Lifelong hunter/jumper rider and competitor Kimberly Wall was sure she'd know the answer when she asked noted judges what body part they considered most important when evaluating an equitation rider's performance. "'Definitely the hands,' 'Indisputably the leg,' and 'Without question, the seat!'" were among the answers she received. The creator of AskTheHorseShowJudge.com, Kimberly now expects varied and passionately presented answers to questions like that.
Such interesting questions and answers are the stock in trade of AskTheHorseShowJudge.com. The online resource allows subscribers to eavesdrop, by video, on wide-ranging conversations with many of the country's top hunter/equitation judges. The site currently features in-depth interviews with 13 judges and Kimberly is constantly adding to that database, both by interviewing more judges and by adding responses to new questions from those already featured. Subscribers are invited to submit questions to this process.
Kimberly recalls that trying to figure out what a particular judge liked and disliked was a big part of her equestrian upbringing in the Midwest. "I used to keep notes on index cards about what a judge's preferences were," she recalls. "I could pull out a judge's name and see that, for example, he liked horses to gallop and jump on a forward pace." In the intervening years, Kimberly has ridden and competed extensively, including as a trainer for a while. While she worked full time as a graphic artist and website designer, the idea of applying the old index card idea to today's technology became the catalyst for AskTheHorseShowJudge.com. The site launched in March of this year and response has been terrific.
Knowing a judge's likes and dislikes before competing in front of him or her is an obvious advantage and is one of skTheHorseShowJudge's big selling points. It's the site's educational potential, however, that really gets Kimberly going. "It can be educational to a wide audience," she says. From green riders and riders of green horses to seasoned competitors looking to deepen their horsemanship knowledge, the judges' responses offer a wealth of information. Additionally, each question is accompanied by an explanation of its context. One inquiry asks judges how they weigh an added stride in a measured distance and it includes an explanation of what that means. "It's an especially great resource for parents that are new to showing," Kimberly comments.
Willing To Share
Judges have been very receptive. "The judges are so willing to give their time and they want to share their expertise," Kimberly notes. "They are all horsemen and horsewomen who have ridden, trained, bought and sold horses, given clinics, etc. They want to help exhibitors ride well." In part, Kimberly adds, because it's more challenging and rewarding to judge good rounds than mediocre rounds, or a group that has both extremes.
Kimberly thinks judges also like the opportunity to be "humanized." In most USEF-rated competitions, exhibitors are not allowed to speak to the judges without getting the permission of the show steward. Even without that hoop to jump through, it can be intimidating to ask for the time and attention of industry luminaries like those featured on the site. "This is a great venue for the judges to be helpful," Kimberly notes. The judges' passion often makes for entertaining content. "Their opinions are strong and the audience finds that refreshing," she adds.
Leo Conroy, Walter "Jimmy" Lee, Otis Brown, Jr., Frank Willard, Brian Lenehan, Bucky Reynolds and Danny Robertshaw are among the site's featured officials and more of their ilk are on the way. "Many are legends in the industry. Their horses have done a lot of winning, they know how to get a horse and
rider to succeed in the show ring and they are exceptional communicators."
As the AskTheHorseShowJudge builds followers, Kimberly has big plans for the future. In addition to A show competitors, she wants to reach out to Pony Club and collegiate equestrians. Down the line, she hopes to organize judging clinics with some of the site's featured experts. In the meantime, AskTheHorseShowJudge.com is already a great resource for all.
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