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Beware! Schooling Show!
by Linda Fairbanks
Reprinted with Permission from Driving West Magazine

Beginner's Pages

Driving West Magazine
Volume 13 Issue 6
Dec98/Jan99

I recently had the opportunity to judge a schooling show that was not a driving show. This gives me the opportunity to speak out about an important issue without hurting the feelings of any driving show organizer. The problem is this: I was told to judge the classes under American Horse Show Association (AHSA) rules, but the vast majority of the classes (English Pleasure, Western Pleasure, Driving, Reining and Equitation) were not recognized classes. They were, in fact, inventions the show organizers use regularly and the local people accept and understand.

The problem is two-fold:

1. Every month a different judge arrives and will interpret the class name differently. There are no class descriptions so there can be no uniformity in how the judges understand the classes. The two driving classes this show offered, for instance, were 'Pleasure Driving' and 'Obedience Driving'. Having shown under these conditions myself, I find it a mystery what the judge wants to see when the announcer calls for a 'Normal Trot'. Some of these judges have the exhibitors spend most of the class at the walk, with only one trot requested. I believe drivers want to exhibit where they can practice the things that will be asked for in an American Driving Society (ADS) approved, or ADS style, show.

2. Many exceptions are allowed in the area of "acceptable" equipment. There are, also, exceptions to participants in class divisions. Many people were using equipment that would be illegal in a "real" show. Some participants entered horses in classes they would not be allowed to enter anywhere else. This is undesirable because the inexperienced competitors, who use this 'schooling' opportunity, are not learning the rules. It would be very easy for one of them to later go to a more "correctly" run show and get eliminated for something they don't understand. Then, it will be the 'correct' show that is the bad guy for being so stuck on rules.

The rules are there to provide fairness for every competitor and for the horses, as well. Organizers who are providing a 'schooling' show to carriage drivers have, I believe, an obligation to school their competitors in the rules of the game. Our schooling shows are designed primarily to benefit newer drivers or drivers with newer horses. Our newer drivers naturally expect that they are being trained properly when they pay their money to enter these shows. If there must be exceptions to the rules, for whatever reason, they should be listed in the prize list as exceptions.

If you are a beginner in the show ring, I urge you to, first of all, join the American Driving Society and get your own rulebook. When you enter a schooling show, take the time to ask the organizer, or even the judge, how the conditions or rules in use may differ from ADS rules. Most people need to read the rule book several times, then see how the rules really work in the ring, or in a Combined Driving Event. You deserve to see a show done correctly so it will make sense to you when you compare your experience to the rulebook.

There, now, I feel better. Having said all that, I will continue to show my horses at whatever show I can find, no matter how it is run. I will not protest or complain at a show, but I will take this opportunity to express how I feel. We need all the shows we can get. Organizers and volunteers are to be cherished and praised. It's just that putting on a show using the rules provided by ADS is so much easier than re-inventing the wheel.



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