Rock the Interview
Understanding the priorities of performance halter—and presenting your Paint to best highlight those attributes—is the key to success in the pen and satisfaction with your placings.
By APHA Judge Kelly Boles Chapman
From the January/February 2020 Paint Horse Journal
I was standing on the rail at a recent show, watching the Youth Performance Halter Gelding class of nearly 20 entries. As the placings were announced, the parent of one of the Youth exhibitors approached me.
“My daughter’s gelding was just sixth under one judge and didn’t place under the other; last weekend he was second and third,” he exclaimed. “How does that happen?”
A couple of reasons came to my mind.
“Well sir,” I began, “remember first that judging is a relative exercise—meaning that from class to class and show to show, all of the factors don’t stay exactly the same. Every show has different horses and different exhibitors at different points of their lives, even if they’re only a few days apart. At the last show, your horse might have been having one of his best days while being judged against others who weren’t. A horse’s appearance can change day by day; how they eat and drink can affect this, as well as how the exhibitor sets him up for presentation. There are so many factors that go into how a comparison is made when judges rank a halter class.”
“Uh huh,” he replied. I could tell he was thinking about what I said, but maybe hadn’t digested it all yet.
“And presentation is a big factor,” I continued. “See how your daughter is standing next to her gelding? His feet aren’t placed in a way that’s complimentary to his structure—he’s pretty stretched out, which makes his back drop and appear much longer than it actually is.”
Then, I pointed out the gelding’s low head and snoozing, drooping eyes. Halter, I explained, is kind of like interviewing for a job: posture matters. An interviewee who is slouched in his chair and seems disinterested is considerably less appealing than an applicant who enters the room with enthusiasm, sits upright and alert, appears interested in questions and engages in conversation. If the resumes are equal, there’s no question about who will likely get the job.
Incidentally, in the APHA Rule Book (exhibitors’ most underutilized educational resource), the criteria by which performance halter horses are judged is exactly the same as other halter classes: “[the horse that is] first and foremost balanced, as well as structurally correct, attractive, high quality, and well-muscled.”
The rulebook goes on to explain that “this horse should be symmetrical from head to tail, with eye appeal that is a result of the blending of an attractive head; refined throat latch; well-proportioned, trim neck; long, sloping shoulder; deep heart girth; short, strong back; long hip and croup. These characteristics should be coupled with straight, structurally correct legs and feet … the ideal horse should appear athletic and be uniformly well-muscled throughout.”
It’s the eligibility for the class that is different: to be eligible for performance halter, a horse must complete one performance class, other than showmanship, at the same show.
When a horse enters a performance halter class—or any halter class for that matter—balance and structural correctness are priorities before degree and amount of muscling.
How the exhibitor presents the horse—setting him up and showing him in a way that best highlights these key attributes—can be a major factor in how the judge places the class. The results or placings are also affected by the degree to which other horses in that class possess and present these prioritized characteristics.
Show and present your horse to best display the priorities for the class. Enjoy yourself, and be the candidate that gets the job!
Learn more about how classes are judged with APHA’s interactive learning portal, HorseIQ.