View from the Judgeís Booth: Judging Rhode Island Finals

Sept. 12, 2009

By Kim Ablon Whitney

I had the pleasure of judging the Rhode Island Medal Finals with Carol Maloney.  What a wonderful Finals from start to finish!  Hats off to the show managers, Hillary Vars Whelan and Mary Charrette, and everyone involved in making this such a top quality regional finals.  One certainly could argue that we have too many regional finals but this final is one worth keeping on the calendar!

To begin with when I checked into my hotel there was a goodie bag waiting for me with bottles of water, energy bars, and other snacks!  How thoughtful!  Judges love to be taken care of and the little things like this matter.  Believe it or not, even just a little bag with snacks is a rare luxury for a judge!  There was also a copy of the program, which was beautifully done.  It was fun to flip through and see the winners of past years.

The Finals were held after a day of non-stop Hurricane-Danny-downpour but you wouldn’t know it arriving at the showgrounds at Glen Farm Sunday morning.  The sand ring was well groomed and the footing looked good.  The jumps were beautiful with lots of bushes and mums all around.  Since I was judging it’s hard to know how the schooling areas were but there seemed to be both outside and indoor schooling, which must have been a plus.  Ed Nowak signaled the beginning of each class with his horn, adding a desired degree of pomp and circumstance.

The show was well run with riders coming in the ring on time and no “empty ring” syndrome, thanks to paddock master, Doug Raucher.  The courses, designed by Tom Hern, were very nice and always appropriate for the class level.

Overall the riding was good throughout the day, especially the top riders in the adult and junior medal classes.  The weakest class was certainly the adult mini medal.  The mini adults actually started the day off well in the open classic class and then waiting around for their medal class probably took its toll on the riders.  Adults are usually best when they don’t have to wait around!

One trouble spot for many riders in all classes was a jump going towards the judge’s booth, which was on an admittedly ugly truck, semi-disguised by a few bushes.  A lot of horses spooked at this jump and while that was a shame it also is what showing is all about.  How you do at each horse show is about preparation but also about the luck of the day and dealing with the issues and obstacles that arise.

Another foible of the day was when the results of the adult medal final were announced wrong, with third and second place switched.  Thank God I noticed the error when the ribbons were being awarded and the mistake was quickly righted.  It’s never fun to have to take away a ribbon from someone but in this case I believe both riders knew where they were to end up given the test and no one was too upset.

At lunch riders and trainers were treated to a buffet of sandwiches and such.  What a nice touch this was!  There was also a silent auction for riders to browse.

The Classics were smartly pinned outside the ring to keep the show moving but the medal classes were given their due and pinned in the ring.  Each rider received beautiful ribbons and sashes and there seemed to be lots of trophies and trainer awards.

I was impressed by how many people lined the ring to watch all day and cheered the riders on.  There seemed to be a wonderful collegial atmosphere throughout the day, with everyone cheering each other on.

Carol and I had a great time together and found ourselves in agreement throughout the day.  The junior medal was probably the most fun to judge because the test, which included counter-cantering a jump, proved to be interesting.  The rider who was on top tried to hold the counter canter but couldn’t; she then executed a simple change. 

The rider behind her rode a flawless test, managing to hold the counter canter.  Carol and I chose to keep the riders the way they were since the first rider had a much stronger first round and because technically she didn’t do anything wrong in the test.  If she had made a mistake the other girl would have certainly moved up but sometimes you can hold your position if you put in a solid, although not stunning, test.  I certainly admire the girl who rode the more stylish test—someday that will win her the class.

All in all, I think everyone—riders, trainers, spectators, and staff—had a great day!  Kudos to everyone involved, especially anyone I’ve overlooked mentioning here!

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