Final show as an applicant: Florida Horse Park

To round out my experience as a licensed-official applicant, I spent a weekend at the Florida horse park in Ocala during the January AIR Horse shows. I needed a few more days judging equitation classes, as there are only certain classes that fulfill applicant requirements. Of course, the list of qualifying classes has changed since I first began the process in 2019. The list of approved equation classes has evolved with the creation of new 3’3″ junior and / or amateur classes, as well as more 3′ Eq classes, which has become more and more competitive. This year also saw some adjustments in the approved equitation tests as the industry leaders make adjustments for modern riding expectations.

In addition to equitation classes, I also sat on board to judge a National Hunter derby for the third time, which I always enjoy. The classes are a little more fast paced and you really get to see some horses in top form, so there are big scores to give out. This week, I spent full days with T. Lyman Whitehead, Phillip Long, and sat in for the derby with Diane Grod. I absorbed new information and tools. The management ran a great show and makes new improvements here every year.

I’m proud to say that this show allowed me to finish the checklist to allow me to apply for licensure. With the help of the licensed official committee, all of the judges, the horse show staffs, and an inner-drive to stay committed to this process, I have earned my ‘r’ licensed and look forward to getting back out to the judge’s box!

Back in Judges’ box : Aiken Fall at Bruce’s Field

After about a year and a half away from learner-judging, due to COVID restrictions as well as staying busy with the group of horses and riders in training during 2021, I made arrangements to judge in Aiken at Bruce’s Field after returning home from showing at Capital Challenge last fall. I attended the October 27-31 show with ‘R’s Robert Crandall and Claudia Roland. Despite being a little rusty myself, it was a fabulous horse show and great to get back in the swing of judging with two top veterans. Bruce’s Field is a top facility, from the stabling to the arenas and jumps. The staff was over the top friendly and helpful. During the week, I checked off a few more requirements that allowed me to apply for my ‘r’ hunters license!

From the judges’ box, a rainbow at sunrise the first morning of the show — A welcome from Bruce Duchossois

USEF Suspension of Competition

While horse shows are on hold, I’m keeping up with my judge’s education online. It is great to have a library of past horse shows online. I keep a judges card in front of my while I watch on the computer monitor and score like I would if I was watching the class live.

I’m also watching BALMORAL TV on YouTube. They have featured episodes with different ‘R’ judges remarking on things they notice or appreciate while judging shows. It is great insight and I’m so appreciate of the content.

I’m reading more. I get very into the content that I’m focussing on so having the break from horse shows and the traveling allows me to get very deep into the books I’m reading by ‘R’ judges, past and present.

Judging HITS Ocala

I knew I wanted to learner judges at HITS Ocala because it is my homebase, but it was harder to organize that I anticipated. Originally I got permission from Kristin Vale and HITS management to learner at the December HITS, thinking I’d be more comfortable with a less-busy horse show and be able to check off some of my equitation requirements. I ended up not going to December shows because the weather that week was crummy so the show was consolidated into three days instead of four, and because my mom was showing, which puts me at a conflict of interest in the judge’s box.

I managed to reschedule to judge HITS 7. A much bigger and more competitive week, meaning a bigger challenge for a learner like me. On Wednesday, I judged the conformation division with Patrick Dodson and Christina Schulsemeyer, both veterans and great mentors. Over the weekend, I sat with Carole O’Brien and Kerry Kocher. I ended of judging the Amateur Adult hunters with both of them on separate days and it was fascinating to hear both their similar as well as unique perspectives. What I think riders and competitors would find interesting is from perspective, the horse/rider combinations in the Adult hunter division were significantly varied from one day to the next. The clear winner and show-stopper one day, could be completely out of the ribbons the next. There were a lot of low scores in that division, and it was so rewarding to give a horse rider a score in the high 80s. The judges really are rooting for the riders to have a great performance. I was listening to a recent interview with Archie Cox where he said that when he gets excited about watching a good round, he will radio to the ingate to say “That was a score of 90. 9. 0.” even if it is not a class that is being scored, just because he want the rider and trainer at the gate to know how please he was with the performance. It is definitely something I will keep with me as a I go forward.

Even though HITS Ocala was a big show, I feel like I managed organizing my cards well and keeping the scores fair and consistent with my mentors. It was a great experience.

The first show: Tampa CFHJA

Keeping this blog was harder than I expected! I’m staying very busy in the barn rather than on my computer so I’m well-overdue for an update!

I love judging! In September I judged the Tampa CFHJA fall show, which is run by Phil Devita. I sat with Melissa Bark and Jimmy Clapperton and learned so much. For one- judging is much more relaxed than I expected, and therefore, I felt much more confident about how I was keeping my cards organized and scoring the classes. I spent three days judging, and even had the privilege to judge a USHJA Hunter derby with both Melissa and Jimmy. Their feedback and encouragement was amazing. I learned more about how to sort the class results and to really watch each round as a performance, rather than to watch each round to score the mistakes. The alone is such an important concept. For certain classes, it is easy to get caught up in trying to find the winner by having a horse/rider that makes the least amount of faults, but to be able watch and score the hunters and equitation riders for brilliance that they show in the ring is what it is all about.

Another thing I learned, is that even though the horse show might a few entries one day, you should always plan on judging an entire day. The show started at 8am each day, and finished around 5, even when there was not a lot of trips scheduled to show. This is because of late adds, trainers and riders showing in other rings at the same time, drag breaks, and everything else we know that causes us to “hurry up and wait”. The evening of the derby, we had about 30minutes to wait for the other hunter rings to finish before the class of about 40 began. We scored two rounds of the derby and left well after dark. But I was not impatient — it is exciting to see people celebrating their victories at the end of a big class like a derby.

I had fun, I learned a lot from both the judges as well as the horse show management staff, and came away inspired to continue pursuing my card.