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Morgan standing in a foggy field

Yearly Update from the AMHA Judging Standards Committee

May 10, 2017


Spring is in full bloom around the country, temperatures are moderating, flowers are blooming, foals are being born and the 2017 show season and judging assignments have begun. 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. Always remember 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 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."

A. Cadence and Balance/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 the shoe. In all classes the gaits must be true and correct. Mixed gaits demonstrating improper cadence and balance must be penalized."

B. Criteria: Remember as you judge, the specifications for each class is listed in order of importance for that particular section of the Morgan division. Judging according to these specifications is of paramount importance. Pay particular attention to the order in which the criteria is listed and judge the class accordingly.

C. Social Media/Cell Phone: 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 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. 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 before, during, and after the show.

D. 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.

E. 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. The current rule governing the length of shank on Hunter curb and Pelham bits must be noted and judged. 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.

F. 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, or wry tail (wry tail is defined as twisted, carried askew or distorted)." Judges have an obligations 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.

G. Classic Pleasure: The Classic Pleasure horse must give the distinct appearance of being a pleasure to ride or drive, with the emphasis on the walk and smooth transitions. His gaits must be relaxed and true and he must demonstrate a willingness to perform all gaits without undue restraint.

H. Western Pleasure: The Western Pleasure section is a very popular and competitive section of our division. Judges must heavily penalize presentations that include long, loose, draped reins; heavy contact; snatching and jerking; pulling; or evidence of intimidation. Remember: nothing in the horse's mouth other than a legal bit is permitted in the Western Pleasure section.

I. Protective Headgear: Judges must remember that protective headgear is allowed, and may not be penalized in any Morgan class. Individuals wearing protective headgear must not be discriminated against in any class and ALL LEADLINE RIDERS MUST WEAR PROTECTIVE HEADGEAR.

Thank you for your time and dedication to the Morgan breed. Please feel free to contact any committee member with questions, comments or concerns.

Cindy Mugnier
Larry Bolen
AMHA Judging Standards Committee