Ask a Judge? – Hunter Question (“Judge 1”)

Questions regarding Hunter class judging answered by “Judge 1”:
(2 of the questions are answered together since they were related. Also to shorten the post I have edited the questions. To see the question in its entirety go to “What Would You Ask A Judge?”)

1)Some judges judge (Hunter and Park classes) right to the book, and others seem to go more for a stylized Morgan. I would be very interested to know why this happens, and what we can do to gain more consistency between shows? Several of the World Champion hunters over the past two years have been successful English Pleasure horses the season before. Meanwhile, horses such as Zimbabwe who were tough to beat a couple of years ago don’t seem to be as successful against the higher headed bigger moving hunters. Why is that?

2) A Morgan in any division needs to be built like and move like a Morgan, but when is a hunter not a hunter? If you have a horse who is a great example of a Morgan but is really too saddle seat for a hunter class, and a beautiful hunter who could be competitive in an open hunter under saddle class, but doesn’t have the animation of most Morgans, which is the better Morgan hunter?
The hunter classes are always overflowing with entries, but so many of them look like they could easily go classic or English. Most of the hunters seem to go in double bridles. So many of those hunters just look like saddle seat horses with braids.
So I guess my question would be what is or what should be the standard for judging a Morgan hunter compared with the standard for judging an open, all-breed hunter under saddle class?

Judge 1 Answer:

Morgans have a standard and you cannot change that standard to make them move or set up like a “field hunter”. Our breed produces some beautiful, smooth trotting & correct hunter pleasure horses. The breeds that are more recognized with the “hunt” type are made to move out in front of them and have a more straight shoulder making them not as supple in the neck. Morgans are curvy and when you start to work them it is a natural characteristic for them flex more at the poll and be soft.

This being said I am in full agreement that some of the hunters showing today have too much animation(trappy moving) and are too overbridled. As a judge I have to tie what is in the class and what is doing the most things correct on that day, in that specific class. I might not like the trappy moving, over bridled horse, but if it is the best horse in the class that day, I have to tie it. Judging is about evaluation to the breed standard and what is showing in the ring during that class. I know what I like and what is my “ideal” and I always hope that horse will appear in front of me so that I can see how it sizes up against the competition.

During a class I do not have to tie the horse with a bridle that I do not think is appropriate but it is not illegal according to USEF so I have to judge it the same way as the others. All things being perfect a hunter should be happy, have a ground covering, light trot, show extension without excessive speed and be obedient at all gaits. For me the one pet peeve is the horse that is overbridled, not traveling straight down the rail and who has a cadence that lacks impulsion. To me a Morgan that goes soft in a snaffle bridle is the best representative we could have to promote our breed to the outside public. This takes a lot of work and time but the pay off in the show ring is great.

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