MY VIEW: I like my judges where I can see them

Covering horse shows of multiple disciplines around the region, I see a lot of different ways shows are run. And one of the big differences that I see, and have also experienced as an exhibitor, is the placement of the judge during a flat class.

In the AQHA/stock horse-led culture that I grew up in, the judge was always in the arena for the flat classes. Often they place themselves off to one corner. From there they can see most of the arena plus hear the footfalls of the horses behind them. But when I started showing hunters in college, the judges were always sitting outside the arena. Sometimes they were hard to even find. I always found this disconcerting.

Part of showing includes your presentation to the judge. At the district horse shows I attended as a teenager only the first- or second-place horse moved on to the state championship. Three judges were used and their scores were averaged to determine the final placings. One year, while two of the judges were consistently placing me high, one judge wasn’t using me at all. This was sending me down to sixth overall and outside of qualifying for the state horse show. Part of my instructions from my coach included to make eye contact with that judge as I came toward him. Did it help? I have no idea. But it was part of the showmanship: Confidently showing your horse to the judge, and let’s face it, finding a spot to make an adjustment behind the judge’s back.

I was reminded of this difference at the last show I attended: the Virginia 4-H State Championship. In the hunter pleasure classes on Saturday afternoon, the announcer had to ask each class to look up at the stands at the waving judge and then explain that they shouldn’t ride down the rail on that side of the arena as she wouldn’t be able to see them. It made for a very lopsided ride for the exhibitors with awkward turns at the corner so they could ride off the rail down one side. Maybe not so awkward if you are alone in the arena, but in classes of 15-18 horses, some exhibitors would be coming into the corner three deep. Some of them resorted to riding a little circle in the middle of the arena, which appeared to suit the judge just fine but didn’t make the horse look so great.

At the end of the class,  the lineup had horses stacked up in just a tiny part of the arena so that she could see the numbers. If she couldn’t see numbers in a normal lineup, what else couldn’t she see?

I saw one very nice horse miss its lead not once, but three consecutive times, before  giving a little buck and taking the correct one. This happened right in front of the judge but perhaps too close to the rail for her to know. It’s hard to say that was the case, but it was a major error that ended in a reserve championship.

Sitting in the stands seems to me to be so disconnected from the exhibitors. I couldn’t help but think to myself that all of this could have been avoided if the judge would simply come stand in the arena.

The Virginia 4-H State Championship had some judging inconsistencies. Some disciplines had just the one judge, such as the hunters and dressage equitation. One person’s opinion to decide the state title. However, when I switched gears to watch the Western divisions, there were two judges. (Both in the arena I might add.) I believe multiple judges is the more appropriate choice at a state championship. Three would be even better than two as you’d have fewer ties. Of course, the cost of paying the judges becomes a factor.

And as a further argument for judges in the arena, the exhibitors got to lineup in front of each individual judge before the final results were announced. Often the judge would chat with the winning rider as they stood there. That’s a memory that is likely to always stick with that rider.

I know that judging is a long day and they deserve a seat. And classes that involve patterns or jumping a course are a fantastic chance to allow the judge to sit. However, for the flat classes on the rail there is no reason to be up in the bleachers. Exhibitors who put their heart and soul into that weekend of showing deserve to get the chance to look their judge in the eye and show them just what they’ve got.

What do you all think? Do you have a preference as to where you find the judge?


Botetourt County Horseman’s Association to hold 18th Annual Horse Show & Hunter Pace Oct. 7.

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The Botetourt County Horseman’s Association will hold its 18th Annual Horse Show on Oct. 7 at Green Hill Park in Salem. The open horse show will include three over-fences divisions, model, showmanship, coached, pleasure, ranch riding, gaited and games classes. Rachel Bandy Witt will judge.

The horse show will also include a $100-added money Jackpot Pleasure class. Money from entries will be contributed to the pot for each of the top 3 placings and a rider drawn at random. The more who enter, the bigger the payout. Entry fees for that class will be $25. All other classes will be $8.

The show also includes a special classes of Arabian exhibitors. The Susan Bradley Memorial Trophy Open Arabian Pleasure class returns to the BCHA show this year. And BCHA members may ride in the BCHA Members Only pleasure class.

Eleven division champions will be crowned, with special prizes to each of those winners. Class winners will also receive prizes beyond the blue ribbon.

New this year, a hunter pace will accompany the horse show. Starting at noon, teams of two may tackle the course. The team closest to the optimal time wins. All jumps are optional and three divisions will be offered, including a trail division for those who just want to ride at a leisurely pace. All disciplines welcome. The cost to ride in the hunter pace is $35/rider for non-members, $25/rider for BCHA members. The hunter pace will run through 3 p.m.


Derby, hunter classic cap hunter competition at Lexington Spring Encore, Premiere at VHC

By Phelps Media Group, Inc.
The kick-off of the 2017 Lexington Spring Premiere is quickly approaching and athletes are preparing for the $3,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby which will take place on Friday, April 28 at 5 p.m. The Virginia Horse Center will host the Lexington Spring Premiere Horse Show from Wednesday, April 26, to Sunday, April 30, immediately followed by the Lexington Spring Encore from Wednesday, May 3, to Sunday, May 7.
The derby competition will take place in Wiley Arena, an outdoor ring stretching 130 feet by 300 feet with footing composed of Kruse Cushion ride. The country’s top horse and rider combinations will compete over Paul Jewell’s hunter course to demonstrate their style during two rounds to win the Laura Pickett Perpetual Trophy, donated by Rolling Acres Show Stable.
The derby has been a tradition at the Virginia Horse Center for years and most recently it was Virginia native Jason Berry aboard Cobalt Blue R, a Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Oak Ledge Farm, who claimed the title in 2016.
Combinations participating in the Green or High Performance Conformation Hunter Divisions during the Spring Premiere and Encore will be eligible to qualify for the $7,500 Huntland Conformation Hunter Challenge Series. In an effort to promote the growth of the Conformation Hunter divisions in Virginia horse shows, the Challenge Series was created and sponsored by Dr. Betsee Parker and Huntland. Qualifying winners must compete at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show where the champion and reserve will be crowned.
New this year for the Lexington Spring Festival is the Trainer Incentive Program, offering one free stall per barn for a trainer-owned, professionally ridden show horse. This program is geared to help professionals in the process of developing young horses for competition.
Moving into the Lexington Spring Encore, the $15,000 Virginia Horse Center Hunter Classic will take center stage on Friday, May 5th at 5 p.m. Any horse participating in at least one of the hunter divisions at Virginia Horse Center is eligible to enter.
Unique to this class, $12,500 will be awarded in Classic prize money, while the remaining $2,500 in the form of a Jr./Amateur bonus, sponsored by Dorna Taintor, for the top six scoring Juniors or Amateurs.
Returning to the Wiley Arena, hunters will complete a Regular Classic Course over a minimum of 10 fences set at 3′ or 3’5″ for the first round. Only the top 12 scoring horses will qualify to compete in a second Classic round over a shortened course.
The Lexington Spring Premiere and Lexington Spring Encore are two of the biggest events of the spring for the Virginia Horse Center. In addition to the $3,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, the Lexington Spring Premiere is a World Champion Hunter Rider Event and features the $30,000 Rockbridge Grand Prix. The $15,000 Virginia Horse Center Hunter Classic takes center stage during the Lexington Spring Encore, followed by the $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Grand Prix.

Show jumping caps Lexington Premiere, Encore horse shows at Virginia Horse Center

The Virginia Horse Center will once again host two grand prix show jumping events in the coming weeks. The $30,000 Rockbridge Grand Prix will take place on Saturday, April 29, and the $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Grand Prix on Saturday, May 6.
During the Lexington Spring Premiere on Saturday, April 29, the $30,000 Rockbridge Grand Prix will be held in the Coliseum at 6:30 p.m., where riders will vie for the coveted Dubliner Trophy donated by Margaret Price. Declarations to the show office are due no later than 6 p.m. on Friday, April 28th and the entry fee is $500. Both Grand Prix classes held during the Lexington Spring Festival are eligible for inclusion on the Rolex/USEF Show Jumping Ranking List.
Last year,  Mary Lisa Leffler rode Bling Bling to a double clear and top honors. “It’s just one of my favorite events,” she said. “The hospitality of the Virginia Horse Center is second to none. They try so hard during the evening grand prix and they really put on a good horse show. The best part of the whole thing last year was that my sister drove my parents down, so they finally got to see their horse compete. Having them there and winning was great!”
The pinnacle of the Lexington Spring Encore will be the $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Grand Prix also in the Coliseum at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 6. Declarations are due no later than 6 p.m. on Friday, May 5.
Last year Colombia’s Manuel Torres piloted Christofolini H, a Rheinlander gelding owned by Andrea Torres Guerreiro, to victory. “For us, it is one of our favorite shows of the year,” Torres said. “We love the crowd, the facilities, and the stabling — the horses are very relaxed here. We come every year and we really like it. They always pick really good course designers to come and do these two weeks of competition, so it is very exciting for us to come to the Virginia Horse Center.”