Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Report on Road to the Horse 2009

Just got back from RTTH. Great new venue this year with plenty of room for vendors and the 6,000 folks who attended. Thanks to Tootie for the pro sound system and to Craig, Andrew, and Diana for running it so well. The VIP room was awesome, although I didn't get to spend much time there. I think most folks felt it was worth the extra money. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth.

It seems to me that the horses were a bit tougher overall this year. John and Tommy ran into significant resistance getting their horses to move out freely. They may have picked up some extra points for degree of difficulty and lost some for how physical they became along the way. Richard's horse appeared to be the easiest, but I suspect he just made it look that way.

The test was 35 minutes this year instead of 25, allowing time for extra training in the open arena before being judged on the required tasks. Tommy and John used the time to good effect and everyone was impressed with how far their horses had come by the end of the event. However, Richard's test also went extremely well, especially when he asked his horse to canter. They were flying around the arena like they'd been doing it for months. For his freestyle, Richard had his colt track a cow. When all was said and done, Richard was named the winner.

There will undoubtedly be people who disagree with the outcome. There always are. Sometimes this is pure partisanship and I can do nothing about that. But sometimes it comes from not understanding how the judging works.

1. There are four equal things judged: round pen session 1, round pen session 2, the rail portion of the test and the obstacle portion of the test. Each is worth 165 points. The freestyle at the end is worth 15 points.
2. The judges' scores are collected after each round. They cannot change a score later.
3. The high and low scores from the judges are discarded and the remaining scores are averaged to get a competitor's score for each category judged. No one judge can determine the outcome.
4. The competitor with the highest score at the end wins

Bottom line, it's not only the end result that matters, but how the trainer got there. The judges are experienced horsemen and they understand what they see, what degree of firmness is necessary, what kinds of choices the trainer makes. Every year the rules are tweaked just a little to make this as fair as possible and always to keep the welfare of the horse the highest priority.

I'll announce the plans for RTTH 2010 here when I know them.


mrt said...

so happy that Richard Winters won. no gimmicks, no tricks, just a man and the horse. really liked his manner.

Rick Lamb did a great job as MC, as always.

We also love your TV show because of the varied topics. Keep up the good work


peanut2339 said...

Love your T.V. show show. Can't get over how much younger everyone looks in person! Attended 2nd. RTTH, and loved it. I could not have judged that! But by no means does the outcome of a 3 hr. session portray the true ability of these great men. They were all amazing and Richards horse barely broke a sweat. Need lots more food vendors!!!

Barbara said...

I am looking forward to the DVD of RTTH. I have one from the second Clinton Anderson win and I think that the DVD offers an interesting look at the difference in methodology as well as the horses themselves. Keep it up!

Equicizer said...

It was awesome meeting you and Diana in person at the RTTH Rick! I was a complete fullfilling experience for Sandy and I in so many levels. 3 great horseman and they all brought something special to the event. We were hoping to get your latest book while we were there, but we all were so busy so we will just have to order by mail. No worries though. Great job as MC as expected. You certainly represent the industry with pure class and dignity. Bravo Rick!

Rick said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, everyone. The video gets better every year, too, so please keep your eyes open for that. I am so proud of this event. I wish everyone could see it from the inside as I do. There is just an overwhelming love for horses and commitment to doing right by them.

Molly said...

I thought Tommy Garland did an incredible job with his horse and THAT horse was a handful! I've been watching him continue to work with his horse online via his website and the transformation is awesome, fun to watch and very educational. He's an amazing horseman....

I thought Tommy was clearly the crowd favorite but what I think doesn't really matter. I do think the paying public needs more clarification on what the judges base their scores on.

Rick said...

Hi Molly,
I explained it at the event and I'll explain it again. What would you like to know?

Molly said...

Thanks for getting back to me Rick.

I was just questioning how points are awarded to competitors based on the degree of difficulty they encounter with their horses. I think true horsemanship means that you have the ability to adapt and try new things based on the responsiveness of your horse. For instance, I didn't personally feel that Mr. Winter's horse presented nearly the challenges Mr. Garland's did (no disrespect to Mr. Winters & his horse at all...it simply had a quieter disposition & attitude from my perspective) Mr. Garland had to work extremely hard to find what worked (and was very successful, again in my opinion) and I just wondered how the judges awarded points in that situation?

If it's easier, you could email the rules? I'm just really curious as to what the scoring was based on and I apologize because I did miss your explanation of the rules because I was late getting to my seat that day unfortunately.

I mean no disrespect to any of the competitors at all, they all worked hard but Mr. Garland really stood out to me and I will admit that I was shocked he didn't win. But that's just me..... and now I'm just curious about how that event is judged.

Thanks for your help in clarifying Rick!

Rick said...

I know that a lot of folks are interested in the details of how Road to the Horse is judged. Please see my earlier post for the overview. I can’t share any more than I already have. The rules of the event are copyrighted and proprietary. However, I will comment on the question raised about “degree of difficulty” of a particular horse. These are my thoughts and don’t necessarily reflect the feelings of Tootie Bland, the judges, or the participants.

One thing I know for certain is that a horse rises or falls to the level of the handler. In other words, his “degree of difficulty” doesn’t exist inside him; it is a reflection of how he feels about the human he’s interacting with. I’ve seen it over and over again. A horse that is disrespectful and out of control with his owner becomes a different animal when an experienced trainer takes over. It happens in minutes. Sometimes seconds. The relationship changes and the behavior of the animal changes.

I think this is also true at RTTH. The behavior of the colt is influenced the moment the trainer first enters the round pen. Ideally, the trainer finds ways of establishing his leadership without scaring the horse. He gives the horse the kind of support it needs to lower its defenses and develop some confidence to try new things. Most of all, the trainer avoids getting in a fight with the horse, because that can virtually shut down its willingness to make an effort.

To sum up, a really good horseman can make a tough horse look easy. How does that look any different from him simply choosing an “easier” horse? I don’t know.

As I recall (someone check me on this), Tommy got to pick his horse first this year. He chose a horse with which he thought he could win. So did Richard and John. The judges were faced with the task of deciding how to analyze the resistance they saw, how much of that was due to the horse being a tougher horse to start with and how much of that was from something the trainer did or didn’t do.

As I’ve said before, each of the trainers made remarkable progress with his horse, but for judging purposes, how well he chose and what happened along the way was just as important.