“Ask A Judge”- Hunter Question (Judge 4)

We recently had an “Ask a Judge” question regarding the Hunter division which has been answered by Judge 1 and Judge 2 (see the posts “Questions Regarding Hunter and Park Classes Judging Answered by Judge 2” and “Ask A Judge- Hunter Question-Judge 1).  Judge 4 weighs in on this question in this post.

We still would like to have more questions for our Judge Panel…What would you like to ask?

Questions:

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 4 Answer:

The judging in the hunter and western divisions has had the most diversity for several years.  Depending on the background of the judges our Morgans are sometimes judged as more working types.  If we get judges with a Quarter horse background they tend to pick horses that fit their vision of what a hunter or western horse should be.  Of late we have seen a more stylized hunter being pinned, especially at the national level.  First and foremost we must remember that there is only ONE standard for the Morgan horse.  They are not Quarter horses or Thoroughbreds.  Because of that standard they are expected to be more up-headed with a laid back shoulder and a fluid, ground-covering way of going.  Morgans should have their own specific “look”.  That being said we still need to pick individuals that fit the division.  Do we want hunters that are jammed into their bridles and doing a forced, animated trot.  I think not.  It still should be a softened, relaxed performance.  Hunters should be looking where they are going with the head set slightly ahead of vertical.  There are many horses whose natural motion gives them a more rounded way of movement.  If their motion is easy and fluid, all the better.  But we are not looking for park horses here.  It still needs to be natural and ground-covering. 
 
Trends come and go with the whims of trainers, judges, breeders and exhibitors.  A few years ago we needed to police the Classic division which was starting to get away from the original concept.  We stressed that this division had to be a more quiet, softened division with particular attention paid to manners, walking and suitability.  I think we have done a good job of cleaning it up.  Presently we are taught in the AMHA judge’s school that the same thing has to be done to the hunter and western divisions.  We need to get back to the original idea of what a Morgan hunter pleasure horse is. 

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