You know what the best thing ever is at horse shows? The blue/red classes.
If you haven’t heard of these (and they’re not a new phenomenon), here’s the scoop:
You ride your course and the judge decides if your round is good enough for a blue ribbon or a red ribbon. If it isn’t good enough for either, you get no ribbon.
What’s in it for you? A happy judge.
You see, if you don’t have a blue/red class, you typically have a low or schooling hunter class where the same 30 horses go twice and the judge has to compare them all against each other and decide how to place them.
This takes much more concentration and brain power—brain power that should be kept in reserve for the rated classes that also appear in your judge’s 10-hour-jam-packed-no-lunch-break-no-coffee-breaks-limited-bathroom-breaks work day.
The judge can evaluate each ride for what it is and not bother about how it stacks up against the others. It’s pretty easy to decide if one round is worthy of a blue or a red ribbon, and which ones aren’t worthy of either.
The hard part of judging is comparing the rounds and deciding which round is better. It’s the splitting of the hairs.
With blue/red classes, there’s no need to vividly recall the horse that went first in the order and then three hours later compare it to the horse that went 61st. (Or eight hours later in the case of a class that is held open all day.) Again, brain power saved.
Added bonus: this way many more horses can win. You also don’t have to wait around to find out how you did.
Sure, maybe it feels like the ribbon means a tiny bit less. You can’t brag that you were fifth out of 30 in the lows, most of whom were professional riders, at whatever A show.
But you got your horse in the ring, you got your practice ride, and you still have a judge that feels fresh and ready to split those hairs! It’s a win/win/win.
About the Author
Kim Ablon Whitney is a USEF ‘R’ judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers.