Ranch Horse Pleasure Judging Clinic

Exhibitors and student judges learn more about ranch horse pleasure at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Senior Director of Judges Alex Ross leads a clinic on judging ranch pleasure at the 2014 All American Quarter Horse Congress. (Larri Jo Starkey photo) For more photos from the event, scroll through the slideshow below.

Student judges got a chance to learn about ranch pleasure from two experts at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.

On October 14, AQHA Senior Director of Judges Alex Ross and AQHA Professional Horseman Mozaun McKibben talked through the class and how to judge it with hundreds of students, coaches and parents in the audience.

Alex and the two-time world champion covered attire, tack, gaits, penalties and a few training tips during the free clinic.

“If there’s no difference between the trot and the extended trot, then one of the gaits was wrong,” Alex said as he rode Show Biz Sug, the 2013 open ranch horse pleasure world champion. “A credit-earning walk is like a horse stepping out to get to the barn for supper.

Mozaun points out he has separate cues for each gait and for the extended version of that gait.

“You don’t have to have a trainer or a fancy horse for ranch horse pleasure, but separate cues are essential,” he said, demonstrating the ride on Lil Ruf Catalyst, his 2012 open ranch pleasure world champion.

Don’t guess on penalties, Alex advised the student judges the day before the Congress competition, then listed listing off the different penalties and explained them.

“The class is so new that there will be unique situations for judges to assess,” he said. “Dale Wilkinson told me that a good judge must be able to recognize excellence and reward it and he added that excellence is intricate body maneuvers with a relaxed attitude.”

There’s not a rule on which hand holds the reins in ranch pleasure, Alex said, but Mozaun explained his preference.

“The right hand should be free for roping,” Mozaun said. “Hold the reins in the left hand. The reins shouldn’t be held so tight that the curb strap is engaged. Keep the reins short enough so that 6 inches is the difference between go and whoa.”

Simple and flying lead changes are equally acceptable, Alex said, pointing out that Mozaun won the world in 2013 with a simple lead change on Show Biz Sug.

“Reading ‘Best Remudas’ by Jim Jennings is a good way to learn what ranch horses should look like,” Alex said. “The ranch horse pleasure standards are still being set, so judges should reward the right things.”

Ranches across the United States have strong traditions separated by regions, Alex said, so romals and split reins are equally acceptable, because they’re both used on ranches. Some silver is acceptable on tack, but excessive silver is still penalized, as is banding or braiding of manes or blacking of horses’ hooves.

The 2015 rulebook will suggest that a back cinch and a breast collar be used, but they won’t be mandatory, Alex said.

“A breast collar is an important piece of safety equipment,” Mozaun said. “Cowboys need a snug back cinch to keep the saddle in place if the horse stumbles. On country that’s too big for pickups, work is done on horses. Those horses really need to move out.”

A ranch horse is one that we enjoy riding through the gaits, Alex said, and that’s important for prospective judges and exhibitors to remember.