Judging Update: AQHA Congress

This post was originally written just after the show, but I forgot to post it! Anyways, enjoy my experience with one of the coolest breed shows I have ever been to.

Ohio, itself
Oh my gosh! Ohio, even though it sounds like such a random thing to be saying, honestly made the trip even better. The people here are so friendly and helpful, which definitely helped when we were lost, when we didn’t know where or what to eat, or even to help us with sightseeing. It was also so green!!! Here in California, we have a serious drought. Being able to see green grasses, bushes, and turning leaves was such a great, refreshing sight. Also, on the first day we were there, it rained! Not just a little sprinkle, but straight pouring rain. I loved it!! Columbus, Ohio is definitely a really cool place. I would love to visit Ohio again and see more of the beautiful state.

Now, onto the fairgrounds
Holy cow, this show was huge! I’ve been to Rolex, which I thought was pretty big, but this show was probably the same size or even bigger! I was amazed that there was a trailer and truck sale IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FAIRGROUNDS. This was mind blowing. I can’t believe that these horse barns spend hundreds of thousands to take their horses to this show, then even have money left over to spend on a new truck or trailer! I was definitely impressed. The arenas were also amazing! They had a tractor with a combined waterer and grooming rake attachment. This was the first time I saw something this hi-tech and I was blown away. Instead of having 20 minutes in between dragging and watering the arena, it only took about 2 minutes! And it left the arenas perfectly manicured. Overall, I was just amazed at the quality of this show — AQHA knows what’s up.
The stall barns were also amazing! Every show barn had its own stall front. And I’m not just talking fancy curtains with an engraved sign like at jumper shows. I’m talking full on, Martha Stewart- approved, wooden built, extravagant stall fronts. Some even had separate rooms for relaxing and refreshments. These people know how to show horses and live like royalty!

Now that I have blabbered on about silly things like the fairgrounds, its time to get to the actual stuff: these gorgeous, high quality creatures we refer to as American Quarter Horses. Oh. My. Gosh. The horses at the show were on another level of horse, they were that perfect! It was such an honor to see these top qualifying horses work their respective patterns and classes. Even the yearling halter studs were so well balanced and muscled! Every class had a horses with perfect movement and head frame. The riders were even on their best game. No words can accurately give these horses enough credit. It was simply unbelievable how amazing all of these horses were!

The Contest
After spending a couple days acquainting ourselves with the show, it was finally time to do what we do best: judge some awesome horses. I have never competed in a contest like this, so it was a different, yet awesome experience! We ended up judging 3 halter classes and 8 performance classes. Now, I will admit that it was difficult, but it was so rewarding to be able to handle judging 11 classes and know penalties, disqualifications, and setting your eye for movement. Reasons were also really hard, but worth it. It felt so good to give 5 sets of reasons and come out of the contest knowing you did your best and made it through.
For anyone that is unfamiliar with horse judging contests, you simple watch 4 horses do a class, place it, and then you have to give a 2 minute speech on why you placed this class, also known as your reasoning. Sometimes its hard to give reasons, mostly because you feel like your yelling to argue your placing, all while maintaining proper terminology. The contest was a different, yet rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone who is the slightest interested in judging.

A Quick Little Word
If any horse person went on Facebook in the last week, you probably ran into a video of Western Pleasure at the Congress. There were a lot of negative things said about Western Pleasure that made me a little peeved and I would like to address them.
First of all, I would like to say that I am an English rider. When my judging coach first showed me a class of Western Pleasure and asked me to judge it, I was completely lost. These horses move in a slower-traveling way and at first, it can make them appear “broken” and “uncadenced.” I am perfectly okay with admitting that. However, this is not the case. These horses are trained to move at a slower, more consistent pace and are praised if they look like you could put your 75-year-old grandma on top of these horses and not worry about her coming off.
Basically, these Pleasure horses are ridden this certain way to show their well-trained demeanor while showing a slower, yet distinct and cadenced movement. Their movement is actually easier on their legs and will prevent them from getting an injury, unlike a reiner or a jumper. I perfectly understand that they look weird, but I invite each and every horse person to become educated about a topic before voicing their opinion about it.
I am probably not alone when I write this, but this backlash annoys me and is hurtful to me as a judger. AQHA prohibits any and all abuse towards horses — that’s why there are ring stewards, barn stewards, and the rule book explicitly states horses will not place if they have unnecessarily low head carriage or any other abusive riding tactic. If they go into an arena with bloody or illegal equipment they will receive a NO SCORE and are unable to qualify for any other show. I would just like to say that, as a collegiate horse judger, I am studying the art of judging  and there are certain things we are looking for in a pleasure horse. A low head frame with an indistinct jog will NOT win! We won’t accept abuse. Just remember that.

Now that I am done with that topic, it was truly an honor to go to the AQHA Congress. I think that every horse person should travel to a huge show like this to see the amazing horses, barns, vendors, and open your eyes to something that might be new! Overall, I had too much fun spending a week in horsey bliss!


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