Should Professional Trainers be Allowed to Head in the Classic Division?

In the comments to the post “Are Headers in the Walk/Trot and Classics Driving Classes Needed?” a discussion has arisen  as to whether the Classic Driving classes should allow professional trainers to head horses.  Presently, professionals are allowed to head as a “safety” measure, whereas in previous years only non-professional headers could enter the ring. 

My personal opinion is that having that safety net as an “ounce of prevention” is the better option than having a person heading a horse that may not be able respond properly in an emergency.  As I have stated in comments to the original post, I don’t believe that a “bomb proof ” horse exists and that there is always a risk when entering the ring.  So why not have precautions in place?

However,  others have brought up the point that the development of the Classic division was initially for the Amateur Owner/Trainers so that they did not have to compete against the professionals and professionally trained horses.  These viewers feel that over time, though, this division has become one for the “toned down” Pleasure Driving horse, leaving the amateur trained horses at a big disadvantage. 

So here are my questions…Should Professional trainers be allowed in the ring to head a Classic Driving horse?  Also should there be a division in the “A” rated Morgan shows specifically for the amateur O/T (as I am told the Classic division was originally design for) or should those who don’t want to compete with the professional trainers and trained horses stick to the smaller shows that cater more toward the Amateur O/T?

10 Responses to Should Professional Trainers be Allowed to Head in the Classic Division?

  1. erikarose says:

    Just quick tidbit…I just looked at the prize lists for a few of the shows I go to, and they offer Amateur Owned, Trained, and Shown classes in the Classic division.

  2. erikarose says:

    I think that professionals should be allowed to head, after all it is optional to do so, and a great precaution for junior horses and novice drivers.

  3. Black Eye Beth says:

    I guess now that you say that I remember seeing some of those classes too. Do you think those classes were added as a result of the prof. trainers being allowed in the ring or have those always been part of the shows? I honestly don’t know. And, does that negate the argument against professionals in the classic division?
    Maybe MochaMom would like to weigh in(?)

  4. erikarose says:

    I believe those classes were most likely instated to give those owner an option to show in a class designated especially for them, after classic horses began moving to trainers. Then again most places that offer that class also offer it for Hunter, and Western as well.
    (I’m quickly realizing I spend wayyy to much time on here lol)

  5. Black Eye Beth says:

    Tell me about it…My husband asked me if I have bedsores!!

    Thanks for your insight, though, I am glad you enter into the conversation!

  6. ChillyOne says:

    It’s a common misconception that the Classic division was created for amateur trainers. The division was modeled after the Country Pleasure divisions in the SB and Arab shows to create a place for the saddle seat horse that didn’t have the same amount of “fire”, for lack of a better word; with an emphasis on manners and tractability. Boogie Nights is an excellent example of this. He is without a doubt a saddle seat horse – his neck comes straight out of his back all on it’s own – but this horse easily comes down to a flat-footed and easy walk, steps into his canter without ado, and well, he’s so CUTE. But, this same horse would be middle of the pack in say the Am English class in OKC. He’s definately got charisma coming out of his you know what, but he doesn’t fire the same.

    The idea behind having amateur headers goes to the manners/tractability – “anyone” should be able to stand with a Classic horse. But, things happen.

    Two stories: back at the start of the division, I was heading a horse in the lineup. The horse next to us was starting to fidget and fuss, yet the header did nothing. The horse started to up the ante a bit and stomping the ground – it was definately not happy, still the header did nothing. I was just telling my driver that we needed to move when the other horse went up, spun, and landed on the back of the horse I was heading. “My” horse, her driver and I all went flying – the mare scrambled back up in an absolute panic and got away from me and her driver. It was ugly. I still beleive that if either one of the headers had been a professional, this wouldn’t have happened. I should have acted sooner, the other header hadn’t acted at all.

    This summer I was watching a Classic driving class – one horse got his tongue over the bit towards the end of the class – it was very plain to see. He lined up without much issue, though the horse was obviously uncomfortable. A trainer would have immediately fixed the problem, but this horse had an amateur header and didn’t appear to notice the problem. The people along the rail tried to tell her, but it didn’t seem to compute. When the judge asked that poor horse to back I just closed my eyes knowing what was coming. He flipped over, but thankfully there were plenty of others aware of what was about to happen and help was literaly 1/2 second away as people from the rail jumped in immediately. The only damage was a busted cart and harness.

    So, long diatribe later – while in a perfect world you shouldn’t ever need a professional in the ring with you – these are supposed to me well-mannered horses, but this is not a perfect world and even the best horses are subject to the limits of its handlers and will react accordingly.

  7. erikarose says:

    Beautifully said ChillyOne. And yup, Boogie Nights is just adorable. My mother’s classic horse is very similar, lots of quality (a 14 yr old leased him last summer and their 3rd show was OKC. They came home with Res. GN and 5th in the World and she had lead trouble), type, and upheadedness, not a ton of trot but enough, he’s not enough for the pleasure division though.
    I completely agree with everything you had to say.

  8. Mocha Mom says:

    Thank you, ChillyOne for the background information on the creation of the Classic Division. I didn’t want to weigh in on this discussion any further without investigating that question. Because it is true that we do have the AOTS (Amateur Owned, Trained, and Shown) division to provide a venue for the do-it-yourselfers and I’m not seeing those classes filled to the degree that the Classic division classes are.

    But what have we done? What used to be a Park horse is now an English Pleasure horse. What used to be an English Pleasure horse is now a Classic horse. And all of that would be fine if there were enough horses out there to fill the Park division.

  9. amie9191 says:

    I don’t see a problem with having professionals head the classic driving horses….I figure that the trainers know the horses better then anyone else so if that can help keep everyone safe I’m all for it.

  10. Mocha Mom says:

    I’m still struggling with the question of whether or not professionals should be allowed to head in the Classic division. For me, it depends on the original intent of the division. So, I have asked two different people whom I expect to be knowledgeable on the subject and got two different answers. One told me that it was to provide a venue for the do-it-yourselfers to show saddle seat and driving, and the other told me it was to create a market for the horses who didn’t make the grade as English Pleasure horses.

    It makes sense to me that it would be for the do-it-yourselfers because the Classic horses exhibit a natural gait without long feet and heavy shoes. Something that an amateur without specialized knowledge can readily achieve. However, we do have the AOTS division for those who train and show their own horses and those classes don’t seem to fill very well at the big shows. Why is that? Is it because those exhibitors want the opportunity to see how they stack up against those recognized as some of the best and are showing in the open divisions? Or are they not attending the big shows at all? If they can’t afford a trainer, perhaps they are showing more in local, open shows, which opens another issue. In my opinion, if we want to expand our market for the Morgan horses we put on the ground, we need to be showing them to people who own other breeds so that they can see the advantages of owning a Morgan for themselves.

    As for the marketing of horses angle, we have always had the Hunter and Western Pleasure divisions for those who didn’t make the grade as English Pleasure horses and those classes have become huge as trainers have started to specialize in those disciplines. What does that say about the quality of the breed as a whole? It’s probably getting better as Chilly One says. Over the last 5 years I have seen the hunters evolve into a more upheaded and higher stepping horse.

    So, what’s my final answer? We have evolved to the point where we allow professionals to head in the Classic division. The reasons for it are multifactorial and complex and I’m willing to live with it.

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