Written by:

Randy Roy is a senior international judge, course designer and author. He owns and operates Hunters Glen Show Stable in King, ON, with his daughter, Ryan Roy.

Thumbnail for Ask the Judge: tail carriage, whinnies, squeals, poop and more

How do you feel about the tail carriage of hunters? Do you prefer the look of a flat, quiet tail to that of a busy or high-set tail?

To me, a horse’s tail carriage should simply look natural and happy. Some horses will have a higher carriage naturally and some will be more flat. Some horses can be somewhat ‘expressive’ without being ‘offensive’; however, an angry tail (often accompanied by ears pinned back) will usually be reflected in the overall score. Basically, a tail that does not draw my attention during a performance is the best tail.

How do you feel about a hunter with the mane just braided down like training braids?

Don’t do it – either tie the braids up or leave the mane unbraided. It would be like you showing with your jacket undone.

I have noticed some riders with their spurs turned upside down. How do you feel about that?

Well, in an equitation class I do not like it. The spurs should be worn properly and go in the correct direction.

With all the scores involved in the derbies today – a 120 round score, a high option score, a handy score and then the grand total – it all adds up to a lot of bookkeeping to avoid ties. Does this take away from the actual judging?

There is usually someone there watching to add up the high options, and then that is added to the judge’s score for performance and handy. But it is a lot to keep track of all those scores; to avoid ties, it would be helpful to have a person to keep track of the three scores then give you the total and tell you if there is a tie. That would allow the judge to pay more attention to the performance instead of the bookkeeping.

In an under-saddle class, you have your winner and during the final canter, the horse ahead of it stops and bucks, causing your winner to stop in their tracks. Does this mean you lose your winner?

No way – I immediately call them down to a walk and still have my winner. The rider did the right thing to avoid possibly being kicked.

Which is worse: a whinny or a squeal at the start of a course?

A squeal is usually a sign of trouble brewing. A whinny is innocent. It would definitely depend on the performances – but a squeal would likely place below a whinny.

A horse or pony is cantering towards a jump, stops well before the jump, and poops. The rider then circles, goes to the jump, and finishes the course. How do you score this?

Sorry, but this is an automatic 40. Horses need to poop on the go!

On which gait do you put the most emphasis in the under-saddle classes?

All of the gaits count, but I would have to say the canter, as that is the gait from which horses jump. I know that they usually trot first and I do an order based on that, but that can all change at the canter, which would also be the tie-breaker.