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2013 Morgan Judges Letter

TO: All Morgan Judges

FROM: AMHA Judging Standards Committee

RE: Yearly Update March 2013

Show season is upon us, and it seems like we just put our show equipment away. The decisions you make as USEF judges have an 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.
The Judging Standards Manual states:

"We believe every exhibitor has an absolute right to expect his or her horses to be judged against the same criteria regardless who is judging or in what part of the country the show is held. It is the function of this 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."

As you go into the world of Morgan show judging, please use the following as guidelines:

A. Hunter Pleasure--The Hunter Pleasure section is growing by leaps and bounds. It is the most participated section at horse shows across the country. We as judges need to be aware and diligent in looking for the correct Hunter Pleasure horse. In recent years the committee has fielded many questions and concerns about how the hunter pleasure section is being judged. Many feel there are inconsistencies between the Standard and the winners circle. Please remember your job as a Morgan judge is to pick a winner that performs closest to the ideal standard. The current trend is heading away from the original description of a Hunter Pleasure horse. 

A Hunter Pleasure horse should demonstrate a sense of purpose - free moving, and a balanced progressive forward movement. Trappy, not tracking square, laboring, winging, or just too much motion, as a result of shoeing, is to be penalized. A Hunter Pleasure horse should give an effortless feeling that he is enjoying his job. If the reins were dropped, his head would not fall below his knees. A good visual is one where the hunter pleasure horse is trotting across the field and he comes across a hazard, he should be able to easily negotiate it because he is looking where he is going.

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. The Hunter Pleasure horse should demonstrate SENSE of PURPOSE!

B. Protective Headgear--Judges must keep in mind that protective headgear is allowed in all Morgan classes. Individuals wearing protective headgear must notbe discriminated against in any class. It was gratifying to see a Saddle Seat Walk and Trot rider win a World Championship while wearing a helmet.

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. Pleasure Driving--The gaits of the Pleasure Driving horse are: walk, pleasure trot, and road trot. The walk is an important part of the class, and it is important to remember there are two distinct trotting gaits of the Pleasure Driving Horse. 

The Judging Standards Manual states:

a. "The walk should be flat-footed, free, rapid, elastic, ground covering, with a four-beat cadence. Horses must show purpose and intent to travel from one point to another and a willingness to perform a true flat-footed walk without undo restraint. 
b. ‘The pleasure trot should be a pleasant, easy going trot with elasticity and freedom of movement.
c. The road trot should be a balanced trot maintaining free forward impulsion with sufficient speed to be ground covering, but with enough collection to allow the horse to maintain the gait at speed for an extended period of time. Form should not be sacrificed for speed, and excessive speed at the expense of form or balance should be penalized."

Please penalize the Pleasure Driving horse that does not walk well or races around the ring at the pleasure trot. We are still seeing the horse that "road gaits" around the ring rewarded.

E. Balance and Cadence/Laboring action--Make sure you don't reward the high-going horse that does not demonstrate a true two beat trot. It is imperative that Morgan judges uphold the intent of the USEF Rule and not allow horses to be over shod. Remember, "It's not how high they trot, it's how they trot high."

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. 

F. In Hand--Correct Morgan type and conformation is the same in each section of the Morgan Horse division where conformation is considered. There is only one standard for type and conformation of the Morgan horse. Please continue to tie that horse that most closely reflects that ideal. 

G. Western Pleasure--As per the JSM: "Light, calm contact with the rein must be absolutely paramount in the presentation. A judge must heavily penalizepresentations which include: long, loose, draped reins; heavy contact; snatching and jerking; sawing; pulling; intimidation." 

Remember: Tongue ties are not permitted in the Western Pleasure section. People are getting very creative when it comes to tying tongues. Be aware.

H. Classic English Pleasure--The walk is very important in the Classic English Pleasure class. Judges may want to reverse Classic Pleasure horses and continue to walk, instead reversing and calling for the pleasure trot. (As in English Pleasure classes) This will separate the truly quiet Classic Pleasure horse from the one who is not.

I. Unnatural Tail Carriage--Please stay diligent with your penalizing the unnatural tail carriage. "Unnatural tail carriage includes evidence of tail settings and/or break-over, dead tail and 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 severely penalized." Have the courage to penalize the nice horse with the bad tail.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the Morgan Breed, and for giving this letter your attention. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact any committee member.

Harry Sebring
Chair AMHA Judging Standards Committee

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