Ask A Judge: Equitation Question answered by Judge 2

The following question was asked in our “Ask A Judge” post. Just below it is the answer from “Judge 2” from the Judge Panel:


On the subject of saddle seat equitation 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 rail work 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?

Answer-Judge 2

“In Saddle Seat Equitation classes, riders should convey impression of effective and easy control. To show a horse well, he should show himself to the best advantage. Ring generalship must be taken into consideration by the judges. A complete picture of the whole is of major importance.”

The above quote is taken from the USAE judging standards for equitation.
When I am judging, the one thing I keep in my head in an equitation class is “the overall picture”. If you have an excellent rider and an “ok” horse, the “ok” horse could pull the rider down. Equitation is about the rider-how well he or she commands the horse and if the horse is less than agreeable, ie, doesn’t move straight down the rail, transitions aren’t as smooth as they could be, this obviously makes the rider work harder, which can (not always) detract from the ride. Your question is somewhat contradictory as I read it because you state, “the overall picture seems to matter more than the riders performances and abilities”…. but isn’t the “overall picture” a result of the riders’ performance and abilities? Basically, I believe in an equitation class, the better the horse, the easier it is for the rider to do his/her job!

3 Responses to Ask A Judge: Equitation Question answered by Judge 2

  1. Leslie says:

    I was thinking more in terms of a less-showy horse rather than a less-agreeable horse. Assuming you have two riders on horses who both do their gaits and transitions just fine, but one looks like a park horse and one looks like ol’ Dobbin, could a better rider on Dobbin win over a mediocre rider on Noble Flaire reincarnated?

    I know we have the classic eq division for riders with horses who aren’t as flashy, but even then there’s the potential for a wide range of quality.

  2. KarenL says:

    which actually gives rise to the question of classic equitation…. isn’t it all saddleseat?

  3. Black Eye Beth says:

    This is a reply to Leslie’s comment from “Judge 2″:

    If in fact the “better rider” demonstrated her skills within the criteria of equitation-absolutely yes – in an equitation class! I have been in center ring during equitation classes where there were really gifted horses going around with not so gifted riders …and they did not win! And the comment from the judge was “that horse would have been great in an open class” My only defense for what you witnessed is that it all does come down to personal preference. There are definitely guidelines to follow, but the interpretation of the guidelines (the eye of the beholder) varies widely!

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