Judging Coloured Classes

We went to the Royal Welsh Show today and after walking through the trade stands we stopped by one of the rings with an ice cream. Being judged was an in-hand Coloured Horse Class so we sat down to watch.

It occurred to me, as we watched, that a coloured class is very difficult to judge. For instance, there were two miniature coloured Shetlands, a 17.2hh piebald sports horse, several gypsy cobs and all range of colours in the ring today.

If you were asked to judge a Hunter class you would just need to be on the ball about the type of horse a hunter is. Yes there will be a couple of breeds, but you look at quality of movement, conformation, temperament and rideability. You are looking for the horse you most want to take on a days hunt.

If you are judging a breed class, be it Welsh Pony or Highland, you are looking for the horse which is most correct to the breed specifications; i.e. conformation, size, way of going etc.

So going back to the coloured class today. What exactly is the judge looking for? The ideal conformation will vary on whether she’s looking at a part thoroughbred or a gypsy cob. This means the judge needs to know a lot about all different types of horses. The horses action and way of going will also depend on whether he’s been bred to draw a cart or be a sports horse. Likewise, the temperament will vary as a cart horse needs to be more sedate and sturdy than the alert competition horse.

Then of course is the colouring or markings of the horse. This is completely down to judges preference, which I find hard as some people prefer piebalds over skewbalds or palomino pintos, or Appaloosas over tobianos. Then some people like a horse to be predominately white and others like large patches of colour. Others like faces to be symmetrical or to have “normal” markings such as a blaze or star. How much should the markings on a horse affect their placing in a coloured class? In theory it should be the biggest factor because that is the name of the class.

I’m not sure how the judge chose today’s winners as I personally didn’t like some of the markings or types that were in the front row. I’m sure it leads to a very biased, grey area with lots of disputes over placings, particularly in qualifying classes. So should coloured classes start to split themselves into height or type? This would make the judges job easier as they wouldn’t be looking at such a motley crew, and then competitors would be on a more even keel because the judge is clued up and has a more specific criteria to judge the animals on.

All I know is that I wouldn’t have liked to judge today’s class as it was full of so much variety and influencing factors.