Ask The Judge

October - November Questions & Answers

Lisa Perez Asks:
Judge Bullock, I have a question about what judges usually like to see in huntseat pleasure and huntseat equitation classes. I have a National Show Horse gelding who is 8 years old. I have gone to one other show with him, an EMAA(Eastern Michigan Arabian Association. We did good for our first show and placed(1st and 3rd). This is larger show though, The MHSA Youth Show in Michigan. I am nervous about going to a big show, and I would like to be well prepared when I go in the ring. His canter isnt as slow as it should be, would that make a large difference in these classes? 

Thank you so much and I am sorry for the long question.

Judge Bullock's Response:
The first place to start to answer your questions begins with the USEF rulebook. Every exhibitor must read the specifications of the classes that they are competing in. The rulebook states the specifications that judges must utilize when they are adjudicating each class. I will start out by stating the description in the rule book as to the performance of a hunter pleasure horse. "It is imperative that the horse give the distinct appearance of being a pleasure to ride and display a pleasurable and relaxed attitude. The neck should be carried lower, and the head should be carried in a more relaxed manner with less bend at the poll, and the horse should be in a generally longer frame than that of the English Pleasure, Country English Pleasure, or Show Hack horse. High headed horses and horses behind the vertical must be penalized." The specifications for your JOTR and JTR classes are evaluated in the following order, Manners, Performance, Suitability as a Hunter, Quality and Conformation. Now with stating all of that, you must remember that in each class at each show - you are being evaluated in comparison to the horses that are competing against you and your horse at that particular competition. In huntseat equitation, the performance of the horse per say is not evaluated but the rider is, but a poor performing horse reflects on the horsemanship of the rider thus will limit your ability to excel in equitation. 

It is hard for me to answer your question as to the fact that your horses canter isn't as slow as it should be. Once again, his canter will be evaluated in relation to the performance of the other horses competing against you. I will refer you back to the specifications - if his canter does not give the distinct appearance of being a pleasure to ride or the appearance of an unrelaxed attitude, this will affect your placings in your classes. Good luck with your horse this next show season. 

Elaine Neal Asks:
Question: Hello, Judge Bullock.
What kind of bit do you want to see used in Arabian Hunter Pleasure? Would you count off if a kimberwicke or pelham was used instead of a snaffle?
Thank you for your time!

Judge Bullock's Response:
I personally do not care whether a hunter pleasure horse is shown in a kimberwicke, pelham or snaffle. As long as the horse performs the specifications of hunter pleasure as outlined in your USEF rulebook then the type of bit does not matter as long as it is a legal bit. The three bits that you have questioned are all legal. I will make my own personal observation that will probably come back to haunt me, but I will go out on a limb and tell you that during my tenure as a judge, I have judged more bad performing hunter pleasure horses in kimberwicke bits than I have in snaffles. I personally think that many exhibitors try to rush the training process and put horses in kimberwicke bits before they are physically or mentally ready to be shown in them. 

Cynthia Asks:
Why do some judges look at one horse at the beginning of a show and never look at them again?

Judge Bullock's Response:
You have a very good question that I cannot answer. But, as with everything else you must remember that each judge is an individual. We all do not have the exact same opinions, judging style and of course all judges cannot be as good looking as me. Just kidding! Exhibitors must keep things in perspective, as long as a judge is adjudicating within the specifications of any given class, our style of judging, our opinions and placings can always be different. If we were all clones then we could just have one horse show, place it and be done for the year. 

July - August Questions & Answers

Lauren Turk Asks:

Hi, I am in the process of looking for an Arabian and a Half-Arabian to purchase. I am debating weather or not I would like to go with a country horse who could do show hack. Or a hunter horse that could do western too. When you look at a horse that is in a hunter class and back in the ring in a western class do you think that horse is going to have a harder time placing if it is doing two things?

Judge Bullock's Response:
I would honestly have to tell you that some horses are very capable of competing in two divisions and excel in both. it definitely depends on your horse and how he adapts to the two divisions. The biggest thing that i see at shows are those exhibitors that show in numerous divisions have a hard time placing because each time they come into the ring the horse shows more fatigue as the day goes on and i think you lose your edge of competitiveness when your horse is not fresh. Good luck on your horse buying endeavor.

Joyce Asks:

Do you do any types of clinics? If so where are they held?

Judge Bullock's Response:
Due to my work, home and judging schedule I do not have time to do any clinics. Occasionally another judge from my area, Judy Warner, and I will do a judging clinic for our local Arabian youth club.

Margaret Asks:

Quite a few years ago I used to look forward to viewing the Get of Sire and Produce of Dam classes. It was a great opportunity to see the foals by some of the stallions I was interested in breeding my mares to. Why do so few shows have these classes today.

Judge Bullock's Response:
From the show management perspective I can just say that if you continue to not get enough entries in a class or division to support the expenses then it will usually be dropped just because of simple business practices. Since I breed to many different stallions it would take some coordination with other breeders for us to be able to compete in these classes. I think it was a much easier class to participate in when the breeders usually bred to mostly local stallions and could show together but since the arrival of AI and breeders choosing stallions from across the country it is more difficult to fill these classes.

Beth Asks:

What are your feelings about judging halter classes in the European system where three judges are used and evaluate the horses on a point system?

Judge Bullock's Response:
I personally have not judged utilizing the European system. I personally do not see how it would be better than any other multi-judge system. Especially when other judges have told me they are told you just don't give a horribly low score - like a horse with terrible legs (major conformational faults) you should give at least a five - well if its a 1 then it should be a 1. Remember all systems just reflect judging opinions. Maybe after I utilize the system I would be better informed and be able to render an opinion.

Carol Asks:

We bought our first horse, a Purebred Arabian mare, for my 14 year old daughter about 18 months ago. My daughter showed the mare for the 1st time in a class A show last month in halter and hunter pleasure. During the Hunter Pleasure class my daughter had the horse on the rail on the long side of the arena when another girl came up behind her very quickly and started yelling rail. My daughter didn't really didn't know what to do so she stayed where she was. What is the proper action to take if this should occur again?

Judge Bullock's Response:
If your daughter was not completely on the rail and a horse comes from behind on the rail, and the rider said rail, your daughter should have moved a little further towards the center so the other exhibitor could pass on the outside safely.

June Questions & Answers

Jim Asks:

I am hoping you can answer a question I have about judging halter classes. 

There are a number of people that feel the pose that is struck by today's halter horses hides a number of faults and makes it difficult for a judge to see a true picture. Before a judge has to evaluate the horse in a posed position they have had the opportunity to see the horse at a trot and a walk. As far as I know a judge can also ask you to relax a horse. My question is how much does the halter pose itself really influence a judges decision?

Judge Bullock's Response:
In the halter classes today, it is mandatory that a horse enter the ring at a walk, pick up the trot and proceed to their spot on the rail. Once the entire class is in the ring all horses must walk in both directions past the judge- "in a relaxed manner on a loose lead with the handler at the side of their horse, whips down. The leadline must maintain a clearly discernible drape, i.e., the handler must not place their hand on the chain or close enough to in any way restrict natural head and neck motion." Since this procedure was implemented, as a judge I have found this to be very beneficial for the judging process. 

It is definitely possible to cover up faults with how a horse is posed and shown - but that's what you pay the trainer for - to show your horse. Major faults are not going to be hidden by a pose and if the horse is shown relaxed at the initial walk most faults will be seen at the beginning of the class. 

I have to chuckle, since I also work a lot of horse shows other than just judging, I hear professional trainers complaining that their horse should have won because it had the best show of all the other horses - not mentioning anything about the comparisons of the other horses type, conformation, quality, movement, substance, manners and presence or suitability as a breeding animal. 

Lisa Asks:

Dear Judge Bullock:
When judging an A-rated or above Arabian show how would you rate the quality of the average horse presented to you today versus the average horse of 15-20 years ago?

Judge Bullock's Response:
As I stated in an earlier question, I feel that the quality of the average horse today versus the horse 15-20 years ago is slightly higher. 

I think breeders have been breeding for a more athletic horse and that is evident in the show arena today. Don't get me wrong - 15 or 20 years ago there were some phenomenal Arabians competing but I think you see a much better "average" Arabian in today's competitions. 

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