Copyright WHR 2007

By Christy Howard Parsons

The National Horse Show Commission June meeting began with a presentation by Jill Derickson regarding a judges accountability program she proposed. Derickson recently wrote a letter to the editor in Walking Horse Report which generated a great deal of response regarding the need for industry oversight in the industry. Derickson asked WHR to run two different polls which later indicated that 95% of the industry would like to see this oversight and that a large majority of them thought a videotape system would be a good place to start.

Derickson made her presentation to the NHSC. “This has been and remains an industry concern. I realize that we have a lot of concerns at the moment including the USDA and this may not be the top topic at the moment,” said Derickson. “The public wants some kind of system to monitor our judges, to educate them in the required gaits, to make sure we are tying the right kind of horse. It can only give us more credibility with the USDA.”

Derickson indicated her willingness to help set up the program, joking that she worked cheap.

She proposed that to fund the program initially, the NHSC charge a $1 additional entry fee starting immediately. “I can’t go to a restaurant in Shelbyville without people stopping me thanking me for starting to try to get something in place. Just a few minutes ago, I had an excellent suggestion for monitoring the Celebration. Every exhibitor would be glad to give a dollar to give our judging some accountability. Reward the right kind of horse. You’ll have extra money by the end of the year to do a scholarship or something great.”

After Derickson left, George Greenup suggested the newly formed subcommittee on judging look into this program. David Pruett is investigating a judges oversight committee that he proposed at the May meeting and he intends to include Derickson in his plans for this committee.

George Ann Pratt was disturbed by the prospect of charging an extra dollar on the entry fee. “When you pay your money to enter a horse, it should be a given that it’s a fair and honest judge - you shouldn’t have to pay extra for it,” said Pratt. She clarified that she did think the program had merit and she knew that there had to be way to fund it, but that she didn’t like the wording of presenting it as an additional entry fee.

“I agree,” said Wink Groover. “We always have these suggestions and all anyone needs to do is add $1 or $5 to the entry fee.”

Scott MacGregor suggested that public donations be solicited for the program. “She said 95% of the public wanted it. Run a thing in the Report saying you suggest it as an opportunity. If they want to fund it, then you have your program. If they don’t, then you don’t have an issue.”

George Greenup said, “I think we need to come up with a way to fund it. We don’t have the money now.”

“How do we tell the general public that we really feel like we’d like to do other things that they want done, but we don’t have the money?” asked Groover. “The industry thinks we should do a lot of things that we don’t have the money to do.”

Kim Bennett reminded the NHSC directors of WHOA’s judging monitor program years back where other licensed judges sat in the stands and anonymously evaluated a judge’s performance. “It didn’t cost anything. You filled out a report. It’s something you could request of your judges to independently evaluate another judge.”

After an executive session to deal with a specific issue related to an appeal, Lonnie Messick gave his report. Messick indicated that as of June 25, 2007 the NHSC had inspected 19,652 entries and had 226 violations. Last year as of June 30, 2006, the NHSC had inspected 6600 more horses than that.

“Some shows this year have changed dates and set dates in the fall. That accounts for some of that number, but not all. Some shows have been smaller. Things are beginning to pick up and numbers are getting better,” reported Messick.

“The USDA has been to 12 of our shows this year including Germantown on June 16. We have a total of 194 shows that have affiliated even though some have not completed their paperwork,” said Messick.

Link Webb asked Lonnie Messick if there had been complaints about judging this year so far. Messick indicated there had not, although they were following up on multiple incidents of exhibitors verbally abusing judges. He did say they were following up on one judge from the Fun Show and would be closely monitoring additional shows he judges this year.

Messick said that he had received complaints that horses in the ring were not bad image, but still were a little too deep. He sent out a memo to all the judges complimenting them for the job they are doing getting the bad image horses out of the ring and asking them to consider page 32 of the rule book in judging performance horses.

The discussion followed about how deep was too deep.

“I am frustrated by saying a horse is pointing too much, or is too crampy,” said Link Webb.

Wink Groover responded. “The rule book says they can’t point. They can’t slap the ground.”

“Bit if I’m the judge and he’s walking free, but walking deep, am I supposed to send him out? Am I supposed to not tie him?” asked Webb.

Groover asked in response “Is he good, or is he deep?”

“Therein lies the problem,” responded Webb. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

“The good horse is not a problem” said Groover. “It’s us trying to make our other horses good enough to beat that horse that’s the problem. Everyone knows a scotching horse, a pointing horse. The rules say that is a horse points, it deviates from the gait. What is the difference in pointing and reaching. Is there a difference? If not, then we need to take that out of the rule,” continued Groover.

Scott MacGregor responded “When the pastern goes straight, that’s pointing.”

Wink Groover continued “That’s my opinion, but my opinion isn’t worth anything. We have to go by the rules. If the rules aren’t right, we need to change the rules. If there’s not a difference in striding and squatting, then let’s take squatting out. If you reach and stride, you’re doing what a horse is supposed to do. If you’re pointing and squatting, then you’re not doing what a horse is supposed to do. Not a walking horse,” explained Groover.

“I think we know the difference and I think the judges are to be commended for it,” responded David Landrum.

Wink Groover concluded, “It’s not about the good horse. Even Donna Benefield likes a good horse. The complaint is about the horse that we are trying to artificially make a good horse. He still doesn’t beat the good hrose even after we’ve artificially made him. He’ll still be second or third and he’d have been second or third without artificial help.”

The discussion then turned to the Celebration and the NHSC returned to Executive Session. After a lengthy session, the meeting resumed and Groover pointed out that WHOA would be meeting on Friday and the Trainers would be meeting on Tuesday next week to discuss the issues relating to the Celebration.

The NHSC then unanimously approved revising the appeal fee for an NHSC hearing from $500 plus expenses to a flat $600 fee.

In new business, Kim Bennett discussed a presentation at the HIO meeting regarding technology relative to thermography. Bennett felt the NHSC should stay abreast of the developing technology.