AQHA Executive Director of Judges Alex Ross has sent the judges an update on rule changes and issues that have recently been witnessed at shows that need to be addressed--one major issue concerning the western pleasure class regressing and the horses returning to a too slow over-canted pace. Please read the following information to be up-to-date on the latest news.
1. The following information was printed in the January Judges Update but we continue to hear about judges, while judging AND showing, that either do not understand the rule or choose to ignore it. Please read this information carefully. If you have questions, feel free to give me a call. As stated in the information below, the rule is correct in the online version of the 2012 AQHA Handbook of Rules and Regulations.
Rule 448(d) (4) in the 2012 handbook is incorrect. It states:
Effective August 1, 2011, the following horses may be shown with an Allowed Lip Chain in open, amateur and youth divisions.
(i) Mares 1 year of age and older; and
(ii) Geldings 1 year of age and older
This is incorrect. The rule should read:
Effective August 1, 2011, the following horses may be shown with an Allowed Lip Chain in amateur and youth divisions.
(i) Mares 1 year of age and older; and
(ii) Geldings 1 year of age and older
Mares and geldings in the open division are not allowed to use lip chains. The rule is the same as the memo you received in August 2011. Because of the misprint in the handbook, AQHA would like for you to be fair in your application of the rule. If an open exhibitor enters the arena with a lip chain on a mare or gelding, you should have your ring steward approach them and ask them to remove the lip chain. Do not disqualify them unless they refuse to remove the lip chain. This mistake has been amended in the online handbook. With that, if you are questioned, you can refer the exhibitor to that version for the correct ruling. It can be found at www.aqha.com.
From time-to-time, there are rule changes implemented in the middle of the year. (Like the halter lip-chain rules last year) Because of this, the online handbook will become the official handbook. You can find it on www.aqha.com. You will be notified in the Judges Update, or by memo, of any rule changes that may occur mid-year but you can always refer to the online version for all up-to-date changes.
2. In recent years there have been some positive changes in western pleasure. However, in recent months, I have received calls and emails from several knowledgeable judges that feel the class is regressing. Specifically, these judges feel the horses are being shown at a slower pace with the over-canted horse becoming more apparent than in the past couple of years. Most of the issues we see in western pleasure are created by lack of flow. When a horse is over-canted, it generally lacks forward motion and/or self-carriage. Because of this un-natural position, the horse “bobs” its head when loping and leaves the outside hock behind the hip (split hock), It is imperative that judges do the following:
a. Judge the class by the rules set forth in Rule 465(B).
b. Utilize gait calls (lengthening of the stride at the walk or lope) to encourage exhibitors to show their horses in a positive manner.
c. Reward horses that are being shown by the rules
d. Penalize horses that are not being shown by the rules (over-canted horses and horses that “bob” their head when loping are of particular interest)
There will be times when you have to be courageous and do the right thing. But, as we have said in the past, “You tell me how I will be judged and I will tell you how I will perform”. As the judge, through your gait calls and especially your placing, you have the opportunity to tell the exhibitors how they will be judged. Utilize both to your advantage and assist us in moving western pleasure in a positive direction. If this is not the direction you want to go, you need to request to be removed from the list of AQHA-Approved Judges. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter. You can call or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Many of you will be judging ranch pleasure in the near future. Since the January Judges Update, the suggested scoring system has changed and all changes have been so noted on the score sheet. I would encourage all of you to carefully read the rules to ranch pleasure and also familiarize yourself with the ranch pleasure score sheet. The scoring has been changed from the “plus, check, minus” system to the maneuver range of (+1 ½ to -1 ½). The exception is that major penalties will be a maneuver score of -3. The split boxes on the score sheet are different than those on other scored classes. In ranch pleasure, the score sheet is split under each gait so you have a space to score the horse, at that gait, in both directions. At this time, there is no space to score the penalty and maneuver in different boxes.You simply score the gait (or maneuver) with the appropriate score. If you are judging a show with ranch pleasure and feel you may need clarification, feel free to contact me.
4. There will be a free roping clinic for judges at the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 6, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. The classes covered will be Tie-Down Roping, Heading and Heeling. The clinicians will include Steve Orth, Brad Lund, Jay Wadhams, J.D. Yates, Jeff Carney, Mark Wray, Kevin Winters, Luke Jones, Jeff Straight, C.R. Bradley, and Jim Jirkovsky. There will be live runs, discussion on live runs and some video runs. This is an excellent opportunity for you to enhance your roping skills and we appreciate Sandy and the ropers for offering this for the judges.
If you are interested in attending, contact Sandy Jirkovsky at (308) 440-9627 or at email@example.com. You need to notify Sandy ahead of time if you wish to attend. The host hotel is the Staybridge Suites in Lincoln, Nebraska. Their phone number is (402) 438-7829. The closest airports are Lincoln, Omaha, and Grand Island, Nebraska.
5. There were three items, relative to judges, that were recently discussed at AQHA Show Management Seminars. Show management’s requests to judges are:
a. To return phone calls and/or answer emails in a timely manner.The professional and courteous thing to do is to return phone calls or emails, even if you can not judge the show. If you do this, it will elevate show management’s confidence in you and enhance the possibility that they will call you again in the future.
b. Submit patterns on time. All shows have to post patterns at least one hour before the class while some shows take it a step further and build pattern books for their show. If show management requests patterns by a certain date, be responsible and submit your patterns on, or before, the required dates.
c. Silence cell phones left in the office. Show managers have indicated many judges are leaving their cell phones turned on when they leave the phone in their briefcase in the office. When this happens, it can be bothersome to the office staff to listen when phone calls and/or emails come in throughout the day. So, please turn your phone off or put on “silent” when you leave it in the office.
6. We have discussed the need for judges to have the courage to adhere to Rule 438 (b) (5) which states “eliminate any horse/exhibitor as an entry which he/she feels is in violation of the intent of AQHA’s Prohibited Conduct rules, or which he/she does not feel has legitimately attempted to exhibit the horse to the best of the horse’s ability”. If you should eliminate an entry, or entries, from a class, make sure you announce the total number of entries in the class (without the eliminated horses). For example, 10 horses were in the western riding. Five horses completed the entire pattern with a score. Three horses completed the entire pattern but were disqualified for four or more simple lead changes (but they were obviously trying their best). Two horses completed the first two changes and then rode out of the arena. In this example, the judge should list a total of 8 entries in the class but also list the other two horses on the judges card as “eliminated entries” (per Rule 438 (b) (5)) AND list the situation on your judges report card you submit to AQHA after the show.
But, as noted above, so all exhibitors know there were not 2 points awarded for the first place horse, you make sure an announcement is made that there were a total of 8 horses in the class.
7. Another issue that needs to be addressed with Rule 438 (b) (5) is the incident where horses are entered in a class they are not eligible for. For example, it has been reported that performance mares have been intentionally entered in performance gelding classes (or vice-versa) to make that class a point or an additional points. Then, the judges have been disqualifying the horse(s) but still counting it (or them) as entries in the class. When this occurs, the horse(s) should not count as an entry (or entries) and should be so noted on your judges report card. This is obvious class filling so make sure you report it to AQHA.
8. Some shows are having the new “rookie” classes running concurrent with the corresponding class. Show management has been instructed to notify you of such classes but you should double-check the show program for the specific classes. When the rookie classes are included, you need to place through 15 places to ensure you have enough horses/exhibitors to reward the placing for the rookie class.
Quote: If you lack the courage to start, you are already finished!
I am soooooooooo over this class. I agree that the rule changes are good but they are NOT implemented. If a trainer/judge is riding an over-canted horse he/she will still place high - I have seen it over and over. It anymore seems to be WHO is on the horse.
I asked the judge about the head bobbing, and the split hock. You know what he said? It doesn't matter cause its all in the legs! Excuse me? What about the walk,jog? Nope,its all in the legs! I'll never show under that stupid judge but how many more believe that too. Oh, I guess all we have to do is watch how they judge!
This has been an ongoing topic since the mid-1980's – yes, nearly 30 YEARS! If the matter was going to be resolved, it would have been by now. It’s not going to happen. People are disgusted with and tired of it, which is why the size of many shows today are tiny compared to those of the past. People have been moving on to other forms of recreation. They're spending their money and time elsewhere. Owners can enjoy their horses outside the superficial environment of the so-called western pleasure class at an AQHA show. Nearly all of the blame should be placed on the judges. So long as something continues to be rewarded, that product or behavior will be perpetuated. This applies whether you’re raising children, managing employees, manufacturing widgets, teaching a dog a trick, or whatever – the reward or consequence directly influence the behavior or product. (i.e. If nobody is buying lime green doodads with a purple stripe, they will eventually stop being produced.) If a judge is not willing, capable, or courageous enough to abide by the rules set by the AQHA – that individual should not be an AQHA 'approved' judge. The AQHA, by not removing that individual’s name from the ‘approved’ judges list, is endorsing the conduct, setting a precedent, and influencing the act to continue at the next show. An excellent judge would ‘gate’ every rider not abiding by the show rules. Sure, that won’t set nicely with some (primarily the offenders) at first, but if the practice is unrelenting – riders will eventually present a product more aligned to that which is described in the AQHA rule book expectations. Until then, the malarkey will continue and this will still be a dilapidated topic another 30 years from now. This article and those before it for the past 3 decades have been empty rhetoric. What is needed is a lot less talk and much more action! If there are any AQHA judges out there reading this – how ‘bout growing a set! You will be applauded! Only the guilty parties will be offended! They’ll get over it eventually and then they’ll present you with a better product to judge. You must be the catalyst that precipitates the evolution of a once thriving and enjoyable industry. Do you have what it takes? If not, consider relinquishing your judge’s card. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
It is quite irritating to show againt these "so called" perfect WP horses. WP horses should have FORWARD motion, and I agree with one of the comments. there needs to be a camera crew following behind these judges, or even judges there behind the scenes to make sure that they are following the rules! I am not going to yank, spur, prod, tie up my horse and ABUSE it to get this horrible looking bobble headed lope. Its not NATURAL.. Seems like the AQHA world is just the same as usual, just all political and its all in who you know!
I spoke with an AQHA judge after a show in Kansas last year and questioned his placing of horses that were over canted and moving with their heads way below level. His answer was that he did not care what the rules were, he would judge the way he wanted to and if the associaton wanted to they could pull his card. These are the kind of judges that need to go down the road and find a new business. I applaud Mr. Ross.
Behind the scenes is pathetic!!! ABUSE!!! Has anyone seen Nightly News about the Tenn. Walking Horse! I LOVE horses and love the WP class when they are natural! But what I have seen in the past few years is well,simply horrible. And YES! it is up to AQHA and the judges!!! The trainer's will stop this way of training IF they are not rewarded!!! I show WP and have been successful especially when I show under a Courageous Judge! There is only one trainer that I would ever use because he lets the horse slow down and learn on its own. He doesn't snatch,yank, or hang a horse up! And he has and is very successful in the show pen! You even see children yanking and snatching(monkey see monkey do)! Thank you Mr. Ross!My trainer speaks very highly of you.I pray that things will begin to turn around. The Reichert big 2 yr old , well lets just say as we watched the head bobbing,overly canted we wondered if this will ever change! Peanut Rollers, California Head Set , now this, when will it be natural again?
I am so proud to see Mr. Ross taking a firm stand on the movement of The western pleasure horse. The trainer trains a horse in a way he is rewarded by the judges. It is NOT a pretty nor natural sight. The fault lies complely on the judge as he is the rewarding this head bobbing un-natural way of going. As bad as it is, this is not the worst part. What is going on in the back barns and back practice areas is the part that should be addressed . As someone said , WHEREare the so-called professional horseman who are supposed to look after our beloved horses. I'll tell you where. They are right there with them jerking and snatching every other step. We were recently at a huge show where a lot of money was involved. One of the horses was never parallel with the rail. He was completly sideways the entire class and guess what he was in the top 4 of a large class. Mr. Ross please try to better protect our horses from the abuse they are forced to endure. I will be watching and videoing.
By all means as stated by Mr. Ross-AQHA, "If this is not the direction you want to go, you need to request to be removed from the list of AQHA-Approved Judges". So if you are a trainer who is also a judge - if you don't want to follow the rules - relinquish you AQHA-judging card. Perhaps more individuals, who observe these type of unprofessional conduct and the very worst of showmanship, should be taped with the tape submitted to AQHA for review. This topic has been discussed before and with dedicated effort can be changed. The trainers are not true horsemen/woman - but instead bully these horses into unorthodox and cruel training methods. Don't be surprised if Animal Welfare - perhaps sooner than later will step in. Even better I think every animal welfare organization at any given show should be present and take the appropriate action to stop any abuse in its tracks - up to and including seizing the horse - let the trainer explain that to a client and also be banned. This goes for any exhibitor at any AQHA-(or other breed sanctioned show) - become a true horseperson - not one that produces an artificial moving horses or one that abuses these fine animals for the sake of the almighty $$$$. I'd like to see some of these trainers made to run side-ways with their heads forced to their chests and yanked on repeatedly and see how that feels.
Amen!!! It's up to the judges to get the changes rolling. As long as judges place the over-canted, loping-in-place, "tropers", trainers will keep doing what it takes to produce that type movement.
It's awful.... I saw someone report a WP trainer who had a horse with his head all tied up and back at a show this past weekend. I was so proud that this lady had the guts to do something about what she saw going on!! And then when you do -- you become known as a "trouble maker".
PLEASE judges -- be courageous!! Take an active part in fixing what has become an ugly mess!