What Are Equitation Judges Looking For?
New event hopes to provide riders, trainers and parents with more insight into what it takes to be successful in the equitation ring.
Watch the Video Preview of “American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge presented by Whitethorne”.
On June 20 & 21, the Blenheim June Classic III will host the inaugural “American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge presented by Whitethorne”.
This unique, three-phase class is open to all riders of all ages, both juniors and amateurs.
Highly renowned professionals Bernie Traurig and Stacia Madden will judge, but there’s more. Mentors will be available such as Karen Healey, who will serve as Technical Delegate, and Tonya Johnston, who will provide Mental Skills Coaching.
Georgy Maskrey-Segesman of Whitethorne, who is responsible for the creation of the class, sought to bring more educational opportunities to the West Coast equitation world.
“It is my gift to all the people that want to do equitation — whether it’s an adult-amateur who wants to learn more, or a junior that does plan to go east, or a parent who wants to know more about the discipline,” she said. “I’m looking for it to be something that’s enjoyable and educational and something that people can walk away from and say, ‘Wow, that was a great experience. I want to do it again.”
Phase One will consist of a Hunter Derby type track set at 3’3″ designed by Karen Healey and Mauricio Garcia. The two judges will produce one score. However, what makes this event unique is that each rider will receive a judges’ comment card that will provide input into why they received the equitation score that they did.
The second phase, held at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, will be an opportunity for the riders to interact with the judges and other mentors. The evening includes a video presentation, “Equitation – an American Tradition of Excellence” presented by Bernie Traurig. Tonya Johnston will present “Mental Preparation for Medal Finals.” Presentations will be followed by a Question & Answer session between the judges, trainers, and riders.
Riders with scores of 60 or higher will be invited to return to compete in Phase Three. Once again, riders will jump a Hunter Derby style course. Riders will carry forward, their scores from round one. Once again, riders will receive a score and judges’ comment cards. Then the top six riders will compete in a work-off with the winning trainer receiving $10,000 and the winning rider receiving a Butet saddle. Additional prizes will also be awarded.
Judges and Mentors
This event provides a rare opportunity to engage with some of the most well-respected equitation judges and coaches. Maskrey-Segesman explained why she put together the team that she did.
Karen Healey is responsible for contributing to the rules of equitation in conjunction with the USEF. She has dedicated much of her career contributing to the equitation division, both as a trainer and a judge.
Stacia Madden has produced many top riders in major national championships and medal finals. She is also a well-respected judge.
Notably, Bernie Traurig will be the guest judge at the ASPCA Maclay Medal Final in November at The National Horse Show.
Tonya Johnston is a highly-respected mental skills coach and a top show jumping competitor
herself. As such, she brings a unique perspective, knowing exactly what it feels like to walk into the ring and the preparation it requires.
Technical Delegate, Karen Healey explained her role as liaison between the competitors and judges.
She was optimistic that the program will provide riders with constructive feedback that they can take away to become more successful in the equitation ring.
“This is an opportunity for riders to learn why they were placed where they were. Both of these judges are extraordinarily accomplished horsemen with tremendous credibility. They’re both great teachers. They can analyze what they are seeing and provide insight rather than simply putting a ribbon on them.”
Healey went on to explain some of the things that the equitation judges will be looking for:
Find All The Jumps – ride everything smoothly and on stride
Correct Style – who is stiff? who is loose? (loose in a good way ie elastic and fluid). The horse is with the rider and it appears effortless
Style Includes The American Forward System – closed hip angle, lighter in the tack and with the motion of the horse
“When I’m judging, when I don’t pick up my pencil, that’s the winner.”