Sunday, July 31, 2011

Live Show Documentation, Part Three

Live Show Documentation, Part Three

By Teresa Buzzell


Performance is an obvious place for the use of documentation. There are so many different things, with different rules, nuances and what not. What’s acceptable at one breed show may be illegal for another breed and what you can do in a junior horse class may not be allowed in a senior horse class. Again, it’s an area where judges can not be expected to know everything about every sort of horse performance. Plus, showers just love finding new things to do!

There are only two classes I do not regularly have documentation for – hunter pleasure and western pleasure. Everything else has some sort of documentation – and the majority of them have some sort of pattern/test that’s required as part of the demands of the class. Pleasure classes are so basic, with no patterns or special requirements that personally, I don’t bother with on a usual basis. (However, if you are showing a uncommon breed or using a snaffle/bosal, I do recommend documenting that.)

When I’m in need of new documentation for a performance set up, I look up the rules for the class. Many registries have their rule books on line and when I see one, I download it and save it for future use. I do try to update my stash of rule books every year. You never know when that obstacle or all important line about judging criteria is changed! Looking over the information, I make notes of what’s allowed and not allowed tack wise, what the class is judged on and anything that explains the class and requirements. This helps me in my set up – I know whether or not boots are allowed, if a particular obstacle is legal and other helpful hints.

With performance, there is generally a much stronger need to have photos and patterns and you can go overboard quickly. Photos can be tricky to find but again, here’s where a Google Image search can come in super handy. Don’t get hung up on finding the exact photo or having a ton of photos. Do pick a photo that resembles your horse’s way of going, same breed (if breed show event) and what you are trying to portray in a clear manner. Feel free to use multiple photos if they are necessary but make sure that they do not contradict the rest of your documentation or your entry.
Do not sabotage your entry by showing a contradiction between the entry and the documentation or using documentation that does not match your horse. I once judged a parade class with a lovely Knightly Cadence. The documentation stated that the gaits performed were a walk and a trot – yet KC is cantering. Had he been real, breaking into a canter would have been a fault as it’s against the class requirements and not safe if in a street parade. I also once judged a lovely Cleveland Bay going over a fence that could not have been more than 2 ft high – when his documentation said the class height requirements was 4 ft.

If there is one thing that people don’t seem to add into their documentation is the pattern or test that the horse is performing. It used to be a lot harder to find that event course or horsemanship pattern but that’s no longer true. Again, this is when I go to a Google Image search. A regular search will find some but I just find the image search faster. Make sure to go through several pages worth of results until you find a good sampling of what you want. I say sampling as you never know when you’ll swap out horses, find a great new obstacle or just simply get tired of poles and want to do something different. You don’t need to use the whole thing but it’s a very good idea to include the area the horse is performing.

My pet peeves as a judge regarding documentation:

1.       Don’t write a book that tells me nothing. This happened in a costume class at NAN. It was a gorgeous historical costume but the documentation told me nothing about the pieces, who would have dressed their horse up this way, etc. Those details enrich the documentation.
2.       Don’t write a book that could be condensed into a few sentences. Information overload is not your friend and I just may find something in it that tells me your entry is incorrect!
3.       If the horse has a prescribed pattern or test, SHOW at least the part the entry is performing. Saying that the horse is doing “second level dressage” tells me nothing. Every movement in a dressage test is judged and almost everything you do in the test is judged and scored individually. You don’t get to make up your reining pattern or dressage test unless it’s a freestyle, and even then, there are rules about what you can and can’t do. It also shows the (obstacle) placement, what the horse is doing before (which might influence how they would get to or do this part) and, if you’re like me and occasionally directionally challenged, show that you have the horse on the wrong lead.

NAMSHA requires from it’s showers at NAN this: “Your explanation card should not “judge the class”. Please define what the horse is required to do, not how well the horse is performing.”

Keep this in mind when creating your documentation as that’s exactly what the judge needs from you to do their job well.

Now, when it comes to the text of the documentation, I go to the rulebooks as often as possible. Yes, you can try to get around things by saying it’s a schooling show or whatever else that fits but generally, you are showing an event that has rules, guidelines, tack requirements, etc. It used to be that I would get a rule book from then AHSA at the time but now, almost every association has their rule book online. When I find them, I save them to my computer for later use.

You may find an event that you have a photo for but just a bare description of. Or perhaps you have pieced together a description but have no photos or rules for it. Certainly, don’t toss it – just keep it, show it and do a search periodically to see if you can learn more about it, find photos, etc. While a rulebook will lend some legitimacy to it, judges are open to many things.

Here’s what I like to make sure to include in my performance documentation:
·         Class title
·         Class description, including class requirements (gaits, jumping efforts, etc), judging criteria, tack/clothing requirements (if notable),  and other items, such as the color scheme for cross country jump numbers, etc.
·         Citation of the source document.
·         Photo/test/pattern of what is being exhibited.

I hope this of some help to those who are trying to figure out the whole documentation question. Do realize that what works for me may not work for you and certainly, you may come up with something better. I really do believe that improving your documentation can give you a great boost in your showing success. So happy Googling!


  1. In reading the blog (in date order) I'm coming across many great articles, like this three part series on Live Show Documentation. I can't wait until I finally get into showing to put this information into practice. Thank you for the excellent information Teresa!