Monday, May. 27, 2024

Another Perspective On Hunter Breeding

The author, a veteran in the breeding industry, provides his thoughts on the division, its history and the judging. 

After reading Tricia Booker’s Commentary “The Form To Perform” and Kimberly Maloomian’s Forum “Why Is The Hunter Breeding Division Losing Ground?” I’m going to disagree with a great deal of what both of the ladies have said.

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The author, a veteran in the breeding industry, provides his thoughts on the division, its history and the judging. 

After reading Tricia Booker’s Commentary “The Form To Perform” and Kimberly Maloomian’s Forum “Why Is The Hunter Breeding Division Losing Ground?” I’m going to disagree with a great deal of what both of the ladies have said.

First of all, nowhere is it written that the hunter breeding division began as a way to determine which horses were going to become great performance horses. I’ve always thought of this division as a “beauty contest.” The beautiful girls that win those beauty contests don’t usually go on to be great businesswomen. They might, but that’s not the point of the contest!

Secondly, had Kimberly included ponies in her list of those champions that made it to the performance show ring, her statistics would be very different. Two of mine who were big winners in hand, Poster Boy and Love And Laughter, are still showing and winning in the regular pony divisions. There are many more.

Over the years I’ve judged many hunter breeding divisions. I have also owned and bred many national champions. I’m sure that many of my decisions were criticized by various exhibitors, but I can assure that I did what I thought was right and I could tell you why. I think that this is true of the vast majority of judges today—we cannot dwell on the times that we do not agree with the judging.

One of the ponies that I’m showing this year, Blue Horizon, was reserve champion at Devon (Pa.) and champion at Upperville (Va.) this year. At the Loudoun Benefit (Va.), he was neither champion nor reserve. Does this mean that someone got to the judge? I don’t think so. It simply means that the judge at Loudoun had a different opinion than the ones at Upperville and Devon.

Whether the best horse won at Warrenton is a matter of opinion. You cannot make the statement that Kimberly made basically saying that the best horse did not win because another exhibitor spoke to the judges. Which was the best horse is a matter of opinion, and on that day it was theirs.

I do not know Carleton Brooks well, but I do know Richard Taylor. I can assure you that nothing anyone could say would make Richard do anything but pick the horse that he thought was the best. That’s what most judges do.

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I have won many classes that I did not think I should win. We all have from time to time. I hate to have readers think that most exhibitors feel that they are going to be beaten by a lesser horse. There can only be one winner, and many people are not realistic about their own horses.

If you don’t respect the judge on a given day, don’t go to that show!

The national year-end winner in the hunter breeding division is the horse that has accumulated the most points during the show year. No one has ever said it was the best horse showing in the division. It, like all of the other national awards, is a race to see how many points one horse can accumulate during the year.

The journey doesn’t go well for many of the horses as they become “sour,” and many injure themselves in the van or trailer. Many people think that we should change our system, but, as of now, this is what it is. Many people are happy to show at a few shows, but many more want their name on a national award. Again, just as in judging, different people have different points of view.

Hunter breeding isn’t a “performance” division; it’s an “in-hand” division. Movement does count—perhaps different judges give it a different value. You can tell those judges who place the most value on it because they watch the horses coming and going and from the side. I don’t think that you can tell judges just how much each aspect of the judging counts. To design a “special” card for hunter breeding would, in my opinion, defeat the purpose of having a judge.

I think that some exhibitors have to have a way to justify why they didn’t win. Blaming the judges is the easy solution. For my money, I think the judges at Warrenton did an excellent job. And, in my opinion, the best horse did win. 


W. Gary Baker, Middleburg, Va., is the current U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Zone 3 chairman. He’s won numerous zone and national awards, most of them with homebred horses or ponies. He’s a former judge and current show manager of five A- and AA-rated competitions and is also the chairman of the USHJA Pony Hunter Breeding Task Force.

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