisions.  Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect there to be only one kind of in-hand class.  But with the rules for in-hand classes written the way they are, why is it that the high-stepping horses are shown in, and winning, the “breed” classes?  It wasn’t that way when I was a kid, but something happened in the 20 years that I was away.  Any ideas about what happened?  Theoretically, a horse that is trained for any discipline should be able to win an in-hand class.  Are there any Morgan judges out there in cyber-space who would like to comment on why the park-type horses are dominating the breed classes?  Why don’t we see a dressage or western horse named Grand Champion Stallion or Mare or Gelding at our all-Morgan shows?

3 Responses to Morgans In-Hand

  1. NancySavage says:

    Last time I looked at the judging standards for a Morgan Conformation Halter Class the rules were fine. The problem is the judges don’t seem to read the rules any more. So why should people spend their time and money to show??? I quit showing in the Halter Classes when they changed from conformation halter to a performance class and quit being judged by breeders, vets, ect and started to be judged by trainers. At that point there was no benefit for me to show.
    When the show committees for this little Morgan Club decided to put on a Class ‘A’ Morgan show in northern California, they asked me to find the judges and promote the show, so I did. I called Art Perry ask him if he would like to judge at the show. That the club was trying to encourage every body to start showing again. I asked him if he would ask all the handlers in all the halter class to stand their horses square, walk them quietly away from him and trot quietly. We went over type and conformation as in the rule book for breeding stock (that is why we have halter classes) Art said he would love to be a part of trying to get more Morgan owners interested in showing again.
    I call Jim Halverest, Renee Baker, all were thrill to come and judge.
    We started a year a head, we had all the classes sponsor, we had the show at the biggest, best horse show grounds in the Sacramento region, we had a huge trade show, car show, dinner, wine tasting, dance. Great belt buckles for trophy’s in every class!! Three arenas going at one time, but back to the halter class. Art Perry stop in the middle of the produce of Dam Class and ask for every body in the stands to give every body in the arena a hand. He said in all his years of showing horses he had never seen such a huge 32 horses in a Produce of dam class and 30 horses in the Get of Sire. The smallest halter class in the show had 17 horses in it. Every single person showing in every one of theses classes felt like they got to show their horse to the judge, they got a good look over, they were considered, and they came back the next year to show again.
    The Morgan Horse is the most versatile horse. Do they all look the same, no. Are they all pretty, no. Should there be one Bred Standard, yes. Do we have one, yes. Do we go by it in the Conformation Halter classes now, no. Why??? Well that is the million dollar question, and that is why the big number of Morgan owners have quit going to the Morgan shows.
    I can take my Morgan’s to a open show, have a ‘lot’ of quality competition, win, have people there watching that want to either buy or breed to my horses. I’m not alone, there are a lot of Morgan people there with me, and have been for years. A lot of the people putting on the Morgan shows have not only made the ‘Morgan Show’ not user friendly to the new Morgan owner but ran them off. Some of us old ones just walked away shaking our heads.
    Trainers should not be judges!!
    There has to be a class for every body and fun for all, lets get real, this horse stuff cost a pretty $$$$ and if people are not have a good time they will take there $$$$ and leave.
    What dose it cost to be nice??
    I said it years ago, if the Morgan Show crowd dose not get in step with what the Morgan people want, the Morgan people will show at open show, or just stay home and trail ride. Above Level??? That is such a small, small part of the big picture.

  2. Black Eye Beth says:

    Nancy, I understand your frustration and I feel that you have a lot of good points. Shows do need to get in step with what morgan owners want. The question is, what do the majority of morgan people want? I think Above Level needs to do a poll on this issue.

    It seems as though many shows are including separate classes for those horses that aren’t the park or english pleasure type (horses that trot “Above Level”; a blog name that was picked due to its being a “slang term” that would be recognized by those in the Morgan community and not meant to alienate anyone).

    I personally don’t know how you judge the horses of all disciplines together in one in-hand class to begin with. The confirmation of a park horse is not the confirmation of a western horse or a sport horse…; seems apples and oranges me. Which type of horse is correct as stated by the judging standards? As in any class, it depends on the judge standing in the ring. Judges have standards to follow but unfortunately it is not an objective process. Some people showing will agree, some will not. One thing my trainer has said time and time again is that when you go to a show you are paying for that judges opinion. That is all it is and no matter how strictly they follow a list of standards, it is still up for his or her interpretation.

    I am not sure it would be possible to find suitable judges if trainers were not included in that selection pool. Getting one’s judging card is not an easy process; it takes alot of time and travel money to go to the school and be a learner judge. Also judging is not a lucrative deal for any body that does it. Very little money is made so it is hard to entice new people into that process. I am not a judge and will never become a judge. I have no desire. I, therefore, try not to be judgmental of those that undertake that task. I am guessing that since you have such a strong opinion on this subject that you do or have had your judges card (?).

    I have to admit that I would rather have a trainer who specializes in the Morgan breed standing in the middle of the ring than a judge from a different discipline or a vet. If it was a vet he/she would need more “morgan” credentials than just understanding the way a horse is put together for me to agree on his or her adequacies as judge of a morgan show. Judges from other breeds can also have a different training perspective which doesn’t translate from their breed to the morgan breed.

    As I said at the beginning, I do understand your perspective but there are many things to consider. It isn’t a black and white issue. I just wanted to bring some other thoughts to light.

  3. Mocha Mom says:

    Oh Boy! I’m sorry I missed this yesterday because I think Nancy is onto something. She has really given me food for thought. She’s right. There IS nothing wrong with the Morgan In-Hand rules or the Judging Standards. If I understand her correctly, the reason that she and Bill Broe no longer show in Morgan shows is because they don’t like the way Morgans are judged and that the problem is that many judges are also trainers. The judges can only judge what’s presented to them, so whose fault is it that the “high-stepping” horses are winning the in-hand division? If one thinks their horse is close to the ideal Morgan, they should show it in-hand.

    But I sure wish a licensed Morgan judge would chime in on this. Why don’t we see western pleasure or hunter pleasure type or dressage-trained horses pinned Grand Champion In-Hand horses? I have heard it said that it takes the same qualities for a horse to be a top park horse, western pleasure horse, or dressage horse, so theoretically any one of those types should be qualified to win an In-Hand Grand Championship at an all-Morgan show. And if the Specialty-In-Hand horses are judged by the same standard as the open in-hand horses, why do we need specialty in-hand classes? Again, those horses are theoretically qualified to win the open classes. Maybe what we need are classes for Amateur handlers, because I’ll grant you that a professional will always do a better job presenting a horse than I will. Just like a professional physician will generally do a better job taking care of my health than my best friend will.

    When you say that the shows are not user-friendly, do you mean the judges? The show committee? The other exhibitors? I’m sure you don’t mean that it’s because your horses don’t win. It sounds as if the show in Sacramento promised the exhibitors something that made them willing to show up and that they were satisfied enough to come back the following year. Was your show a USEF licensed show? How did the exhibitors know that this show would be different? What made them willing to make the trip and how was it done?

    So it seems to me that we now have another question, which is, “Why aren’t there more judges who are not trainers?” Many Morgan owners who show can probably afford the expense of becoming a licensed judge. I’m sure that everyone who is not a licensed judge has a good reason why. For me, I can usually pick first and last, but I get lost after that. I could never judge one of those hunter pleasure classes with 20-some horses. I also recognize that I’m not half the horseman that my trainers are, or that my father is, and I think that to be a good judge, you should be a good horseman first. And if I’m not willing to put myself on the line (or in center ring), I guess I can’t complain about the judging. I know that there are good, honest people working within AMHA to improve the quality of our Morgan judges by having judges schools and minimum requirements for maintaining a judges’ license. I just pays my money and takes my chances because it’s something that I enjoy doing. Of course, it’s always MORE fun if you win!

    I also want to take this opportunity to correct myself. I re-read the Morgan Division rules today and realized that the Sport Horse Suitability class is a performance class, and not a conformation class, even though the horses are shown “in-hand.”

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