What trends have you noticed while judging during 2017 and how do they affect the sport?
Ruth: The most significant trend which actually started before 2017 is the increase in the size of the Select classes. It has opened an entirely new market for horses and, I think, has elevated the cost of buying the older, seasoned horses. Horses for that division must be ”tried and true” and once acquired by a Select rider are difficult to buy. Many Select riders like to keep their horses ‘long term’.
Christa: I think the trend of a plain shirt and scarf has come into the show ring very big in the past few years. There is of course, the major bling that many people buy in jackets, vests and shirts but it is nice to see that even at the big shows, exhibitors that have the confidence will wear a shirt for western horsemanship, trail, western riding and western pleasure. It sure is cooler and very neat looking, especially in the heat of summer.
Summering you experience from judging in 2017, is there anything in general that you think the exhibitors need to practice more?
Ruth: Smiling and looking like they’re having fun.
It is such a gift to have a horse in one’s life and to be able to go to the horse shows. Winning should not be the prize….THE RIDE is the real prize!! Go for the ride and the winning will follow.
Christa: Learning how to manuever their horse especially through patterns and transitions between the gaits. This is the spot that really tells on the rider/exhibitor as to their communication with their partner and how advanced they are in their riding. There are many exercises and training techniques to improve these areas in their riding, which we will be doing in the clinics in July. This carrys over into all the classes, trail, western riding, and even the rail classes not just pattern classes.
What is the difference in judging shows in the beginning vs the end of the show season?
Ruth: Many of the shows at the end of the season are used as ‘practice’ shows in preparation for the World Shows, whether it is the Youth World, Select World, Amateur World or Open World. The horses are already qualified so it is a good time to perfect one’s approach to the upcoming major shows.
Christa: It is more regional or by quanity/quality of a show that makes the most difference but overall the World shows and Congress are toward the end of the year and most exhibitors are gearing up for one or all of them and really try to peak at those shows so you see their best come out at those shows. Otherwise, here in the states, we go year around for the most part, so even the big shows at the beginning of the year like Florida Gold Coast, Arizona Sun Circuit, and Silver Dollar Classic in Las Vegas are huge and tough.
What advice do you as a judge want to give to the exhibitors for the first show of the season?
Ruth: Use the first show of the season as a guideline to what needs to be perfected. What went wrong? How can I improve it for the next show? Mistakes happen, it’s the recovery that counts.
Christa: This is the show that tells you what you need to go home and work on.
You can practice a lot BUT until you step into the ring and put your practice to work you really don’t know what you have.
Take notes, have someone video you, (every class)! It is so important to see yourself and the things you like and the things you need to work on. Start a notebook of your placings, points ( if you are going for year end prizes and awards), the judge or judges and if they had any comments or look at your score sheets and take a picture of how they scored you in the pattern classes and put that in the notebook. It is valuable information that looking back can really help you with improving yourself and also show you how far you have come.
Learn more about Ruth Ellen and Christa Baldwin!
Note: Christa Baldwin clinics in Sweden July 2018.
Text: Linn Olersbacken Hellberg