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Judging Question: Skinny Horses in the Show Ring - WWYD?

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  • Judging Question: Skinny Horses in the Show Ring - WWYD?

    Let me start by saying I am not an accredited judge, but I have judged maybe a dozen non-rated schooling type shows over the years. I'm hoping some COTH H/J judges might help me with a potential dilemma.

    Las night I got a call from our local riding club asking if I might help them out this weekend judging the beginner/short stirrup ring at their show this weekend. This club puts on a series of (non-rated) shows from March-September every year - very well run, and a great venue for beginner riders and green horses. My current trainer is president of this club and recommended me for the job, and I will absolutely help them out if they need me.

    I don't show anymore, but have attended most of these shows this year as either a spectator or grooming for my trainer. One other local trainer has caught my attention, and not for good reasons.

    Although her riders are well turned out and capable in their divisions, every single one of her horses is in need of groceries. You can spot them a mile away. One horse in particular - a TB type gelding, 15.2 or so, competes with his 8/9 YO rider in the short stirrup division - is particularly troubling. Ribs are not just visible, they are prominent. Hips too, and he has that "dishing" over them. You can actually see daylight between his hind legs. If he were in my barn, he would not be ridden without some major weight, and yet they are showing him.

    At the last show I watched most of the SS division (15 or so riders) and this young lady put in a couple of solid rounds - placed 2nd and 3rd (deservedly for the quality of her trips) over fences and won the hack. While I do not discredit her placing, I have a hard time understanding how a judge could place a horse in such obviously poor condition. Apparently this is not much of a concern for several judges, as this child is currently second in SS for the year and has had different judges at each show.

    The story I got from my trainer is that the child leases the gelding from her trainer, and he is boarded with her. So I guess my question is - how much should a judge take into account the condition of the mount? Especially if the condition is IMHO extremely poor?

    I don't know yet if they will need me this weekend, but if so I want to do the right thing. My gut says don't use a horse like that, no matter how solid the ride.

    So...WWYD?
    "I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy. My reality is just different from yours."
    ~Lewis Carroll

  • #2
    It's sad for the young rider and it's difficult for you, but I would by no means reward a team that brings any horse to a show in the kind of emaciated condition you describe.

    While many TB's, particularly those over 20, may be "normal" and present with a body condition score of 4.5 or so, it sounds like you are seeing a horse or horses that are not getting anything like proper care.

    When one brings a horse to a show, that animal should be properly prepared in every way--best of health, shiny clean coat, freshly washed saddle pad and well-soaped tack with the rider in the irons dressed correctly, neatly, and appropriately. If that does not resemble the picture here, they deserve not to be pinned. There is no way to wiggle out of this!

    That said, if the trips this poor creature makes are actually nice enough to score highly under other circumstances, I would arrange a private moment with that trainer, perhaps at the lunch tent or wherever, and tell them pointedly that you would really like to be able to pin his/her students, but the horse's physical condition prevents it. If that doesn't motivate some change, I really can't imagine what would!

    Sadly, if their whole string is underweight, you're probably looking at a very marginal operation.

    Comment


    • #3
      I don't envy you...

      To me, body condition is a part of proper turnout and that is supposed to be judged. So, is there anybody else that rides halfway decent and looks waaaay better than her horse?

      I think it is ludicrous to take a skinny horse out in public, but I have seen it before myself. I would excuse the horse and rider from the class, if it were me, but that is a good way to never get yourself asked back to judge there again.

      There was a lady who brought a skinny horse to my BO's local schooling show series last summer and then she got pissed off when people made comments about her horse. I might have made one of those comments

      Maybe someone else who has judging experience can chime in here. Maybe there is a tactful way to approach this matter.
      ALP
      "The Prince" aka Front Row
      Cavalier Manor

      Comment


      • #4
        Send her a bag of rice bran supplement?
        You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
        -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

        Comment


        • #5
          You guys are kidding, right? At no place in SS rules is the weight of the horse supposed to be a factor in judging. You have to judge the performance. Only. If you feel that these horses are in danger, express your concerns to show management. Express your concerns to the vet on call. But too skinny does not mean the horse is unsound.

          If this horse is really skinny, the trainer is doing himself much more harm just by bringing him to the show. He's creating his own punishment.
          madeline
          * What you release is what you teach * Don't be distracted by unwanted behavior* Whoever waits the longest is the teacher. Van Hargis

          Comment


          • #6
            I would easily excuse it if the horse were an outlier--perhaps a recent "rescue" from a feedlot whose new owners are to be commended. But the OP says this horse is merely the most outstandingly underweight from a whole string of the BO's other entries; and when judging I believe one has an actual obligation not to encourage people in management practices detrimental to the animals. This would also include a truly dangerous shoeing job, visibly ill-fitting tack, a rider without an approved helmet, etc. They are simply not prepared to be showing.

            The most passive and tactful way is just don't pin them.

            A little more "involved" is to mention why to the trainer.

            The most severe would be to dismiss them from the ring as someone above mentioned.

            At a non-recognized schooling show you are entitled to do all of those as you see fit--no one is going to "appeal" or sue you or ban you from judging. And if that show does not invite you back, having sided with someone who doesn't feed his horses, exactly what have you "lost?"

            What they will have lost is a judge with some integrity!

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by SwampYankee View Post

              When one brings a horse to a show, that animal should be properly prepared in every way--best of health, shiny clean coat, freshly washed saddle pad and well-soaped tack with the rider in the irons dressed correctly, neatly, and appropriately. If that does not resemble the picture here, they deserve not to be pinned. There is no way to wiggle out of this!

              That said, if the trips this poor creature makes are actually nice enough to score highly under other circumstances, I would arrange a private moment with that trainer, perhaps at the lunch tent or wherever, and tell them pointedly that you would really like to be able to pin his/her students, but the horse's physical condition prevents it. If that doesn't motivate some change, I really can't imagine what would!

              Sadly, if their whole string is underweight, you're probably looking at a very marginal operation.
              That's the crazy thing SY - in every other aspect, these horse and rider teams are well turned out. They may not have the "best" top-of-the-line tack and clothes, but everything is clean and well fitted. This horse in question sports a lot of chrome, and those socks are gleaming! How can anyone take that much care in that aspect of turnout, and ignore fitness??
              "I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy. My reality is just different from yours."
              ~Lewis Carroll

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by Madeline View Post
                You guys are kidding, right? At no place in SS rules is the weight of the horse supposed to be a factor in judging. You have to judge the performance. Only. If you feel that these horses are in danger, express your concerns to show management. Express your concerns to the vet on call. But too skinny does not mean the horse is unsound.

                If this horse is really skinny, the trainer is doing himself much more harm just by bringing him to the show. He's creating his own punishment.
                See, Madeline, I have to respectfully disagree with you there.
                Too skinny = not sound. Not sound enough to show at any rate.

                I just feel that we should be using these schooling type venues to teach and educate. I agree with SY in that taking a private moment to explain the reasoning behind not using this horse *may* make a difference. It would have to be done tactfully of course, but it must be said.
                "I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy. My reality is just different from yours."
                ~Lewis Carroll

                Comment


                • #9
                  Maybe the horse has some sort of physical condition, maybe they are trying to put weight on him, maybe he is new to this trainer, maybe he's just a really old arthritic but still a brilliant packer... Isn't it a good thing that this horse is being leased by one kid? It might bring more money to feed it! How are this trainer other horses?

                  Maybe you just don't know and until then you really think it would be fair for the kid and the horse (who both are apparently doing a great job) not to be in the ribbon?

                  My friend's horse is better with less fat then I would like him to have. He's older and has joint problems. He still is a really good dressage horse but both time my friend tried to put some weight on him, he went lame, she had to inject him and made him loose weight as per vet recommandation. He was 15yrs old 17'h and aa score 4 when she bought him and he needs to stay at 4 if she wants him to be comfortable for the rest of his life. So yeah, for the pastfew years she has to deal with the ribs, the hips and the people comments...

                  If the horse truly is in distress or abused at the show, please do something but if not, mind your own business and try to enjoy the show by looking elsewhere.
                  ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                  Originally posted by LauraKY
                  I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                  HORSING mobile training app

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think you should most definitely let them know- the trainer/horse owner- If you don't pin the horse why it was so. Otherwise they can chalk it up to a 'clueless judge'

                    I don't know the proper way to go about that, but i think as a judge you're in a good position to tell them their horses are not at an acceptable weight. As far as what they will do about it....... who knows if anything. But at least you did your part.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post
                      Maybe the horse has some sort of physical condition, maybe they are trying to put weight on him, maybe he is new to this trainer, maybe he's just a really old arthritic but still a brilliant packer... Isn't it a good thing that this horse is being leased by one kid? It might bring more money to feed it! How are this trainer other horses?

                      Maybe you just don't know and until then you really think it would be fair for the kid and the horse (who both are apparently doing a great job) not to be in the ribbon?
                      That is a fair comment, but I do know that this horse has been owned by the same trainer for 5+ years - she leases him out for each season to a student. And per my OP, while her other horses are not "as bad", they are all too thinner than showing condition.
                      "I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy. My reality is just different from yours."
                      ~Lewis Carroll

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        You can do what I have done. I sat in my judging box and watched the various riders hack around before the show. I saw horse that looked very lame. I called the rider over and asked who her trainer was and asked that she send him over to talk to me. I asked him why was his horse lame.... he gave me that I didn't know it was lame excuse... I told him to take it home as I would not be able to pin it... so you could call the trainer over and ask what the deal is with the horse.. old? maybe really old? if you don't get a reasonable answer then advise him to take it home as you will not be able to use it....
                        Fullcirclefarmsc.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Leaving aside the one horse who could be a hard keeper or could have metabolic issues that cause a vet to recommend he stay on the thinner side, are the other horses actually too thin or are they just not hunter fat? As an outsider, the ideal show weight of a hunter looks dangerously overweight to me for a horse expected to jump and land and perform like an athlete.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I will pass along the advice given at a judges' clinic regarding a different issue that would come under the same general heading of "subjective soundness," meaning an issue that bothers different judges to different degrees.

                            The discussion at the clinic was about horses that made a noise with their breathing in the hunter ring, which bothers some judges more than others. It also recognizes that (most) judges are not vets, so judges don't always know the exact cause of a condition or how it may affect the horse.

                            The line recommended at the judges' clinic was: "He's too noisy for me." That way, you make it clear that it is your own subjective opinion, which is not a veterinary diagnosis or a threat to call the humane society.

                            If you adjust it to: "He's too skinny for me" or "He's a nice horse and he had good trips, but he's too skinny for me" and the trainer hears that from more than one or two judges, the horse might get more groceries. Or it might not. That's not within your control. All you can do is give your opinion, which is what the exhibitors are paying for on that day.

                            Good luck. People who haven't judged are blissfully unaware of all the pitfalls involved in it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              is there a steward on the grounds @ these shows?? perhaps he/she can be the intermediary?

                              or I would agree with the poster that said to point it out to the vet on the grounds..

                              whatever you choose, it should include finding out the story about this trainer's horses

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Since your trainer is President of the club and recommended you, I would talk to your trainer before the show.

                                It is her reputation that is at stake if you appear to be a bad judge who cannot recognize a good round. Even if the trainer of the skinny horse is talked to, the other people at the show, who are used to seeing this child pin high, will wonder about your placings.

                                Your trainer may also have some insight to this horse, and/or the trainers horses' weight in general.

                                I would be guided by whatever your trainer said to do.
                                "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

                                Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  tough situation

                                  tough situation; but, you know that; possibly have the show management/ vet speak to the owner/ trainer; Madeline is absolutely right, the horses' condition should NOT be a factor in judging but, , this an opportunity to educate young riders
                                  breeder of Mercury!

                                  remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by NCRider View Post
                                    Leaving aside the one horse who could be a hard keeper or could have metabolic issues that cause a vet to recommend he stay on the thinner side, are the other horses actually too thin or are they just not hunter fat? As an outsider, the ideal show weight of a hunter looks dangerously overweight to me for a horse expected to jump and land and perform like an athlete.
                                    This is a good point. My former vet, who was very well regarded in the Northeast, told me that in his experience, people underestimate condition by at least one full grade 90% of the time...in other words, most people think most horses at a 5 (ideal) on the BCS are too thin.

                                    Not saying that's the case, and it sounds like the one at least really needed groceries, but having had one that was an incredibly hard keeper, there could be other factors.

                                    What are the club's rules, or do they use USEF rules? If turnout counts, don't pin. If it does, it's a little tougher if the horse id doing its job easily without laboring. In either case,talk to the kids in the lineup and give each a few comments on their round (really important with kids at a local IMO). When you get to this child, tell her she might have placed better if her horse was in better weight. She's sure to either explain ("he's 30 years old") or go running to her trainer with the comment.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      So the horse has been showing in that condition for the past 5yrs and yet no one ever complained and the horse is still doing great rounds after all?

                                      Mind your own business.

                                      Who are you to judge if one's horse show condition?

                                      I've seen a lot more fat and unfit horses at shows than the opposite.
                                      And I could say the same for riders. Should they not win either?

                                      A horse (or rider) shouldn't be judge upon their weight but stricly on their ride.

                                      Again, if the horse is lame, exhausted, hurt/bleeding, in danger, the steward and/or anyone else should do something about it.
                                      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                                      Originally posted by LauraKY
                                      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                                      HORSING mobile training app

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Be aware that most very local shows do not have a steward, much less a vet.

                                        Tough call.....if the kid puts in good trips, and the others do not, it will certainly look silly to pin the skinny horse below them.
                                        "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"
                                        carolprudm

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