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April Asks:

I'm starting to show my Arabian / Paint cross mare in more Arabian shows. I'd like to do some halter classes, but the horses that we go against can do the arab stance. My arab, can do it but it doesnt look as good. Do you have any hints or tips on training her to do the stance better?


Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi April-

Half Arabian halter classes are judged on conformation, quality, substance and Arabian type in that order. The first three qualities take precedence over Arabian type. Quite often, Half Arabian halter classes are divided into stock/hunter type and saddle/pleasure type. With the increased popularity of working western and sport horses, I think you are seeing increased participation in the "stock" type and judges considering them more fairly when shown against a more English style horse. The hunters are shown braided and in hunt bridles and the stock horses in western halters.

So with that in mind, I recommend showing your mare to her best advantage as a stock type horse. Stand her up squarely, in a western style show halter, if that's the way she looks best. And of course, great grooming and conditioning always help!

Anne Johnson


JoAnna Asks:
Dear Anne Johnson,

I own an Anglo-Arabian mare. She is exactly half-Arabian half Thoroughbred. I've been showing her for the last 2 years with her mane long and not braided (Arabian style) and she squares up in an Arabian stance for fitting and show classes. I recently cut and pulled her mane to give her the hunter look since I show her as an Arabian Hunter. My question is.... since I cut and pulled her mane, for next year can braid her mane (hunter style) and still use an Arabian Halter on her for halter classes? Or should I buy her a regular leather halter and teach her to square up in a thoroughbred stance? I am worried that the judge will not understand what she is and may not place me. I am not sure what the rules are for half-breeds. What is your recommendation? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and help me. I hope I explained my situation well. Thanks again!


Judge Anne Johnson's Reply

Horses that are shown braided must be shown in Hunter, Show Hack or Dressage appointments or in a leather stable halter. Check out the USEF Arabian rules under Article 106 and the rules for the Half Arabian division for detailed descriptions. In judging classes, I have not seen too many in the leather halter. No matter how good your horse is, if it is shown with inappropriate tack (no throatlatch in Arabian halters or as noted above), the judge cannot place you.

Thanks for your question,

Anne Johnson

Leslie Asks:
If you have a 16.2 quarter horse and are showing against smaller horses are you going to be penalized if in a normal gait your horse is faster then the others? Is It better to show him natural or slow him down which will ruin his natural gait?

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Leslie--

Horses tell us what they want to do for a living. We just have to take a careful look at their form to function and attitude to determine what that is. Then it's a matter of proper training and conditioning, knowing the rules and class specifications and put it out there for the judge to decide. Judges can adhere to the rules, be honest and still come up with different class results. Keeps the horse show world going around.

A judge should recognize that your 16.2 hand horse is naturally going to move out more than a smaller horse and that's the way he should go. Show him that way. But do take a close look at what your horse wants to do. For instance, if you are showing him western, he's a pretty mover with lots of stride, should he be a hunter pleasure horse instead?

Good luck and thank you for your question--

Anne Johnson


Donna Asks:
Hi Judge Johnson

Thank you for the opportunity to send you our questions.

I'm sure you are well aware of the displeasure many express at the hard stand up that has become the norm in Arabian halter classes. If an exhibitor were to show a halter horse in more relaxed stance, would they be penalized for doing so?

Do you feel that it would be beneficial to adopt a European system for judging halter horses at the Regional & National shows?

Thank you

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Donna

There's nothing in the rule book that penalizes a more natural, relaxed stance. In fact, judges are supposed to penalize or eliminate horses that show undue stress, inhumane treatment or intimidation. Frankly, I think that happens just a little more often than you see a pig fly. Consequently, there are dwindling numbers in traditional halter classes. Sport Horse classes certainly aren't for everyone but one can't dismiss their growing numbers. 

For some time now, some members of the Arabian Horse Association Education and Evaluation committee, have proposed a mandatory scoring system for all halter classes which I adamantly oppose. I think it is a grossly flawed and cumbersome system.

I think the European system, which obviously has been tested over time, is plausible for regional and national shows. Particularly since our classes have become so much smaller. The system can be more time consuming. On the positive side, the European system lends accountability, general interest and education. Everyone can understand numbers.

Thank you for your question. This will be one to watch.

Anne Johnson

Ann Asks:
Judge Johnson

Would you explain placement of legs for each gait with a reiner? I'm a non-pro and just want to communicate with my horse the best way he understands. He's a retired show horse and knows his stuff - it's me that wants to ride better. 

Thank You

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Ann

Reining patterns may require that you walk or trot to the center of the arena before starting circles or spins. But after that, the only gait performed is a fast or slow version of a lope and any deviation will incur a penalty.

There are three basic leg positions for a rider to use: 1. the urging leg or "at the cinch", 2. the holding leg or "slightly behind the cinch", 3. the displacing leg "or way behind the cinch!" Very basically, Ann, position one is used to drive the horse forward. Position two can hold or move the horse laterally. And position three moves the hindquarters (two tracking, turn on the forehand, elementary lope departures give you an idea of the effect). All three are used at different points to drive, turn, supple, position or correct the horse's movement.

You and your horse will probably have a lot of fun with this….good luck!

Anne Johnson

Brenda Asks:
Dear Judge Johnson

I was at a show recently and was appalled at the behavior I witnessed. I was watching a junior class, 13 & under, and when the results were announced one of the parents of an exhibitor was extremely upset at the placing her daughter received. This woman was loud and obnoxious to say the least.

I read your interview and noticed that you do many seminars. I'm not sure what your seminars include but I think it would be nice if there was some time devoted to sportsmanship, especially as it applies to junior riders, and the role a parent should play in their child's development. With any kind of luck we could prevent some of our youngsters from growing into the type of horse show mother I witnessed at this show.


Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Brenda

Thank you for raising this important topic.

Just recently, I did a clinic for youth riders and set aside time for a 'parent's roundtable' discussion. I addressed sportsmanship, reading and knowing the rule book, the parent's role at the horse show-do's and don'ts. Happily, trainers reported back to me how positively things then changed at the shows. Sometimes awareness alone will correct problems.

Back to the rule book which everyone needs to read. Show officials can eliminate from the show anyone that is discourteous, abusive or demonstrates unsportsman-like conduct. Further, once the rules are read and understood, exhibitors will often note that the judge could not use an entry based on rules or class specifications.

When I work with show riders, I frequently quote a famous boxer who once said, "Champions are made at home. They are only recognized in the ring." I feel most of your success and satisfaction comes with hours of working with the horse at home. Judges make mistakes, simply don't like your kind of horse that day, or, there are better horses to choose from. So what? Have fun because there's always another horse show!

Anne Johnson


Sandy Asks:
I heard that Reining is so hard to teach to horses and riders alike - why is that? I have never tried it but would like too. Thanks!!

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Thanks for your question. It's a good one.

I'd give anyone a stiff argument that teaching reining to a horse or rider is hard. It does take time. It requires a horse with the mind and athletic ability to do the job. Reining requires a higher level of horsemanship than many other events. Challenging, interesting, exciting, educational and fun, yes. Hard, no.

Like any competition, much depends on your level of participation. Getting horses and riders prepared for the high dollar futurities or national shows can be very expensive and demanding. What you need to have fun with reining in smaller open or local shows is much different.

Reining would be very hard to teach horses that aren't right for it. The ones that are right for it have: a good mind-the ability to work at speed and quickly settle to quiet; training and qualities similar to a western pleasure horse-balance, good loper, suppleness; size and conformation-generally 14.2-15 hands or so, strong hocks that are not set too high, long hip, strong coupling, depth of body, long "v"
muscling in the chest area.

And. reining would be very hard for a rider to do if they didn't have an adequate understanding of the proper use of hands, seat and legs…if they have trouble counting (often reiners do!) or if they don't have the confidence to be out there in the arena all by themselves!

I live down here in "reining horse heaven", Aubrey-Pilot Point, Texas which is the heart of the Quarter Horse reining industry. People get involved at all different levels and always seem to get addicted to reining once they start. The hardest part is likely that first step. 

Good luck!

Anne Johnson

Elizabeth Asks:
When you judge International shows do you look for anything different than judging in the states? What was your most interesting International show and why? Do you have any tidbits to share with us? Thank you.

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Dear Elizabeth,

International shows are mostly, if not all, halter classes. In judging them, you look for the same qualities you do here. The rules, or lack of rules, can be very different. So can the system for judging (sometimes the European system using numbers) or the class conduct (trotting the "triangle" for instance). I've judged national championships in Israel, Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand. Quite often, the champions have already been champions in the United States or were bred from horses imported from here.

Judging the Israeli National Championships will always stand out for me…the country, the people, the region where Arabian horses originated. So there I was with judges from Britain and Sweden judging the National Champion Stallion Class. Elegant horses. Exotic outdoor setting. American, British and Swedish national flags waving in respect for the judges. As good as it gets for a judge. Then they started playing the music….it was Merle Haggard singing "I'm An Okie from Muskogee". You probably 'had to be there' but it was surreal!

In Argentina, the liberty class got rained out so I gave a form to function clinic entirely through an interpreter. In New Zealand, as soon as my driver and I were leaving the outdoor show grounds for lunch, he made a wrong turn and there we were driving through the middle of a big hunt type pleasure class. That judge was not amused!

It's fascinating and heartwarming to see how horses bring people together everywhere in spite of language barriers, cultural, political or economic differences.

Anne Johnson

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