Horse show politics - its not what you know...
I was never big into showing growing up.. I did the local pony club shows but never trailered out to the bigger shows or took it too seriously. It's only now that the little one is starting into the lead rein competitions that I'm seeing just how difficult it is to break into the "inner circle".
Last Sunday we went to a show, I was advised by the organiser to enter the "best turned out family pony" and not the hunter lead rein, which I did. This turned out for the best as there were about 30 entries in the proper lead rein and they were all top notch welsh ponies who looked the part. Our class had about 8 entries, some lead and some not. There was an assortment of types, we had SImba the skewbald, there was a bay cobby mare and a few shetland ponies. A late arrival was Becky, on her proper welsh pony. I know Becky's name because the judge was able to tell Becky to go trot a figure of 8, and when Becky won the judge told her she could canter her lap of honor. It was only after I was told that Becky, aged 7, has been showing all over the country and has travelled extensively with her registered welsh ponies. She has even competed at the royal dublin horse show.
I'm somewhat perplexed as to why Becky and her family felt the need to enter this class, I'm not upset we didn't win, we finished 2nd and I am delighted with that. I'm more amused by the fact that this little girl felt the need for this class when she is obviously well able to ride and this class wouldn't mean much to her. Would her parents not have thought about leaving the class to the kids and their fuzzball ponies who only have 1 class at a show, compared to the numerous first ridden and handy hunter classes we come across?
At the previous show, granted we should not have won compared the to well used pony who did.... we had been asked to get out of the ring as the ground was mucky, so everybody did... bar the woman who won. She was kitted out in the full lead rein gear and prior to the class commencing had her team of grooms run in and tidy it. As I said, she deserved to win, but her downright refusal to leave the ring left me slightly annoyed. Again, she knew the judge by name and they chatted away happily.
A few years ago in a last minute decision she borrows a pony/all the gear and did an 3& under lead rein class. There were about 15 in the class, and we by no means deserved to win, but after the solo trot, we were all walking around waiting on them to call us in to the line up and a man walked in, didn't take part in a trot, but just walked around. This man finished 4th. It was only after the class, I had thrown on my work jacket (I work for a significant racehorse trainer) and met the judge on a break.. she took a look at my jacket and commented on it. If I had worn it in the class... would I had finished better?
Does anybody else encounter this? If so, how did you get into the swing of things. We are doing our best by being friendly and my little girl is beign sure to chat to the judge and always gives the judge a big thank you when she gets her ribbon... this is our attempt to break the ice and get to know them. Will it work?
I can't say anything constructive here and only wanted to chip in that sucks!
My daughter (9) has only been to four "big" shows (not 4H local shows) and the one thing I have learned is to just accept that sometimes the judging is biased. At our last show, my daughter did her equitation patten very well (even other coaches said she woul be placed first)...another girl, rigged out with a fancy show saddle, $2,000 western outfit with hat (Kitten was wearing a helmet) messed up the pattern (her coach even said so) placed first. I was disappointed (as was Kitten), but we just smiled and congratulated the girl who won.
Kitten doesn't have a show saddle or a fancy outfit, but we do make sure her horse and tack are clean and she wears appropriate Western clothes (Hobby Horse shirt, black jeans and boots). We're just not going to drop $5,000 on show clothes she will outgrow or a saddle and headstall that she will only use 5 times a year. Also, until she is 18, she WILL wear a helmet when on a horse. Her mare is wonderful, but I witnessed a dead-broke, bomb-proof horse get stung by a wasp and buck his young rider off onto a concrete parking lot. She had a seizure and has never fully recovered. A helmet could have prevented most of the damage.
I have been told that many judges will deduct points for wearing a helmet in Western classes and award extra points for fancy tack and outfits. Personally, I'll take a red ribbon every time if it means protecting my daughter's skull and not bankrupting my family purchasing fancy equipment.
I've also met those kids who show up at 4H schooling shows after competing at state and national shows (and doing very well). These kids usually fall into two categories:
1) They are there to school a new horse or just to practice/show with their friends.
2) They are so super competitive (as are the parents) that they have to beat everyone else, they must win first in all their classes. They don't care if they are competing below their level, they only care about the win.
It can be frustrating and disappointing, but as long as you approach shows as a learning experience for your child and your horse...not worrying about placings as much as you look to improve your personal performance...then shows are still a fun and worthwhile experience.
Of course, that's just my opinion...your mileage may vary ;).
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It is indeed very frustrating, and although I knew others would have the same experience, it's still somewhat comforting to know its not just us :)
We are not going to take any of it TOO seriously. I'm well aware that our little coloured pony isn't going to really fit into the competitive classes, and we won't be going anywhere near the RDS or other big big shows. Our next show in the 2nd of September, it's the most local show otherwise we wouldn't be going but our aim is to finish better than last :) It will be the only time her extended family will see her ride as they aren't horsey people, but we won't worry about placings :)
Wouldn't it be nice if at some stage those of us who aren't blinged out, manage to stand on level par with the others? :)
I've been on both ends of this. I didn't really get it until I placed high in Western Eq at the app nationals one year, and my horse broke from the lope and picked up wrong lead. I corrected it quickly but still felt like it was a rookie mistake, so I talked to some friends who have experience judging big shows. Their explanation was that there is only so much a judge sees in the arena, especially in a big class.
I have done a lot of showing at the local level in my work saddle, with an outfit that cost less than $300 including chaps and boots and done very well. Turnout is very important, but all my judge friends say that fit and maintenance comes first. Attention to detail, regardless
of how fancy your tack is, is key. It's also very important to have your horse groomed meticulously and in the current style for whayever you're showing. I once lost first place in showmanship because my horse's fetlock weren't properly trimmed.
If you're not blessed with judges that have integrity, this kind of thing will happen. Just take the opportunity to teach good sportsmanship. ;-)
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This happened to my ST's owner's son on his paint pony at a youth show recently. ST's owner keeps getting bugged about putting him in APHA point shows as well as the NAHA point shows and she refuses everytime because she spends enough money on the NAHA and there aren't enough APHA shows around.
Donald did amazing in Hunter Hack and a few other classes..but he didn't place even though he clearly did better than some of the kids that placed above him. I'd bet my last dollar it's because the judge is the one constantly wanting him to go for APHA high point and his ma keeps refusing.
I've also been subject to being one of the last entries to a judged solo class, such as trail and didn't get nearly the amount of grace time to finish an obstical as all the other entries. I've ne'er sidestepped ST, but I knew I could get her to within almost 2 minutes. Come my time to sidestep at the end of my pattern, I got a whole 20-25 seconds to attempt a sidestep..and then got excused. I figured I wouldn't place since I used two hands backing and cantering (to keep her from the gate since we were heading right into it basically for the pattern), noting that I was western, but I was quite offended that I didn't get the same amount of time as everyone else.
But, sh*t happens, and I should've figured I wouldn't get the same time as the early entries.
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While there is political judging in all walks of life, and it's really frustrating, you need to just go to have fun with your kid and your horse. As long as that is priority 1 and everything else is just either frosting on the cake or just a background annoyance, it doesn't matter. I've been showing since I was a small child and I'm now 55 and still showing. It's fun when I win and it's fun when I lose, because I'm doing it with my horse and we are enjoying ourselves.
If you can concentrate on meeting nice people, having fun with your pony and your kid, and making sure your KID has a great time, then you've accomplished a lot. Sportsmanship, companionship and friendship are the lessons to teach at the shows, if she wins that $1.98 ribbon and that $5.00 trophy, great but not the most important thing.
I definantly agree with all of these statements and opinons, but coming from a little girl who showed 4-h for four years, i didnt have the show saddle or show clothes, but i had the dedication, and i proved to the judges that a girl with nothing could beat a girl with something. And even now, i show across the country with the paint horse circuit, i am ranked top 20 in the 14-18 events, and i can tell you my outfits don't even compare to the ones some girls wear, and i have to say, my outfits are relatively nice. I wear black chaps, a buisness like long sleeve shirt and a straw hat, and my saddle has no silver. Some might think it's about the outfits, and money, and some of it is, but growing up in a horse show world, and knowing many judges, they all tell me, they give first to the person who performs the best and is put together the best. Not meaning a fancy decked out outfit, but a clean put together one. They all tell me that they dont even look at the saddles, or bridles.
Some might be envious and not very respectful to the person with the nicer saddle and outfits, i grew up with this, but have you ever thought that maybe that kid actually did have a good pattern, or ride? Maybe they actually deserved to win. Some people, this is all they do, their kids arent in sports, they dont have many friends, they spend their time in a truck and trailer going all over for points and first places. They earned that first place, and they dont tolerate second place, because this is all they do. They dont go to hurt your kids feelings, or take away their win on purpose, they are just doing what they do. Growing up in 4-h i would win every class and moms would tell their kids to stay away from me, because i was snotty. I was known as snotty because i won, and as a 9 year old girl, that broke my heart. I was not snotty, i never bragged or rubbed it in peoples faces if i won. Its sad that some parents see things that way. Horses can be very serious... Some people are in it all the way... They come to win, and they are going to... some just do it for fun... No one can help that... You think the kid with the nicer saddle and outfit wins because of that, but did you even watch his or her's pattern or ride?
I am not saying this is true in all cases, but when peops think they lost because they weren't turned out as good as the others, many times they were out rode. Also different classes, different criteria, different percentages in scoring, sometimes we think we should have placed higher when in reality it is not the case. Sometimes when all performances are pretty much equal, a better turned out horse will place higher, judges are human, they will pin a nicer looking pair, you are there for their opinion, that's what you are getting! Also in Canada, at all recognized shows, gymkhanas, etc, all competitors under 18 MUST wear a helmet or they are refused admission, even in warm up areas, good rule.
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This is exactly why I stopped pleasure and went 100% to speed events. Lol. The timer doesn't lie. There are still politics, but not as bad.
I don't have $50,000 to spend on a horse and tack and apparel.
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