What was your first encounter with a horse?
How long have you been judging?
I started judging Open Shows between 15 and 20 years ago. I was unhappy with the breed bias that I saw frequently and decided to try to work to improve the chances for others; a Don Quixote complex maybe. That led to 4-H judging (a US Department of Agriculture program for Youth). In 1992 I felt that breed papers would add credibility and earned my card to judge Tennessee Walking Horses. I still work with the Wisconsin Horse Council Open Judges program to educate new and current judges on the variety that they will see in the ring to judge them fairly.
There is no bad breed. My final choice to own is Tennessee Walking Horses, but I no longer own a horse. Judging and doing clinics, I have seen many horses of all breeds that I would take home if I could. A good horse is a good horse no matter the breed color or anything else.
What basic qualities do you look for when judging a horse?
How important is grooming to the winning horse?
What disposition do you look for in a winner?
What is your favorite show ring anecdote?
Where is your favorite arena?
The arena that I LOVE is in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. It's a large domed ring where the seating is right up to the sides of the ring. The audience can get nice and close to the horses.
What do you think of the new discipline, Western Dressage?
I couldn't have been happier when I learned that Western Dressage was finally being recognized. A friend of mine, Claudia Shipshock, was right there asking when we could start offering clinics and I've been doing 1 to 2 clinics a month for about 2 years now. There's nothing new about western dressage. What IS new is that it is finally being recognized. As for competition, people have been using the dressage principals for years. But can you picture the tough cowboy walking into the saloon bellying up to the bar with his buddies and saying Yep I ride (spit into spitoon) dressage. Oh yeah macho. Now it's OK to take the time and effort to go out and learn about tough cowboys to build a better partnership with your horse. Only about 10% of those coming to my clinics want to compete. But they ALL want to improve their communication with their horse.
As a horse owner, what can I do to keep a happy horse?
What should I look for when buying a horse?
Do you have advice for novice riders?