Written by: Randy Roy

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: opening circle, flashy equitation horses, petting mounts

What do you like to see in the opening circle?

Pace! As a trainer, I have always said pace is your best friend. Just go forward, as it shows me your intent to get the job done. Pace also gives you many more options than going too slowly and missing spots.

In a handy hunter class there is an option of trotting a jump or jumping a big oxer. What would you prefer to see?

It’s totally up to you; just do whichever option you choose correctly! If your horse does not trot jumps well, then go for the oxer. If your horse does the trot jumps well, then save the big effort and do the trot jump.

Is it an advantage to have a really flashy, attractive horse to ride in the equitation division?

While an attractive horse is nice to look at, it only goes in your favour if you ride well. I am judging the rider and their abilities.

A horse or pony is jogged back into the ring and the rider stumbles and drops the reins, resulting in the animal getting loose in the ring. Are they eliminated?

No. Simply catch them and re-jog and everything is good to go.

How do you feel about riders over-petting their horses after a round?

Well, I know you are pleased, but a few pets are ample reward. Exuberant petting and hugging are over the top; save it – I get it!

(Ed. Research suggests that horses prefer wither scratches anyway – much more subtle and not so likely to annoy the judge.)

Does management ever ask you for comments about their show, or do you ever volunteer opinions?

I only volunteer comments that are positive. It is not up to you to bring up any negativity and if asked, be positive and guarded, as you are the judge and not part of the show management.

A horse comes into the ring and grabs some brush going by a jump and will not let go. How do you handle that?

Well, I can see that happening, so I would ask the jump crew to go and help extract the decoration and put it back in place. There is no penalty.

During a wind storm, all the decorations beside the jumps are laid down and the horses and ponies spook at them. Is that fair?

I believe that they need to just go ahead and jump the jumps – that is the best solution on a windy day. Also, it is much better to lay the decorations down than to have them blow down when you are on the way to the jump!

In an equitation class over fences, if a rider wants to do a certain turn after the jump, is it okay to angle the jump to facilitate the turn?

Not really, especially in the first round. The jump should be jumped in the centre, then land and turn. I can see it in a ride-off when they are going for a more efficient turn.