TO: All Morgan Judges
FROM: American Morgan Horse Association Judging Standards Committee
RE: Yearly Update 2016
Winter has officially come to an end and springtime and show season has arrived. [The United States Equestrian Federation] officials have signed contracts and judging has begun at shows throughout the country. As USEF judges, the decisions you make have a direct effect on the future of the Morgan breed. Your selections are used as guidance by breeders, exhibitors, and spectators alike. This update is designed to keep you "up to speed" with show ring trends, both good and bad, so the decisions you make should be in the best interest of our breed.
The Judging Standards Manual States:
"We believe every exhibitor has an absolute right to expect his or her horse be judged against the same criteria regardless of who is judging or in what part of the country the show is held. It is the function of the committee to establish this standard...devise and recommend to the Board ways to see that it's universally accepted and adhered to...and research methods to generally upgrade the quality and consistency of our Morgan horse judging."
A. Hunter Pleasure- The hunter pleasure horse should appear to be carrying his body in a natural frame with ease of motion and without evidence of undue restraint. His motion starts from the hind end and progresses through his shoulders, which allows him to carry his head in the correct frame with quiet, relaxed collection. He should never appear to have his frame controlled by the bridle, be behind the bit, or appear to be pulling himself around on the forehand. Transitioning from the trot to the extended trot is a ground covering motion- Not go faster or higher! The canter and extended canter should follow the same progressive movement forward. The walk should be free-moving and relaxed, not tense or anticipating. Hunter Pleasure is the most popular section within the Morgan division. Over the years the committee has fielded many questions regarding the judging of this section. The 2015 USEF rule change governing the length of shank on hunter curb and Pelham bits appears to have had a positive impact. We as judges must be diligent in looking for the correct Hunter Pleasure horse that reflects the criteria of the Standard and continue to judge in ways that have a positive effect on the Hunter Pleasure section and the Morgan breed.
B. Unnatural Tail Carriage: Please stay diligent with your penalizing the evidence of unnatural tail carriage. "Unnatural tail carriage includes evidence of tail setting and/or break-over, dead tail, wry tail (wry tail is defined as twisted, carried askew or distorted)." Judges have an obligation to see that tails carried vertically with an abrupt break-over are penalized. It must be noted that there has been great improvement in this area.
C. Suitability: As per the judging standards manual: "A horse placed first in a class judged on performance, quality, and manners could justifiably be not placed against the same horses if the class were judged on manners, quality, and performance." Please remember, the order of performance criteria changes from class to class e.g. Open, Amateur, Junior Exhibitor, Ladies, etc. Junior Exhibitor horses must have impeccable manners.
D. Classic Pleasure: You will notice a new rule this year that eliminates the weight limits previously in place for the Classic Pleasure section. The current rule has done away with weight limits but continues the length of foot and width of pad restrictions. It is very important to remember that any motion or action resulting from shoeing be penalized. It is imperative that the Classic Pleasure horse give the distinct appearance of being a pleasure to ride or drive with emphasis on the walk and smooth transitions.
E. Western Pleasure: The Western Pleasure section is a very popular and competitive section of our division. Judges must heavily penalize presentations which include long, loose, draped reins; heavy contact; snatching and jerking; sawing; pulling or evidence of intimidation. Remember: Anything in the horses' mouth other than a legal bit is not permitted in the Western Pleasure section.
F. Protective Headgear: Judges must remember that protective headgear is allowed, and may not be penalized, in all Morgan classes. Individuals wearing protective headgear must not be discriminated against in any class and ALL LEADLINE RIDERS MUST WEAR PROTECTIVE HEADGEAR!
G. Balance and Cadence/Laboring Action: The Judging Standards Manual states: "Judges shall seriously fault any horse that is laboring, pounding, landing on the heel, winging, or paddling, whether due to faulty conformation, extremes of length and/or angle of the hoof, weight, and/or balance of shoe. In all classes the gaits must be true and correct. Mixed gaits demonstrating improper cadence and balance must be penalized.
H. Cell Phones/Social Media: It is imperative to remember that as a judge you must always conduct yourself as a professional. Perception is as important as reality. The competition arena is not the place for texting, checking email or engaging in any form of social media. You are "on the job" every minute you are at that horse show, not just when you are actively judging. What you are doing while in the ring and at the show is very public. Make sure to conduct yourself with the highest degree of professionalism and decorum. It is just as important to remember that before and after the competition as well. Physicians, attorneys, and other professionals do not discuss their patients/clients publicly. The horses and exhibitors you are judging deserve the same respect and consideration from you.
Thank you for your time and dedication to the Morgan horse. Please feel free to contact any committee member with questions, comments or concerns. Have a great year!
AMHA Judging Standards Committee
-- via AMHA