Ask The Judge

May Questions & Answers

Susan Asks:

I have a 17 year old daughter that is very interested in becoming a judge. She has participated in judging programs through 4-H but we seem to be at a loss as how to continue her education.
Are there any books or tapes available you would recommend that are geared to judging? Also is it out of line for her to call local judges and ask if they would allow her to act as a learner judge?

Thanks in advance to any help you can give us. 


Judge Bullock's Response:
Your daughter certainly has a great foundation for her judging career by being involved with the 4-H judging program. I am assuming that your daughter is currently active in the horse industry - as a large part of her education will be from her daily experiences with her horses, interaction with other equestrians, attending all clinics in every discipline and of course any judging clinics, taking lessons and working horses as much as possible. You must be a horseman in order to have the necessary skills to evaluate horses. Any books or tapes that give you knowledge about any type of conformation, discipline, equitation will help prepare you for judging - they don't have to specifically be written about judging. I don't think that it is out of line to ask about learner judging at local shows but I must warn you - It isn't always a good idea to learner judge people and horses that you know closely as they will probably interrogate you about what the judge said about them - and that is something you can never discuss outside of the showring. That has happened to me at rated shows where my learner judge spoke to exhibitors about what I had discussed with them and I promptly did not give them a good recommendation as what is said in center ring between a judge and learner judge should never be repeated. Good luck to your daughter in the future with her judging endeavors.

Mindy Asks:
I have owned and shown Arabian horses in both halter and performance for 25+ years. In that period of time I'm not aware of any official changes made to the breed standard yet the once "classic Arabian" seemed to be consistently bypassed in halter. Shorter horses also seem to be overlooked in performance classes.

Judge Bullock's Response:
You have asked the million dollar question with as many opinions and answers as there are insects on this earth! I have also owned Arabians for 30+ years and there is definitely a different type of Arabian present today that didn't exist then. Is that such a bad thing? I too, fell in love with my first Arabian which was a small Crabbett bred stallion that was absolutely beautiful. But I have to admit that I personally would not breed my horses today to be like him. I feel that the art of breeding is to evolve a particular breed to maintain its strong points and improve its weaknesses. In our judges seminar recently we were given the Gladys Brown Edwards painting of the classic Arabian horse - did this horse exist? No, but that was her interpretation of what the classic Arabian should most resemble. As breeders we should strive to breed that type of horse - which will take a very long time and theories of breeding to do so. I feel that the Arabian bred today and winning in the show ring are much better athletes than 30 years ago. Of course there are exceptions and always will be but I can't wait until we have the extreme athletes combined with the classic type of the Egyptian and Crabbett type horses of long ago in our showring. I agree that the shorter horses "seem " to be overlooked in performance classes but I think any judge will reward the shorter horse for a great performance as well as the taller ones but in some divisions it will be very hard for the shorter horse to perform at the level of the taller ones - it would be like me (5'6" )trying to play in the NBA . 

Is it out of whack? I personally don't think so - I think that we are constantly evolving as a breed with many phases and types throughout our journey to breeding the "perfect Arabian."

Diane Asks:
What is your favorite class to judge?
What is your least favorite class to judge?

Judge Bullock's Response:
I really don't have a particular type class that I prefer or dislike. My favorite class to judge is one that has outstanding competitors that are fully prepared and present themselves and their horses at a level of excellence. My least favorite class to judge is one that has a lot of unprepared exhibitors or poor sportsmanship exhibited during a class. I am not saying that I think that all competitors should be upper level horsemen and horsewomen but it amazes me how many equestrians compete at shows and have never read the specifications of the class, enter the ring with illegal equipment and attire and then are furious with the judges placing of the class.

April Questions & Answers

Joyce Asks:
How important is to you as a judge that competitors wear the latest show fashions and have their horses outfitted in the newest style of tack?

Judge Bullock's Response:
Hi Joyce

Personally it doesn't matter to me at all whether or not a competitor has the latest show fashions or newest style of tack as long as it is acceptable by USAE rules and regulations. I also take into account that most people are not wealthy in this industry (like myself) and as long as the clothes and tack are safe and legal then I really don't get concerned with it at all, I would rather put my energy into judging the horses performance rather than whether or not a competitor has the newest and greatest attire and tack. 

Samantha Asks:
I was once told that judges tend to eliminate horses from the minute they enter the ring. Is this standard practice with judges?

Judge Bullock's Response:
Hi Samantha

If that is standard practice with any judge then they should not be judging. When I observe a class entering the ring, I am trying to get in perspective the depth of quality of the class and a quick look for illegal appointments.

Numerous times I have been judging and a horse has entered the class, really didn't impress me but ended up being the winner of the class. Judging does not begin until the gate is closed and at that point the process of judging should begin and continue until the end of the class.

Lauren Asks:
Hi, My name is Lauren and I am 14 years old and I live in Toronto. I owned a 12 year old purebred Arabian gelding and I sold him recently.  I competed on him in 13 and under classes and now am in 14-17.  I was wondering what you would look for in a hunter pleasure horse in the 14-17 divisions and also I have a lime green western outfit which I competed in 13 and under with.  I don’t know if that would be suitable for a 14-17 group?  What would you suggest as far as if it would look too much like a kids outfit and what style do you like?

Judge Bullock's Response:
Hello Lauren

I can start out with your question by stating that the specifications that Hunter Pleasure are judged on does not change with the 13 and under or 14 – 17.  The specifications are as follows – Manners, Performance, Suitability as a Hunter, Quality and conformation. The rule book states that “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 horse should be in a generally longer frame than that of the English Pleasure, Country Pleasure, or Show Hack horse. High headed horses and horses behind the vertical must be penalized.” 

Now, with all that said, I will briefly tell you some things that I personally look for when judging and applying them to the specifications stated earlier. I started my horse education competing with my Hunter Pony and then later on competing in the Open Working Hunter Division as well as also did some Fox-Hunting.

From that experience I know that a Hunter Pleasure horse should be very athletic – Suitability as a Hunter – therefore I look for a horse to be a good mover, one that can collect and give me the appearance if I were to ask that horse to make a jump he would actually be able to perform that task. Extremely low headed horses that appear unathletic and lethargic are totally opposite of what I look for in a good Hunter Pleasure horse. They should possess impeccable manners and display a great attitude. It is just awesome to see a junior rider coming down the rail on their hunter pleasure horse that is happy, moving along as if they could do that all day knowing that this horse and rider could handle situation that an actual Hunter might encounter. Good luck in your new age division

To address your question about the lime green outfit is pretty easy.
If the outfit is legal according to USAE standards then your grandmother could wear the lime green outfit if she wanted without any problem. As long as an outfit meets the criteria as stated in your rule book for whatever division you are competing in then it is perfectly okay. I personally prefer a conservative approach to attire when competing. I feel that sometimes attire can reach the “costume look” level and that subtracts from the overall picture of quality. I have seen western riders with long fringe on their vests or jackets and since they are riding horses that are a little rough riding they actually accent the fact that this horse is rough riding thus reducing their chances of winning. But plain and simple – If its legal then a judge cannot penalize you for your attire. 


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