Backyard vs show

Ok, so here it goes. We hear about ” backyard” horses and “show” horses all the time. But what does that mean? A big breeder vs a small breeder? A breeeder of world champions vs a breeder of the sweetest smartest kindest trail horses? Are show horses not nice family horses, and are backyard horses not good show horses? What happened to the morgans who look like the statue? Why are the Justin Morgan standerd classes laughed at? When did having a “classic morgan” place you out of the ribbons at a show for being ‘out classed’? Why do you need a 16 hand fire breather to place, in a western class??!??!? A horse with a beautifully crested neck is asked if its sick…… I truly believe judging comes into play. If a horse is spot on, framed perfect, perfect manners, goes elegantly and naturally, but not above level, not set up like an english horse, but walk trots, truly extends in both trot and canter, has goregous smooth transitions, but is not a fire breather, is a nice 15 hand quiet typey horse; why is it over looked and placed behind the big going, slightly unsteady, kinda wild but very flashy and cool looking horse, with the reason its out classed. Since when did bad manners and to much motion for the division turn into class? Yes im talking about hunt. Lets talk western. To me a western horse should be mannerly and elegant. Slow, fluid and natural. When a horse looks like it is about to explode any minute, thats not western. When a horse looks like a park horse jogging around the arena, thats not western. A long skinny straight neck and a lot of knee action to me is not pretty. But we all have our own opions. I just want to know when a long skinny straight neck replaced a long beautifully crested neck. When a calm and manners got replaced by knees and cantering in place. When fluid eliptical motion turned into above level. When what was once considered a typey morgan turned into “backyard”. I remember showing one horse western, hunt, and classic. Now that would be ludacris. Don’t get me wrong i LOVE the park horses, and those fire breathers too. And i have known many WC park horses who were awesome trail horses and sweet as pie. I just want to know why the “old type” has turned into a bad word in the show pen? Or has it?

19 Responses to Backyard vs show

  1. dressagemorganrider says:

    I will not say anything about the Morgan breed ring (I agree with you on a lot)

    BUT — with regard to “A horse with a beautifully crested neck is asked if its sick……” — that actually IS an issue. A lot of cresty horses turn out to have Insulin Resistance. A lot of crest, especially on a mare or gelding, can indicate IR, which requires management with a low starch diet, possible medication and so forth. These things can be very expensive; try having the only horse at a boarding barn who can’t be turned out on grass or has to have special hay or have its hay soaked. It is as “special” as having a cribber. I board, and when I was looking for a Morgan, I turned down a beautiful gelding because he looked like an IR horse — big cresty neck but poor muscling elsewhere.

  2. jj4osu says:

    Excellent questions Erlene!!

    I’ve been wanting to bring up a similar topic, but am too good a procratstinating. Anyway, at the beginning of the year, Harry Sebring (on behalf of AMHA…judging committee maybe?) put out a memo regarding judging and specifically addressed Hunter Pleasure classes. We haven’t been to many shows this year to make any observations on whether changes had been noticed in judging…so, wondered if anybody had seen any changes.

    Harry Sebring’s Memo on Hunter Pleasure:
    “B. Hunter Pleasure — The evolution of the Hunter Pleasure division has been a remarkable development. The competition is at an all time high. What we must be careful to avoid is tying the Hunter Pleasure horse with too much action, and/or a head carriage that is too high. Remember, Morgan Hunter horses should trot elliptically; i.e. twice as long as high. It is a relaxed, ground covering gait. They must first and foremost look like a Morgan in Hunter tack, but they should not look like a Saddle seat type horse. Do not let this trend continue.”

    OR, have the judging preferences of the past years already so influenced show selection by participants that there are not enough quality “hunters” within the division to actually notice a change??

    As I said, we’ve seen very little this year at shows, but one class I remember vividly sticking out in my mind. An open hunter pleasure class that had a mix of ams and pros in there…not a single horse (out of probably 12 or so) was even close to the description of a hunter. Most were high stepping, up and down front end with sway backs and high heads, a couple were quite the opposite, but were shuffling movers….none had a nice eliptical motion with a forward way of going. None had any change in a lengthened trot. The only changes in a lengthened canter were changes to flat out runs. EVERY SINGLE HORSE IN THE RING WAS BEHIND VERTICAL FOR THE ENTIRE CLASS!!! If even an average hunter that moved correctly was entered it should have swept the class easily. But what was the judge to do here?? They had to place something. What comes away is the competitors place well think “wow” I’ve got a great hunter.

    This is obviously one instance only, but from seeing many classes in prior years, it appears that even if the judging goes back the other way that it will take some time for us to even notice, because competitors have adjusted to what the judges were placing in the past. Seems that many of the true Hunter (and even Classic Pleasure, haven’t seen too many of those with proper manners recently, even a winner that was a flat out runaway for half of a class) horses have been forced into the younger youth divisions, even down to W/T…as the owners/trainers don’t think they will be judged well against a showy mover.

    Are these horses now relegated to “backyard” or showing with youngsters still needing calm horses? I hope not.

  3. Chris Nerland says:

    Wow…where to start…those who read this blog know I have come out in favor of some of the outside blood which came into the breed in the last 30 years. How it was snuck in was wrong, but the results were bigger horses, with bigger trots and hingey necks. I love the George Morris statue at UVM, but the horse would probably pass out from lack of oxygen if forced into a Hunter headset.
    With regard to the horses not moving appropriately for the class, I agree that it comes down to one word-judging. The standards are out there, the judges get updates, they can attend seminars. I know the view from the center of the ring is quite different than from the stands, but we all know of instances where the placing only could be rationalized by considering: a. who was riding b. former winning c. hot/extreme. Actual performance in that ring, on that day had nothing to do with these 3 factors. Please carefully note that I am NOT saying the above 3 factors are all that judges look at. That is absolutely not correct and most judges perform a difficult job as best they can. What I am saying is that judges are the key factor. If every judge turned his/her back on every gingered horse for an entire show season, there would be no more gingering. If every judge blanked out who was holding the reins and who the horses were and looked at every class with fresh eyes, you would see the classes start to fill up with horses who actually met the standards of the division. This is not going to happen overnight (although I surely wish they would get rid of gingering) Judges are flawed human clay, like the rest of us.
    The Morgan breed is blessed (or cursed) with having a horse which, because of its physical structure, can do many things well, and a few things surpassingly well. 40 years ago however, it could not collect well (w/exceptions). Selective breeding has now given us a horse that can wear a bridle well in any discipline under the sun. Yes, we have probably swung too far in Hunt, but the overall picture is very positive. As I have said on this blog before, over the passage of time, the breed will breed back to a median which corresponds to the Classic Pleasure horse. You will have exceptions at each end of the spectrum but the majority will look like Morgans and move like Morgans. What can skew this over toward snake-necked, weedy and ugly headed horses will be judging that does not apply the standards.
    For an excellent article that illuminates the way in which the Morgan can excel in a discipline dominated by another breed, please read Doug Sande’s Viewpoint in the August 2009 issue of the Morgan Horse. I am not a big WP fan, but Mr. Sande’s article deepened my appreciation. Lets bring back the extended trot and hand gallop to WP! Let our Hunter and Road Hack classes look like the horses can Do Something! Judges can and should lead the way on this.

  4. dressagemorganrider says:

    I would love to see Morgan Hunter Pleasure be a bit closer to what you see in Open Hunter Under Saddle classes. Of course most Morgans will have more knee action and a more compact frame, but Open HUS (at a hunter show) requires a well-mannered horse with a ground-covering stride that does not waste a lot of energy going up and down. They are generally shown on a straight but not taut rein, head a little in front of the vertical to quite poked out (standards vary.) They usually go in a snaffle, though Pelhams and Kimberwickes are acceptable.

    In the few Morgan HP classes I have seen, the horses are held together/jammed into a frame on a very short rein, behind the vertical, often with the curb bit pulled nearly horizontal. This is NOT acceptable for a mannerly hunter. As another poster mentioned, the mannerly hunters tend to end up as youth WT horses.

    Not to mention the use of long toes/pads on HP horses! Drives me crazy as this will destroy the horse’s efficiency of movement. I think your average Morgan has enough action when barefoot for a HP class.

    Question: in those rare shows that have over-fences classes, can horses who compete well over fences even have a CHANCE in the HP classes? Probably not, and that indicates a real problem.

    I know several people who field hunt their Morgans and love it. The horses have good stamina, are forward yet controllable, and pick up their feet enough not to trip on rough terrain.

  5. Chris Nerland says:

    I agree w/dressagemorganrider 100%. I have heard people say that letting the Morgan Hunter put his nose out will lead to them being “strung out”. This implies inability of the horse to respond to his rider. Well, if you watch the hunt field, you will see thorobreds sauntering along with their noses out and necks lower. These horses are fully capable in real time of carrying their rider safely over jumps, through ploughing and across streams. Hardly “strung out”.
    I gotta ask: who in the world was it that proposed the Morgan Hunter Rule standard headset at “perpendicular or slightly out”? I was attracted to Hunter class because they looked like they could Do Something. I think Hunter Pleasure should evoke thoughts of riding out on a crisp November morning with a happy, forward, ground-covering, capable hunter under you who can carry you through any obstacle you may meet. A ring-full of pretty, prancing Baroque models kinda spoils that picture.

  6. leslie says:

    “I think Hunter Pleasure should evoke thoughts of riding out on a crisp November morning with a happy, forward, ground-covering, capable hunter under you who can carry you through any obstacle you may meet.”

    Me too!

    I feel like what shows up in our breed’s show ring undermines the whole idea of Morgan versatility. If you took the tack off the hunt, western, and saddle seat pleasure horses, it really seems like you wouldn’t see much of a difference. A tack change isn’t versatility.

    Plus, if you take our top western or hunter pleasure horses and put them in an all-breed class, they wouldn’t pin because our judging standards (either as written or as interpreted, I’m not sure which) are so far removed from the original disciplines. And yet somehow, the horses that do well on our insular breed circuit are the ones we celebrate while the ones out competing on the open circuit, being judged as horses and not just Morgans, are sort of ignored by the breed.

    I get the feeling that people kind of look at those sport Morgans as the ones that couldn’t make it on the Morgan circuit, but in a sense, isn’t it the other way around? A top hunter pleasure Morgan probably couldn’t make it in the much bigger world of open hunters. What good does it do us to create and reward horses that can only compete amongst themselves?

  7. Chris Nerland says:

    To the Morgan Magazines credit, they do take note of Morgans that do well in open competition. I have to kind of disagree however that Morgans won’t pin in an open show. Usually they are stacked against QHs or TBs and lots of them. However the Morgan look is very distinctive and if they have the moves, they can do well, and catch the eye while doing it. We were told the same thing when Morgans started competing in carriage, and now we are very well situated in singles and pairs and may even give the 4-in-hands a run for their money at WEG!

  8. leslie says:

    Oh, I definitely agree that Morgans can and do place well in open classes. I just don’t think the Morgan hunters that win on the Morgan circuit could do well on the open circuit. The look that the breed circuit rewards is totally different than what wins on the open circuit.

    Good to know that the magazines give some page space to the open competition horses, too.

  9. Jennifer says:

    In regards to riding with the nose in front of the vertical this requires a rider who really knows how to ride: how to engage the haunches to lift the withers and ride into the contact. Unfortunately, most of today’s show horses are ridden in draw reins. The horse only learns to give and not how to carry. The rider only learns to pull and not engage the haunches. The trainer is able create a picture with minimal effort. This is true with all the seats because if the fire breathing, breaking level hunter was taught how to engage and carry himself he could easily go Classic or even EP, but then the rider would also need to learn how to ride. I also think it is much easier to teach an adult to ride huntseat than saddleseat. The saddle alone provides a great deal of security.
    My 15.2h show hunter horse rides bigger than the 15.2h sport horse. The sport horse has more explosive power, ie. canter transitions are powerful. I’m transitioning the show hunter from classic because while had the neck and hinge for classic he did not have the fire. We are still working on engagement and carry, and I didn’t show him this year because he is not steady in his carriage. I think if I had shown him it would have been backyard.

  10. Flmorgan says:

    We haven’t shown as much this year as in past years but have done well in our Hunter Pl. classes both this year and last stacked up against the “fancy” hunters. Our Hunters do jump and can perform up to training level 3 in dressage. I think some of the judges will pin the horse with true extentions of gait if the horses are in the ring. Both horses this year had alumninum shoes on for jumping. One regulary goes on Hunter paces and is shown at some Open Hunter shows and had done well. We show Open Shows and our Morgans are always a hit. Our horses have placed 1st and 2nds this year at Morgan shows. We as a farm don’t normally train with draw reins for the very reasons mentioned in the above post. Back to the subject. I think we will see more and more judges adhering to the judging standards which may mean more of a market for the true hunter or western type Morgans. Western also needs alittle adjusting on the shoeing and head sets. Many are behind verticle and too paradey. I think there is too much of a divide in our breed and its hurting the breed and driving down entries at our horse shows. If every horse that was shown, shown by the rules, adhered to the conformation standards and
    completed each gait in the class and was given a fair shake we would have alot more people showing and we would all have more clients and make more $.

  11. MPromise says:

    I have show hunters all my life (since this seems to be the direction that this thread is going…), at Morgan shows and open shows. I showed my Morgan for 6 years, in junior exhibitor and youth classes. After a couple years of showing on the Morgan circuit and not doing all that well, my trainer suggested that my horse might be better suited for the open show circuit (read: the backyard circuit). We ended up doing very well against not only Morgans, but Arabians, Friesians, Saddlebreds, and even some stock breeds. It depended on the judge and the class, of course, but I showed in more non-breed-specific classes than Morgan classes because that is what was offered. Once in a while I would come across a judge at a Morgan show who would pin us well, but most would not because my horse was too small. Now, since when is a 15.1 hand Morgan too small? My horse is pretty, typey, and talented. But judges would overlook us just because of his size. If you read the breed description, 15.1 hands is in the height range that they are supposed to be! The older I got, the more annoyed I got with the discrimination against those who have what a true Morgan is supposed to be. I love the breed, and I will always have Morgans. I love them in every way – from the big flashy (but still typey!) park horses to those indivduals who compete in the sport disciplines – jumping, dressage, etc. At one barn I rode at, people who showed Morgans dressage or had some previous dressage training were almost laughed at, which to me seems wrong. This is driving the breed into two almost separate breeds who both think the other is wrong in the way they train and show. I know this is not true for everyone, or maybe not even the majority of the community, but I am making generalizations here. I am not trying to accuse anyone because it is everyone’s fault. It would help the breed tremendously if everyone could see eye to eye.
    More recently, I have been training my horse some western and dressage. He does great! Proof that modern Morgans still posess some of their versatile heritage.

  12. WyNNe says:

    I have a 14.1 Morgan mare who has the heart of a lion and the brain of every thing we breed for. We do a little driveing, a little saddleseat, a little hunter, a little jumper, a little dressage, a little western, a little bit of police work, a little search and rescue, and a litte trail riding. This horse does everything and puts her whole heart and soal in to it. She is the Jack of all trades but the Master of none. She is always a crowd pleaser at open breed shows but never places well because she’s too small, or to choppy, or too hot, or too old style, or too…blah, blah, blah. I took her home and said forget it. It’s a shame that old type Morgans don’t do well against the new style. I admit she isn’t great at just one thing…except versitility and isn’t that supposed to be one of the biggest selling points of the Morgan breed? Tisk, tisk. Manners and correctness should win classes, not breathing fire like a circus performance. Come one, come all……

  13. eseybold21 says:

    Ok so I see this thread has focused on hunters and not really what I was trying to talk about. Though the hunter debate is a good one. Let’s open a hunter thread! What I want to discuss more is…. What is a “backyard” Morgan? Is a nice big wide and tall Morgan with forward moving action going to be over looked for a tall narrow straight necked high kneed horse? What is “backyard”? Is it a sweet kind horse that in the dog works would be considered “pet quality”? Can a traditional Morgan compete these days? Why or why not? I don’t think small breeders are backyard if that one or two foals are national champions. You don’t have to have 50 a year to be a big breeder, having that many a year proves only one thing; your mares are fertile. It’s quality not quantity. I have worked many breeds but I Love Morgans. All of my lesson horses are Morgans. Look at your registry papers at that Morgan and tell me how he would do in a class today.

  14. empressive says:

    OH OH OH!! I have been talking to many rescue people and we have come down to our own understanding of BYB’s etc.

    Let me lay it out for you…
    The BackYard Breeders is exactly what it is. Someone who breeds with no vision at the future, performance, conformation, disposition, and use of the resulting foal.

    Now there are those of us who have one mare, a small place, and would like to breed the mare with an idea of more than just “I’m going to one baby Fufu for the rest of his life!” That I can respect as breeders must come from somewhere. The difference is these people actually look to produce something that follows not only the breed standard, but makes sure that there is a chance for the foal to have a utility use.

    Now Big breeder and small breeder are 2 headlines underneath the “Breeder” catagory. I would aptly say that a small breeder produces less than 5 foals a year and has only 2 or 4 mares, not counting stallions. A large breeder is going to be bigger with 8 or more foals a year and 8 or more mares with 2 or 3 stallions.

    Anything in the middle I would say is a breeder.

    Now as to the rest of your post I can say that yes, many people that have allowed their horses to be called “old type” have created connotations that equal exactly that “OLD” It doesn’t help when those with Old Type horses rail against everything else and have a tantrum when their Old Types do not win even when the ruling was fair.

    Let’s put the shoe on the other foot! To those who have begun calling “Old Types” by the name the owners have created for them. We are in an age when the younger generation is devisive and wants to run away from OLD TYPES. That does not help any. But when one person finds something that they like and people rail against it they become defensive and to get revenge strike out against all of those that hurt their feelings.

    I was with someone at a show and heard a lady say that some horse was a Saddlebred and not a Morgan. I was furious and while I never had a chance to speak with the woman was much involved in not so nice comments inside my head. When I did go on a trail ride and met up with an old type Morgan I was estatic that it was Morgan! Oh how I oggled over the tub of lard and congratulated the owner. Did she have anything nice to say to me? No sadly and I know exactly why. But what I did find nice is that she asked what breed my horses were and I said Morgans. Her face changed a bit, but I drew her away from the negativity that is so convienently complacent in the Morgan breed. Any breed in general. I got her talking about how wonderful Morgans were and we exchanged stories.

    That day on that trail ride this woman left with a genuinely good moment. Do we make sure that everyone we meet that has Morgans too leaves us with a good vibe? If not we only perpetuate funny stereotypes and pass them onto anyone that comes into the Morgan breed.

    Someone told me that Hunt and Western horses are the cast offs of the great Park horses. That they were the runts and bad luggage. I thought about that and being young managed to keep my mouth shut. Since then I have MADE it my hobby to understand bone structure and conformation to the point that I can see a horse at ANY angle and ANY picture or place and KNOW what it looks like and how it moves, of any breed.

    Thus I have come to appreciate all of the classes and truly know the reason why Hunt horses are Hunt, Western horses are Western, Park horses are Park, ect.

    I am nowhere enlighted and just see a little clearer and WANT to learn. Not just knowledge, but about ever person I meet.

    So when you or I or anyone hits the showring and hears, “Oh great another BYB.”

    Pat that person on the back and tell them, “It’s such a sad thing that you feel that way!”

    In no way are we sorry for these people. That is their problem, their issues that they have to get over. We can help by showing them in an indiscreet manner how to see the good in all of the horses, disciplines and classes.

    As for the judges and their choices, E~d~u~c~a~t~i~o~n~!!!

    And a good whipping for not judging correctly! LOL

  15. RaeOfLight says:

    Wow, I definitely woke up to some rambling posts from you empressive. Haha. I think I can mostly make sense of them. :)

    I would like to point out that I believe there’s a distinct difference between a backyard breeder and a backyard owner.

    I agree that the qualifying criteria for a backyard breeder would be someone who breeds for the sake of breeding with no vision, but there are also “mass producers” who produce just as much bad stock as good because they also have no vision (like puppy-mills, only with horses). The only potential upside with the mass producers is that they often have the financial backing to allow themselves to fail, so they can play around more with rolling the dice and other breeders can look at their attempts and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

    A backyard owner is someone who’s horse is a companion as much as anything else and they may have a world champion or potential world champion in their backyard and not even know it.

    Now, when it comes to showing, I think judges (and rail-side “judges”) have to be very aware of the criteria for the particular class in front of them. Except in in-hand and Championship classes, conformation is less important than performance. More often than not the small-time/backyard exhibitor enters the ring at a disadvantage. Not because of prejudice or lack of quality, but because they just don’t have the time or resources to invest in their performance. The horse is usually less well trained, and less well turned out. It’s no fault of the owners, this is not their profession, but it’s a harsh reality. Even if their horse is a higher quality individual from the perspective of breed conformation and type, if it doesn’t perform as well (based on the criteria for that class) it’s not going to place as well.

  16. Vintage_Rider says:

    Had to add this snipet:
    Although the numbers of breeder’s futurities in several states has decreased in number the elite horses take home the awards and prize money. We as breeders are all striving to raise foals that can win at the highest level but of the hundreds of halter foals born every year only a small percentage fall into this elite category. Regardless if you breed a couple mares as a hobby, or if you’re a large breeder with 50 mares and a prominent stallion, we all raise foals that are of good quality with excellent bloodlines, however, if they can’t place in the top 10 at world show competition their show career and marketability are limited.

    Each year we see fewer and fewer entries in the halter classes at the weekend horse shows because the average horses can’t compete against the elite horses that are at the show qualifying for world show competition. It’s very discouraging for someone new to the industry to get started showing halter horses because there are no divisions based on the quality of horses showing in the class, homegrown horses shown by exhibitors with limited experience and financial means compete against prominent trainers or owners leading world champions. Not saying there shouldn’t be places for prominent trainers and owners with world champion horses but we need to even the playing field and have a place for everyone. Even in a struggling economy the elite horses bring $20,000/$50,000/$75,000 and more, well out of the price range of most exhibitors. If only there were halter classes where exhibitors could show the more affordable horses, against horses and exhibitors with the same abilities and qualities, our industry could see much needed growth.

    Where from ? Quarter horses.
    Full article on

  17. empressive says:

    Vintage nice one on the Quarter horses. Thanks for pulling that up.

    LOL Sorry for the ramblings. I have a long wait between classes.

    Hmm, maybe there should be breeder only classes. No trainer’s allowed and the horse must be bred by the current owners? Naw, cross your fingers and wing it. Best way to go into a class.

  18. eseybold21 says:

    Maybe Morgans should go ‘corporate’ and get better sponsors and prize money and maybe if we could win $20,000 for a western pleasure champ etc it might level the playing field, put more $ in our locket to make up some we paid through the year or to buy a new one, breed, etc…… Just an off thought.


  19. eseybold21 says:

    Outside that thought, back to old type, not just hunter or in hand, a big beautiful shapely head big eye dish faced beautifully crested, not a tub of lard, or a fat neck of a horse with medical issues, but a gorgeous Morgan crest; why can’t these great guys get a break? Anyone look at the statue lately? Oh and as far as in hand goes, why are the Justin Morgan standard classes a joke? World champion stallion/gelding/mare are supposed to be typey right? Anyone look at the standards lately? Why do we have a Justin Morgan standard class and a stallion/gelding/mare? Aren’t they supposed to be same same?

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