The class was judged by four separate judges, who gave very detailed reasons for their placings. Although long, the comments are well worth reading, as they provide a lot of insight into how nuances of presentation affect overall impression. Kudos to Susan for setting up this most wonderful teaching tool!
When I judge performance, presentation is not the first thing I assess. My primary emphasis is on the horse's actual performance--what he's doing and how well he's doing it. In my world, performance always trumps presentation. With this in mind, I decided to set up my own virtual Western Pleasure class where everything but the horse has been removed from the equation.
The first entry is Breyer's Huckleberry Bey.
|Breyer #1473 TS Black Tie Affair, Huckleberry Bey mold, photo by Breyer|
Although Arabians do show in Western Pleasure, Huck is not a Western Pleasure candidate. He's much too high headed, he's moving far too fast, and that knee action? That's not what the judges are looking for! Compare his frame to the two Arabian Western Pleasure horses below, and the problems should be obvious.
|photo by Heather Moreton|
|photo by Heather Moreton|
The next horse is the Breyer Strapless. At first glance, she seems almost as unlikely a Western Pleasure horse as the Huck. After all, she's a braided hunter doing a long hunter-y trot. I would argue, however, that in the right hands, she's a viable Western Pleasure candidate.
|Breyer Strapless mold, repainted by Danielle Feldman|
For starters, the braided mane is a non-issue. Western Pleasure horses can be shown with braids.
And that big trot? Many shows do require entrants to perform an extended jog. Granted, the typical extended jog is not as big or as fast as Strapless' trot, but the difference is not enough to eliminate her completely.
Here's where presentation can make or break an entry. Strapless is a fairly borderline Western Pleasure mount. With poor to average tack, a straight-out-of-the-box Breyer doll and no documentation, she's going to join Huck at the bottom of the class. For the purposes of today's class, I'm placing her third. However, she could easily move up a notch with an upgraded, well fitting tack set, a stylish and good riding doll and some expertly tailored documentation.
The third entry is Breyer's Giselle. This is a fairly generic type horse performing a pretty average trot. She doesn't scream Western Pleasure, but she's close enough that it's tempting to show her in typical show ring Western Pleasure set-up. I know because I've done just that. My entry looked nice, but the NAN cards went to horses which were better suited to that type of competition.
|Breyer #711111 Stage Mom, Giselle mold|
Were I to do again, I would show her in Ranch Horse Western Pleasure. This flavor of Western Pleasure is a much better fit for her raised head, tousled mane and more active gait.
Once again, this is where presentation takes precedence. Giselle has the ability to be a fine Western Pleasure mount, but she needs to be set up properly. I'm placing her second today, mostly because I think she's more innately suited for the class than the horses behind her.
The last entry is Breyer's Zippo Pine Bar. This model was specifically designed to represent a modern stock breed Western Pleasure horse, and it shows. Everything about Zippo says Western Pleasure.
Accordingly, there's no special secret to showing this model in a Western Pleasure class. Just add some tack and a doll and he's ready to go. Assuming those items are of at least average quality and there are no major errors, this horse easily tops today's naked Western Pleasure class.
In summary, this class had a clear winner, a close middle pair and an obvious loser. It's possible that differences in presentation (i.e. tack, doll) could affect the placings, particularly between the second and third place horses. However, nothing is going to make the fourth place horse a winner, and it would take a fairly large error (and extreme excellence on the part of one or both of the middle pair) to knock Zippo out of the top position.
Judging performance is a juggling act, with a multitude of factors affecting each decision. Hopefully this post, as well as the Zippo Project that inspired it, helps give some insight into some of the things that can make or break an entry.