Monday, July 20, 2009

How to lose a class at NAN

Today's post comes from my friend and well known judge/hobbyist Teresa Buzzell. Teresa was one of the performance judges at this year's NAN and the experience inspired her to write the following article. She originally posted this in her Blab Blog, so some of you have probably already seen it. Still, there is a lot of really good information here and it's well worth the re-post!

The pictures are courtesy of Melissa Sage and they are not here to illustrate any of Teresa's points. I simply chose pictures of my friend's models or set-ups that I thought looked particularly interesting. So, don't be offended if you see your horse in a "how to lose" posting, OK?

The last photo shows Melissa's Stone Arabian, Darkh Knight, winning the huge OF Arabian Costume class with a costume made by Melissa herself. The costume is beautiful, well fitted and well documented--that's how you win a class at NAN!

That's it for me--the rest of the posting is all Teresa!

Now, these comments are based on what I saw at NAN this year and they are mainly geared towards performance showers. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't a few things that halter showers can take with them....

So, without ado...

How to lose a class at NAN!

Documentation: lack of, wrong, or none at all

I saw breed halter documentation in a performance class, documentation that was a history lesson more than giving me information about the entry itself and documentation that told me the entry was wrong. I think a lot of people find documentation to be hard. It's really not - you need to tell the judge *why* your horse fits the breed or is doing the class correctly. If the information does not match the horse or the class, you need to redo the documentation. Research for documentation purposes teaches YOU how to put your entry together, it's not just for "dumb judges".
Reins, hands and dolls

I saw a lot of badly placed reins in doll hands. Split reins aren't held like romal reins are. The hand itself has a place to be with each. Double bridle reins have their own placement too - and it's not both sets coming up under the pinkie. I was shocked that so many people did not have snaffles or bosals on their western horse - it's the easy way for a rider!
And more dolls

If you can't get your doll to sit well, LEAVE IT OFF. I saw SO many badly riding dolls, it wasn't funny. If they didn't have the rein problem, their butt was not in the saddle. Or they were crooked on the horse or the legs were waaaay off the sides of the horse.
Curb bits

Curbs needs straps - leather or chain but to function on a real horse, they NEEEEEED a strap. Did your tack maker forget a strap? TELL THEM and do NOT ever buy anything else from them that resembles a bridle. And, you don't find them in EVERY Western event. Speed event horses? Don't tend to have curbs. When there's time, CHANGE your bridles out! It's that little detail that can win BIG.
Breast collars/plates - English, Western, Arab Costumes

Wow... I saw more incorrectly adjusted breast collar/plates than anything else - a handful, if not more, in EVERY class. Which is silly - in your western stock horses you don't SEE breast collars IRL. As with everything, if it doesn't fit, DO NOT put it on! Now, in the Arab costumes, it's a necessary piece - but still, the majority of horses in the classes are standing and there's no extra excuse for a shower to not make sure it's not loose and sloppy.
Wraps, boots and other protective devices

Wraps and boots aren't just placed on a horse with no care. The straps are wrapped around from front to back as to not help the horse bow a tendon. And, if there is fetlock protection, it should cover and cup the fetlock. Plus, make sure that the boot is tall enough to protect the cannon correctly. And, of course, make sure they are appropriate to the event. Did you know that you will find open front boots in eventing but most judges do not know or do not agree? So...put something else on your horse!

Oh, and bell boots? The velcro goes to the front of the hoof and the straps go from front to back. That way, the hind feet can't strip them off.
One event wonders stretching their talents

I'm all about the one or two event wonders going in many things. Some people are incredibly talented at this, some are not. If you want to do this, be smart. Make sure your horse is placed correctly - if he's in a cutting pose, make sure he's not going to knock the barrel down in barrels. Don't push your entry further than necessary. Not every horse can do every thing so pick your classes wisely.

Entry numbers are for identification. If you are in a rail class, your number needs to be displayed for the judge at all times. Now, if it's on the back of your doll, it can be seen by the judge - they just have to change where they are. If it's on the blanket... you need TWO numbers. There is no way the judge can see the number that's on the rail side! And since you can buy them in sets of two - there's no excuse.

Oh, and the oval numbers you see on working English horses? They are NOT SMALLER than a real horse's eyeball. Think more the size of the horse's nostril. In dressage/jumper/eventing, you are usually only issued one. There's not a problem of knowing who you are - you have an order of go, score sheets or are the only one in the arena at the same time!
Patterns, tests and movements

If your class requires a pattern, test or movement, (Dressage tests have MOVEMENTS, not patterns - sorry, pet peeve!) place your entry correctly. If you have a lead you need to be on, make sure your model is ON that lead. If you're to be going right, make sure you ARE going right. Plus, place your horse where it does that part the best. If you're picking up the passage at V, going to F and then to D, you may want to place your straight horse between V and F, not at F, completely missing the turn there for D.

(Yep, know your arena diagram too.)
Tassels, chains and other things

I love Arab costume. I've never shown it in real life but I've watched a lot and shown a LOT of model costumes horses. But entries here can make me mad almost as easy as bad dressage entries. If you have a halter under your bridle, a halter chain is in order. But, that chain does not need to be so long as to whack the horse in the eyeball if it flipped up over his nose. And if it's the type to tighten up, it needs to not be hanging down, looser than snot.

Don't have a doll? Don't worry, there's not a lot of sheiks out there. But, that does not mean that your reins have to drape oddly or aren't gathered up on moving horses. PLUS...I have seen a lot of costumes - while split reins are allowable in the show ring, on a native style costume, not so much. A dropped rein while running across the desert, chasing rival tribes is not a good thing. And, DO NOT just cross split reins as if there was a snaffle under that tassel and have them lay over the saddle!

And FIX THOSE BREAST PLATES! Pull them up so they lay correctly and make sure all the tassels are swinging freely. Oh please, show me something new

Man, oh, man... I am so retiring my egg n' spoon games entry. On a table full of non speed games, I saw more broken eggs than I care to recall. So, be different and FIND SOMETHING ELSE! There are many, many ideas out there that do not require your doll to balance a spoon or you to keep broken eggs around.And I will scream if I see another poles entry in trail class. You know, a bridge or a gate or even a MAILBOX would be a nice change of pace! Heck, all ya need for a gate is a piece of string and two jump standards! Have a few options available, watch what your fellow entries are doing and BE DIFFERENT. And before anyone asks me, my current trail horse sets ups do NOT involve anyone going over poles AT ALL, English OR Western. (Two do involve poles but aren't the obstacle themselves.)Rules? What rules?

Every show has their rules. NAN has rules regarding setups and props and what not. They aren't there to be ignored and if you do, there's a good chance you WILL be DQ'd or pinned lower for not following them.Research, research AND MORE RESEARCH

Ya know, I saw something I hoped to never see at NAN... incorrectly created tack. I mean, crooked pieces and things not going where they needed to be and it wasn't just ME who saw these things. And you and I both know that the entrant spent good money on these things. Before you spend money, be it on tack or a model, KNOW what you need to know to make a knowledgeable decision regarding purchases. You'll be much, MUCH happier.

And do research your class. Know what is good and bad to see in your class. Showmanship is all about the DOLL showing the horse. So, the doll really should be neat and presentable and the horse should be close to square (if not square) with a well fitting halter. And if you are setting up your horse for inspection, the doll is just not standing there, holding the lead in a messy manner. I know there are showmanship videos up on the web - WATCH THEM before you set up your entry.

The judge wants to place everyone - don't give them a reason to NOT place you.It's Jennifer again, just chiming in to thank both Teresa and Melissa for their contributions to today's posting!


  1. A FWIW on bellboots--my experience on real horse is that these boots will rotate (with some exceptions---the petal version of the boot doesn't) But pull on and velcros bells can spin around the fetlock.

    When I put a bell on a model I do rotate the fastener to the front, but I don't ding one that isn't when I judge. But I do this because there is this misconception out there. Not because having the fastener one way or anothe is right.

    Go check out google images--there are also overreach boots tat are similar to bells, but they are longer in the back--this would keep them from rotating. I've heard this before with models and NEVER in real horses--and certainly other sorts of boots it is stressed that they can go on wrong and be a problem. I think this bell boot thing is a model horse myth (like the standing martingale on the jumper, or the white coated vet!!)

  2. The second to last photo (the cutting entry) is actually mine! I'm glad you thought it was good enough to post. :)

  3. Very nice post. I had never been told to fasten the bell boots in front. I did know they would rotate though, have heard real horse riders comment on that.

    2 things. 1st... Flags are always carried in the rider's right hand. The winning entry in parade at NAN (CM) had the flag in the left hand. Flag code.

    2nd...Endurance is not an English event.

    These are 2 things that are easy to research.

  4. The bell boot thing is new to me. Most of my real life experience with bell boots is with pull on rubber bell boots--no velcro = no worries. When I was working as a buyer at the Western tack shop, we did carry "No-Turn" bell boots which are not round in shape. The back fits around the horse's heel bulbs and the velcro goes across the front. These boots do not spin, so I suspect that's where the "Velcro to the front" rule comes from. Certainly it doesn't apply to round, rubber bell boots that attach with velcro. Either way, it's one of those nit picky details that probably isn't (or shouldn't be) the main reason why a horse doesn't place in any given class.

    Vicky, I know the endurance horse didn't really belong in the Other English class. However, it's my understanding that the registrar is the one who decides which horses go in which class. The shower and judges worked with what they had, and apparently that can result in some funky results. This was one of them, but since it's one of my saddles I'm happy to claim it :)

  5. Bell boots are supposed to rotate but for some reason, people have decided that they need to not rotate. Why, I'm not sure - the boot rotates when hit to deflect the blow from the hoof that's being hit. (Something I read in a Bruce Davidson magazine I used to get.)

    I've seen many a horse get rid of a bell boot when we'd rather have them left on for protection.

  6. Actually the entrant decides which division to put their entry in at NAN. The registrar just groups like with like within the division. The endurance set up should not have been even entered into the English division. It should have been entered in the other performance division. Only one judge did the proper thing and DQed it.

    Stunning entries, both of them and I don't blame you for claiming the win! I would have too!