“Ask A Judge” Questions

We had a couple of very good questions for the judges last week.  Although only one answer has been posted so far, I have 2 or 3 other judges working on them also.  Those will be posted as soon as I receive them.

 I would love to have other questions ready to go for the next round, so let’s hear those questions that have been stewing in your minds all winter.  I know more are out there.  Even if they seem insignificant to you, you can bet somebody else is wondering the same thing. 

9 Responses to “Ask A Judge” Questions

  1. Black Eye Beth says:

    One thing I have always wondered is how important those expensive silver western saddle and bridles are in shows. Are they good for getting your horse noticed in a large class or are they used as tie-breakers for when 2 horses are equally matched?

  2. Alicia says:

    IMO– I think that overall turnout is very important in every division– in western that means silver and in hunter that means braids. And I think it is just as important, if not more so, to the owner than it is to the judge.

  3. Black Eye Beth says:

    I agree that overall turnout is very important in all the discipines. A little elbow grease and time cost you nothing. However I guess I am wondering how much bearing a saddle/bridle with ALOT of bling has versus a clean, well kept saddle with some silver (but not like the high end saddle’s have). Not a burning question but something I have always wondered.

  4. amie9191 says:

    I don’t feel like the amount of silver on my tack has ever “won” me a ribbion….but I agree with Alicia that the overall turnout is what the judge sees.

    For the *most* part a person with the silver on their saddle and fancy outfit has also invested more money and/or time on training so the overall picture and movement tends to be better.

    There are ALWAYS exceptions though :-)

  5. Leslie says:

    On the subject of saddle seat equitation (though I suppose it could apply to any seat) how important is the performance of the horse? I always felt like equitation should be this great level playing field for the saddle seat riders. Theoretically, if you’re the best equitation rider, you should be able to hop on any old plug from the pasture and beat a not-as-good rider on a $100,000 horse, provided your horse can do all the gaits and workouts, of course.

    I understand that the overall picture is extremely important in equitation, but I’ve seen classes judged where that overall picture seems to matter more than the riders’ performances and abilities. For example, I watched a class at an all-breed show where the one rider who had the big-moving, upheaded, gorgeous trimmed Saddlebred and the nice, expensive-looking formal suit won over the riders on Morgans and pleasure Saddlebreds. In my mind, she did not have nearly as nice railwork or pattern work as the riders who ended up with second or third. Obviously the judge may have seen things I didn’t, but it really seemed like she pinned the rider she did because she and her horse just looked the part.

    How important is that overall picture vs. the riders’ performance? Assuming the entries are all well-turned out, should the good rider with the great horse who make a nice picture really place over the great rider with the average horse?

  6. Black Eye Beth says:


    Great question. I will get it to the Judges right away. Thanks!

  7. Alicia says:

    I know I am not a judge, but I BREATHE saddleseat Equitation, and have turned out many Medal winners, Challenge cup winners, and other champions (including World Champions) in this division, and am just itching to take a whack at this one. Overall picture is a very big factor in this division. Part of the reason this division was developed is somewhere along the way a very smart lady (Helen Crabtree) realized that excellent form from her riders made her horses perform better as well. When you read her book, you get a lot of understanding that the “position” is not one set statue like form, but rather and ideal that is modified heavily based on the horse. You also understand that a rider on a more aggressive moving horse with a huge front end is having to work much harder to stay in position than the very smooth gaited more lesson horse type of mount. You have to take in account how much horse the rider is sitting on, and shouldn’t fault the rider for moving out of position a little if it produces better results from the horse. That is what the division is about — great riding that comes from great form. With that said, the type and caliber of horse you are on becomes a larger factor. Essentially, the more horse you have under you, the more you have to work with and showcase. Your horse makes you or breaks you at the World level (think about it– they are all so very close in skill and in perfect position, whoever gets the best overall work done is gonna come out on top. Emily Buchanan on Mantic Top Gun is a great example. Not the steadiest legged girl in the class, but moving well with her horse, who was a hot pistol, and very poppy going. I don’t know that you could get much steadier on that much horse). When I am looking for a client horse, I try to get as much horse as the rider can handle safely. I also like eq horses a bit on the game side– you can’t push a noodle! Just remember, this is a division about form to function, so what the horse looks like as a result of your riding is a huge factor. Obviously, the quality of your horse can limit your success for this reason. Can’t wait to hear what the real judges say… I am sure we will get many varied responses on this one!

  8. Leslie says:

    I agree that at the Grand National, where it’s all the best of the best, that overall picture of horse and rider is going to have to come into play, because it’s not like any of those kids are missing leads or diagonals or forgetting to put their heels down. But none of them are showing up on schoolies, either.

    I also agree that equitation is a lot more than sitting like a statue on your horse and looking pretty. I do think, however, that there are plenty of kids out there on made equitation horses who really don’t have to do a lot of work in the show ring to get the horse looking perfect. That’s why I always thought it was interesting to watch the Saddle Seat Eq World Cup tryouts where all the riders are mounted on horses they’ve never ridden, and the vast majority of those horses have never been equitation mounts. It really shows who can ride and who just strikes a pose.

    Personally, I think that it’s often more difficult to get your form on a less-animated horse because you have to work harder to post without looking like you’re working harder. And if you’re on a lower-headed horse you have to make sure your arms and upper body aren’t pulled out of position. This makes sense, since the standards for saddle seat equitation were developed for riders on a saddle seat horse. For equitation, I’d take a fire-breather over a plug any day (my horse falls closer to the latter category…but I’ve long since aged out…)

    That said, Alicia, I’ve seen your riders at shows, so I know you know what you’re talking about on this subject. It’s always interesting to hear different perspectives.

  9. erikarose says:

    Though I never really got to show Saddle Seat Eq, I have been studying it as long as I have been riding. In my mind the better/stronger of a rider I am the more I can get out of my horse and look good doing it. Giving it that all around picture.

    I love what both Alicia and Leslie said. And I agree with both in a way about the hot show horse vs. the plug lesson horse. Having a hottie to show right now I know that the better my body position the easier it looks and get incredibly better results from him. It’s very tough to look good when you have a lot of horse under you. But there are those rare occasions when you have a lot of horse but it’s easy to ride because everything is just there and all you have to do is sit and ride it. At the same time it can be very difficult to get anything out of a plug lesson horse. It requires not just pushing the horse into the bridle but pushing it to go somewhere as well! Then there are those handful of lesson horses who can step it up and be a great equitation mount because they are so broke but still have a motor. All in all I think the most important thing about a saddleseat equitation horse is that it has a motor, how ever much the rider can handle.

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