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4/30 COTH Article: Are Judges Driving Amateurs Away?

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  • 4/30 COTH Article: Are Judges Driving Amateurs Away?

    So, p. 17 article by Kelly Sanchez.

    She posits the question, "Where have all the amateur riders gone??

    I think she missed the point by a mile.

    What do you think?
    Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
    Alfred A. Montapert

  • #2
    In my limited experience the Amateur divisions are alive and well, and everyone is having fun!

    Comment


    • #3
      She posits the question, "Where have all the amateur riders gone??


      I read this article with great interest and was wondering when someone else would comment. In my area we have seen a definite decline in attendance at the recognized shows - fewer rings, fewer rides, fewer amateurs mostly. At the last recognized show we were one ring down from the previous year, two rings down from two years before. This year my horse was tagged to be drug tested - AGAIN. I was lamenting to the tech and vet (my colleagues BTW) that I have had my horses tested at every show they've been at for the last 4 years running and was feeling "rather targeted" LOL. They have been runnin' around for the USEF for a while and acknowledged that the bullseye on my back was due solely to the fact that there are fewer and fewer riders/rides and as a result I just keep getting luckier and luckier since I persist and keep showing.

      What I have also observed right along with the decline in attendance at the recognized shows is more schooling show series start up and not only a large increase in attendance at the schooling shows but 2 ring schooling shows due to the demand. Our one day recognized shows have also been well received and well atttended because they are much less expensive than the main stay 2-3 day recognized shows in this area. As a result these shows have been profitable and self-sustaining. I know that when I attend a 1-day recognized show or a schooling show I bring a trailer full because I can afford it; but, the 2-3 day recognized shows force me to choose and I end up not going or taking only 1, sometimes 2 due to all the added fees (stalls, fuel, hotel, etc). So for me, the expense (coupled with the economy) is what has been the limiting factor usually and is what has forced me to sit out a few shows the last couple of years that previously I attended.
      Ranch of Last Resort

      Comment


      • #4
        Having not read the article, I'm guessing that it was raising the judging as the reason for decline.

        My sense - the economy. We have seen a drop off in our local GMO membership, less attendance at all events, less showing etc. My farrier said he has clients who have stopped showing, stopped lesssons, pulled shoes and looked for other reasonable way to control expenses.
        We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........

        Comment


        • #5
          sep AA from open?

          there has been an increasing practice at some USDF shows to lump the AA, JR/YR, and OPEN riders into the same class and limiting the placings. I know it is not about the ribbon but when you spend an average of $500/show it would be nice to know you would be judged against your peers rather than pros, high market sales prospects, and schoolmasters dropped down levels for the purpose of obtaining YR recognition for a career boost.

          Most AA riders have average horses they have brought along themselves with trainer guidance on limited budgets and that may be why they are dropping back to schooling shows where they can feel a greater sense of accomplishment amoung their peers and colleagues.

          I for one would like to see show management bring back the separate placings for the OPEN, AA, and JR/YR. Ribbons aren't that expensive. Those schooling shows are giving out oodles of prizes and accolades for an average cost of $30/class.

          Comment


          • #6
            there has been an increasing practice at some USDF shows to lump the AA, JR/YR, and OPEN riders into the same class and limiting the placings.

            You see we don't have that problem here and yet we've still seen the numbers drop off as compared to "before".

            Most AA riders have average horses they have brought along themselves with trainer guidance on limited budgets and that may be why they are dropping back to schooling shows where they can feel a greater sense of accomplishment amoung their peers and colleagues.

            I've heard this and read about it in the article but around here it's not the lumping them in that causes the issue. It's the fact that we have several AAs who can afford the fancier/more competitive based on gaits horses; so, those with average horses do lament about it and some forego the expense, opting for the schooling shows instead. I compete on an average horse (well 4 of them) and still feel compelled to ride with/against the "real deal" in order to gauge where I'm at, where the horse is at, and to get trained individuals' (with more experience at judging) opinions (though will admit that there were times I wondered why I bothered, glutton for punishment I guess). I should also add that we do have rated judges (R, S) judging at some of our schooling shows which gives some of us a real bonus for the same cost.
            Ranch of Last Resort

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              For those who have not read the article, here are some excerpts regarding what's driving reduced number of amateurs:

              1 - The economy: Various examples of people cutting back on shows, shoeing, and riders opting to spend money elsewhere such as training, clinics and reducing or foregoing competitions

              2 - Not fun: Some examples such as the quote, "If I weren't trying to get my scores for my USDF silver medal, there'd be no reason for me to go to a horse show. It's too hard. And it's definitely not fun."

              3 - No interest: Show manager notes that since about 5 yrs ago, there hasn't been the same level of enthusiasm. "It isn't that the amateurs don't still try to qualify, they're just not as interested." This is backed by the statistic that USDF membership is down by 6,000 since 2007.

              4 - Judging. Article discusses a number of issues;
              • (a) judges that score inconsistently (trainer is "baffled by comments on clients' test");
              • (b) making AA's ride the same tests as Pros;
              • (c) Role of the well-ridden, but average horse. "...as a spectator, I get very annoyed when the flashy horse beats the correctly ridden horse.


              5 - Double standard between judging AA's and Pros.

              Think this covers the main points....those who read the article, pls add others.
              Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
              Alfred A. Montapert

              Comment


              • #8
                I did not renew my USDF membership after last year. It has become too political and shows are no longer fun in my region. They also have become more expensive then my eventing shows. I cannot afford both so I am going to clinic and lesson more.

                The scoring is not really consistent so I rather not go. Also fancy movers who are ridden inconsistent/behind the vertical are rewarded. Where as not so fancy movers but correct horses are penalized.

                I was at regionals and a horse doing temi changes and piaffe in the warmup went in before me in my Training Level 1 test. That was the last event I went to.
                I am on my phone 90% of the time. Please ignore typos, misplaced lower case letters, and the random word butchered by autocowreck.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yeah, in general, I see many of the shows getting smaller too - ammies and juniors. The FEI classes are still robust, and the top junior riders are still out there showing, but the "average joe", working class people are less visible - I don't think it is just ammies, I think it is those smaller name, lower level trainers, and the juniors with "regular" parents, all cutting back. Interestingly, I get the feeling the economy is doing better then the past 5 years, and people are feeling more comfortable - but they want to spend their money in ways that they enjoy and can feel good about themselves (and their horses).

                  I think many riders are frustrated - we can't own a Totilas, and most of us aren't CAPABLE of riding that kind of horse. The "alternative breed" horses which often have easier temperments get scored so inconsistently. The quieter Warmbloods also tend to not have the big movement. WHY is big movement the most important part of the score?

                  I have one non-Warmblood who is very consistent, a nice mover, but obviously not a Warmblood - and depending on the judge, he scores either really low, or really high. The horse is amazingly consistent - the judging is amazingly inconsistent. That gets frustrating. In shows with a 2-judge panel, the inconsistencies really pop out.

                  It is more then just the judging, but that is part of it. And a bit of a vicious circle - who sets the standards? Judges are taught by their peers to judge a certain way - they are judging the way they are taught to judge. Can't blame the judges for that!

                  Reality is, the lower level riders with the average horses are the base of dressage - without them, the shows disappear, USDF's revenue disappears. the GMOs shrivel up and die. The trainers' income collapses, the tack stores and other business who count on our purchasing power all feel it too. Something has to happen to make this a fun sport and a sport accessible to more then just the top riders with top horses. And perhaps to refocus on dressage as a training competition, versus a big-gaits competition. I'll admit, I love to watch a fancy horse - Totilas amazes me - but I don't think there should be as much emphasis on the gaits, and I do think it is part of what has caused the loss of participation with the "average" rider.

                  Pluvinel - your summary is helpful - and I think hits on some important points.

                  Ex-Vet - I am another whose horses get drug tested at EVERY show. Last year, one of my boys got tested TWICE - we showed two tests over two days, and gave blood and urine twice. I wrote an email to USEF, USDF, CFDA, and got not a single response. My email suggested a more accurate way to randomly sample horses (their current method, to be honest is to watch some horses ride and pick those that "interest" them). Statistically, that shouldn't happen - with 100 rides/day (2 rings), I can see being tested once, but twice? What are the odds? 1 in 100 the first day, 1 in 10,000 the 2nd day! I don't buy it - sure there are less horses showing, but no, the same horses shouldn't get picked show after show. Not unless they are testing 40 or 50 horses each day!

                  Anyway, I think this could be a good conversation, but will require participation from some of the "PTB" for it to go anywhere.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    NEDA added another arena for the spring show on mothers day weekend.
                    It still has a wait list.
                    Dressage is alive and well around here.
                    Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ex-Vet - I am another whose horses get drug tested at EVERY show. Last year, one of my boys got tested TWICE - we showed two tests over two days, and gave blood and urine twice. I wrote an email to USEF, USDF, CFDA, and got not a single response. My email suggested a more accurate way to randomly sample horses (their current method, to be honest is to watch some horses ride and pick those that "interest" them). Statistically, that shouldn't happen - with 100 rides/day (2 rings), I can see being tested once, but twice? What are the odds? 1 in 100 the first day, 1 in 10,000 the 2nd day! I don't buy it - sure there are less horses showing, but no, the same horses shouldn't get picked show after show. Not unless they are testing 40 or 50 horses each day!

                      Well LOL, no offense but I honestly am glad I'm not the only one. I haven't had the same horse in the same day tested twice but I did have two horses of mine in the same day tested and it was a 3 ring show. I've commented on the fact that the two main testers in our area (vets) pick the horses they know and owners they know for ease or whatever as opposed to random but they swear "they didn't know." Um, yeah, considering I've worked with both of them and the techs they bring were either students of mine, worked for me or know of me in other walks of life...... so given what you have stated, at least I can tell them that you give more credence to their claim of (sort of) random.

                      I too have experienced the wide range of scores from judges given to my rides on alternative mounts. Some are most definitely deserved and understood but what I can't wrap my head around are the 6s with comments of good or even fairly good, nice this or that and so-on that accompany them. So to get a 7 I need to be stellar? perfect? or just have an 8 mover I suppose <wink>. Best I stop before I take my usual place at the stake.
                      Ranch of Last Resort

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        NEDA added another arena for the spring show on mothers day weekend.

                        I think my kid might be on that wait list. I would be interested to know the break down of numbers for AA, O, & Jr/Yr and how it compares to last year.

                        Something else that is happening in this area is that a lot of our riders - open & their amateur clients who can afford it- are going to CA to show instead of showing locally. There are lots of reasons given including receiving "better" scores at the shows selected in CA.
                        Ranch of Last Resort

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For myself and those in my barn and perhaps area in general, it is FAR cheaper to show at the schooling shows and the awards are quite frankly, better (year end anyway). It's $20 per class with no office fees, no membership fees, no stall fees, not haul-in fees, nothing... $20. I can show my two horses in a show for $80 + gas for the day. If I show rated, I have to have my horses registered with the USDF, registered with the USEF (If I want to go for regionals and I don't see why I'd compete if I weren't also going for that and/or my medals), I have to be registered with them both, I have to pay office fees, grounds fees, drug test fees, stall fees, and then inflated class fees + another $10 per class that I wanted recorded for the aforementioned awards and regionals.... by the end of the day, I've spent well over $500 for a single day plus gas and the shows are farther away. (Disclaimer: it's been a few years since I've shown rated and I can't remember what all memberships I had to have for what, but I do specifically remember an extra $10 per class to record my scores, which I thought was highway robbery!).

                          So... for my dollar? I'll go for the schooling shows until I KNOW my horse can handle the atmosphere of the rated shows and only then take her to get the scores for my medals.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We are another area in which the shows always pin separately according to division (O, AA, J/YR), and we too are seeing smaller shows.

                            I think our recognized show last month had one junior in it. (It would have had 3, but the other two were off at another show where they could get qualifying scores for NAJYRC.) We used to have tons of juniors, and lots of Intro riders as well.

                            The ammies who do show are the same ones show after show. We aren't really seeing new blood. Just the super-serious ones who go for medals, regionals, and year-end awards.

                            Interestingly, our GMO is the largest it's been since 2004. We have a bunch of eventers (that's where many of the kids are), and we do have several schooling shows, which go 2 days. Schooling shows are growing.

                            I think the expense of shows is a big factor. We used to have shows where each day was a separate show (double office fees, double USEF fees). Now the one show over 2 days is more the norm. We are lucky in that we have several shows locally a year. My trainer has quit traveling except for regionals and one show that's only 3 hours away (anything else is 6 hrs or more).

                            I think a lot of people don't like the politics of dressage.

                            I think they are also discouraged by seeing the horses like Totilas winning, knowing that horses like that are sooooo far beyond their pocketbook and riding abilities that it is useless to even try to keep up.

                            Horses that are that hot, and that big-moving just don't look like any fun to ride for the amateur who is doing this AS A HOBBY. I know I don't want to go anywhere near a horse like that. So if that is what is winning and that is what the judges want, then I'm just gonna go try another sport.

                            I'm giving it one last try on a horse that is a little out of my comfort zone in the big-moving department (but is sane), then I'm outta here.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              All about $$$$$. Local USEF Amateur classes are getting larger this year
                              ... _. ._ .._. .._

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by FLeventer View Post
                                I was at regionals and a horse doing temi changes and piaffe in the warmup went in before me in my Training Level 1 test. That was the last event I went to.
                                This gets really old--and it happens far too often. It would seem there are some who are making a "career" out of intro/training level.
                                Redbud Ranch
                                Check us out on FB

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Bogey2 View Post
                                  NEDA added another arena for the spring show on mothers day weekend.
                                  It still has a wait list.
                                  Dressage is alive and well around here.
                                  This is also a much more affluent area than much of the rest of the US; it was less hit by the economic downturn, and has more of the high-skill types of jobs that might pay enough for someone to be a serious adult ammy dressage competitor.

                                  I'm thinking of going to two or three recognized shows this year. All are multi-day (2 or 3 days), not huge name shows in less expensive areas (e.g. not going to Saugerties!), and have the advantage of being treated as two separate shows each. One I rode my mare at in 2009 and I know already that she likes the showgrounds, footing, etc. Two of these shows are far enough away that I will spring for stabling, but not terribly far (2-3 hours drive); at one I will stay with a friend and at the other will spring for a not-too-expensive hotel room.

                                  I ride an off-breed horse, but we're only Training Level so it doesn't matter as much, and while she doesn't have the big WB gaits, she's a pretty fancy little thing and the judges like her. Any problems with our scores are due purely to the stupid monkey on her back
                                  You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                  1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by goodpony View Post
                                    This gets really old--and it happens far too often. It would seem there are some who are making a "career" out of intro/training level.
                                    Agreed. Who really wants to have the training level horse of the year for five years in a row when he could be doing 4th level. The worst thing was the rider was a pro not an ammy. I was livid as I had a little qh gelding who would stay round, was consistant in his gaits, but just not fancy. He had flat gaits but would push from behind, not on his forehand. Just how downhill he was. The fancy wb scored an 82 and we scored a 55.

                                    Comments were "round but lacking" and I actually got the comment not fancy enough. I was beyond pissed. I had a 68 earlier in the weekend by another judge and this horse had scored consistantly in the 60s.
                                    I am on my phone 90% of the time. Please ignore typos, misplaced lower case letters, and the random word butchered by autocowreck.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by FLeventer View Post
                                      I was at regionals and a horse doing temi changes and piaffe in the warmup went in before me in my Training Level 1 test. That was the last event I went to.
                                      Saw that in my Intro class last year. Lady was in the middle of the warmup schooling half steps and then went into the Intro class. Meanwhile, I was on a 6 year old TB who had been sitting in the pasture all winter and I had been riding her for all of 2 weeks. People seem to really want to make sure they get the ribbons, even at our schooling shows, which have licensed judges. The schooling shows are getting more and more popular due to their lower cost and the quality of horses is really increasing, too, as people who normally would show recognized show in the schooling shows instead. My trainer is also an eventer, and doesn't believe things should be too easy for us, so I'm getting dragged into the next level kicking and screaming

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        it's the same around here...

                                        a problem around here is that they keep hiring the same judges year in and out. we used to get judges from all over but now we only get judges within driving distance.

                                        I suspect it has to do with the decreased number of entries leading to less money for judges. the problem is we don't want to show for the same folks over and over. we've pretty much gotten their opinion....

                                        it becomes a vicious cycle.

                                        Comment

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