28 Jun Through the Judge’s Eye with Kay Altheuser
During the afternoon of May 14th, USEF recorded judge and Elvenstar trainer, Kay Altheuser hosted a clinic titled Through the Judge’s Eye in the Elvenstar clubhouse. The two-part clinic began with a Q&A session where Kay answered any question presented to her by the attendees and asking a few of her own to see what the attendees knew and what information they needed, making the event wonderfully interactive. The second part of the clinic was a live demonstration in the main ring courtesy of Michelle Mallet, Halie Robinson, and Matilda Schulman. Score cards were provided for the attendees to judge the three champion’s hunter and equitation rounds, Kay having explained that basics and shown examples during the Q&A session. Notepads, pens, informational packets, and wonderful foods were provided making the event exciting, helpful, and comfortable.
During the Q&A portion of the clinic, Kay not only provided more than a few helpful tips, tricks, and explanations for the show ring, but also shared some insights into the world of the judges. Kay opened with the question, “Why would someone want to be a judge?” She then went on to explain that if you can’t ride or teach anymore for whatever reason, being a judge is a great way to remain in the business, and give back to the horse community. Kay explained that the judges want you to succeed and instead of looking for all the mistakes a rider makes, they will look for the parts of their ride that the rider and mount did well. While discussing what the judge looks for, Kay described the basic rules for judging and scoring, as well as how she became a judge. To become a judge, you must do learner judging. In learner judging, the “apprentice” sits with a judge for six to seven shows and learn from them the basics of judging. Another step is to complete a judge’s clinic, conducted by professional judges, and the last step is to submit an application for a judging license.
Kay explained that a judge wants to see a smooth even ride, the horse and rider riding in form for their style, and a good, safe ride. “I’d rather see a horse add strides in the lower levels and look safe, than a horse rushing around trying to get strides everywhere.” Kay said. Kay also explained that the horse’s confirmation and physical looks shouldn’t be the main factor outside of a conformation class. Some faults in a hunter class are; rubbing a jump, swapping leads in a line or right in front of a jump, late lead changes, spooking, and kicking up or out, the last three being considered major faults by most judges. Jumping out of form varied in terms of severity and judge’s preference. Most faults have varying point deductions due to the fact that hunter and equitation classes are extremely subjective and entirely dependent on the judge’s preference. Kay also took the time to explain why all riders should have a plain, conservative appearance, the reason being the fact that you are trying to show off your horse and your equitation, depending on the class, and not to distract the judge from that, as the judge could take points off or eliminate you from the class for wearing the wrong attire or equipment. Kay also explained that your position should be correct but not exaggerated. In the line up, your horse should be still but if they are fidgety you are allowed to walk them in a circle to help them calm down, and if they keep pulling their head down, you should loosen your rein a little because all the judge can see is you moving and not the cause as you are facing away from them.
The list of tips goes on and on as Kay gave a lot of well appreciated tips that will no doubt help every rider to improve their performance in the ring. I for one sincerely hope that more of these clinics become available to riders, they are both fun and helpful without feeling forced, a combination that is in desperately short supply these days.