Chat Transcript: Judy Richter

EquiStaff: Welcome to EquiSearch’s chat with special guest Judy Richter. Mrs. Richter, a former AHSA Horsewoman of the Year, runs Coker Farm, a successful training/teaching stable in Bedford, New York. The renowned horsewoman will be chatting live from the Washington International Horse Show, which will host the Maclay National Equitation Finals.

JudyR: Good evening! The Maclay Finals as nearly everybody knows will be held tomorrow at 5:30 at the Washington International Horse Show. There’s a lot of excitement, of course. I believe there were 100 riders who competed at the Capital Challenge. They jumped a course and worked on the flat.

JudyR: Fifteen were selected to come back tomorrow night. The judges are Chris Tauber, Frank Willard and Phil de Vita.

JudyR: The course designers are Mike Rheinheimer and Robert Ridland.

JudyR: We have quite a few from California–five from California, 3 from New York, 2 from New Jersey and 4 from Florida. There’s one from Illinois.

JudyR: I’m going to be a bystander tomorrow night, but I’m looking for a smooth performance and correct position.

JudyR: There can be a rideoff, I believe, if the judges feel there is a tie. That can be interesting–they can change horses and such. Of course, equitation judges the rider’s position and control of the horse. That’s what we will be looking for.

AJ: Mrs. Richter, I was wondering how equitation has changed over the past twenty years. I was paging through old pictures and noticed many riders (particularly the men in uniform – calvary?) seemed to sit a bit differently.

JudyR: Well, AJ, I think the basics are generally the same–heels down, eyes up, have your heel under your hip and your elbow in front of your hip, heels down.

JudyR: The demands are pretty much the same–classic equitation is classic equitation!

JudyR: I think the courses are a little different–they’ve gotten kind of rat-trappy, kind of connect the dots.

Amy: Mrs. Richter, it seems to me that when you get to the last fifty or so riders, it comes down to details.

JudyR: George Morris and Kip Rosenthal had a very interesting course at Harrisburg–mostly individual jumps, not so much connecting the dots, from the 5 to the 4 to the 3. . It was very well received. Of course all the old-timers loved it and the young riders appreciated it also.

JudyR: It was a breath of fresh air blowing through Harrisburg. Kip is the one who thought up the course and she and George refined it together.

JudyR: Amy, you’re right. It’s all about details. You’ve got to be very attentive to your turnout and your horse’s turnout–all of that. Presentation is very important.

AJ: Why are individual jumps important – how does that test differently than “connect the dots”?

JudyR: I think there is a danger that sometimes riders get a little too wooden, too worried about details and don’t show as much as feel as they should have. They may lose some naturalness.

Amy: You mentioned 1 riders at the Capital Challenge. I was just wondering if you believe that the method by which the riders are eliminated really produces the best at the end of the day, or do you think that sometimes luck is involved?

JudyR: Amy, luck is always involved! That’s why we always say “Good luck” to each other when we go in the ring. Your horse can shy or trip or spook at something.

Amy: It seems like it’s anybody’s game when you get down to a cetain level of riders.

Amy: On any given day, do you think the same top three riders in the finals would be the same in the nation?

JudyR: That can be your bad luck. Conversely, the judge may love the way you ride, and everything can go wonderfully. You can’t rule out luck.

EquiStaff: Welcome hbm. We are chatting with hunter equitation expert Judy Richter. Please feel free to ask her any questions you may have.

JudyR: AJ, individual jumps test the rider’s ability to organize his pace, rhythm and balance and the track. Those are the things that cause the jump to be good or bad. If you are not connecting the dots you have to rely on your ability to get on the right track and have the right pace.

JudyR: The single jumps are a test of the rider’s patience, too. If you have to gallop across the ring to it, you have to show you have a nice rhythm, pace and get the distance.

AJ: Does that give you more opportunity to choose your own track?

JudyR: Amy, re your question on top 3 riders–I’d say there’s probably 2 or 25. Whoever’s luck is the best. . . we have quite a good basis of good, capable riders in this country every year.

AJ: I don’t know if this is good, but I often tailor my turn to the distance that I see — do these medal courses allow that? is that bad?

JudyR: AJ, yes, the individual jumps do give you more opportunity to choose your own track. You can’t let them fall out on the turn, for example. It’s balance, pace, track.

JudyR: AJ, no that’s the whole idea–you tailor your turn to make it work. You shape the turn however you need to.

hbm: What are some of your favorite exercises to help prep riders for these big classes

JudyR: How do you all feel about the Maclay Finals being at 5:3 in the afternoon at Washington and not in Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon?

JudyR: HBM, I try to get them to ride alot in the weeks before the event if it is at all possible. Now it is so hard with kids in school and living so far from the barn.

AJ: For me, the finals are the finals — I’m in awe no matter where they are!

JudyR: I think it is helpful to ride a lot of different horses and practice a lot of different lines, angles and turns. They don’t necessarily have to jump high.

hbm: It is sad that we have lost the Garden venue but like AJ said the finals are awesome.

Amy: I’m not so sure … I’m a bit confused by the recent changes and unsure how things will play out in the future.

JudyR: AJ, that’s a good answer. You’re right–tomorrow is going to be very special. This place has got wonderful ambience. It’s going to look really important.

JudyR: Amy, nobody knows. I think all we can safely say is they will be somewhere somehow. They will happen!

JudyR: Some ideas tht are being tossed about are the value of the regionals, and the elimination weekend and then the final 15. First of all it is a horrendous expense for the riders’ parent.s

AJ: In regard to preparation, how much practice — how many rides each day and how many fences each week does it take to get to the finals (for most of these riders, not me — it would take zillions for me and even then…)

JudyR: The question has been raised would we be better off to bring everybody to the same venue and have a class like the Medal. Spend a day with the class.

EquiStaff: Welcome, mountndad. Please join us and present any questions or comments you may have.

JudyR: I think it’s interesting to have different kinds of finals. There is the Medal final where everybody competes head to head. There’s the USET final that is 4 different tests that is quite different from the Medal finals.

AJ: Yeah, the expense really excludes so many talented riders from participating.

JudyR: I don’t know–maybe having a qualifying round for the Maclay finals is not all bad. A lot of times after equitation you have to qualify for the big classes–it’s good experience. It’s a different technique, you’re just trying to get in, not necessarily win.

mountndad: Do you think it is possible for the rider with an average horse to make it to the finals? Must they have a $100,000 warmblood to get there?

JudyR: It’s kind of more nerve-wracking, but good experience.

JudyR: Mountndad, I think if you have a decent horse you can still make it. We will probably see more of that this year.

Amy: Do you ever forsee a medal finals for adults that is close to as big as these?

JudyR: They say that equitation entries are down about 2 percent this year. I don’t know if that is true or not. But I think with the stock market in the tank and the economy not in very good shape, there will be less $100,000 horses floating around.

JudyR: Kids are going to have to make do with what they have and that might not be all bad.

JudyR: After all, our working students, that’s what they do–they make do with whatever they have. I think that this year all top four riders in the USET Medal were working students–I’m not positive. Certainly in the top 1 there was a good sprinkling of working students.

JudyR: I still believe if there is a will there is a way. I don’t believe that you have to have a $100,000 warmblood to win. $100,000 warmbloods can really let you down!

hbm: There has been talk recently that some of the juniors are amazing riders but not necessarily horsepeople. I know many winning kids (and adults) that don’t know how to wrap or the signs of colic. Wwhat are your feeling on testing horsemanship as well?

JudyR: Amy, re medal finals for adults, I don’t think so. I think adults do it more for fun. The equitation division is a training division for young people–that’s how I look at it.

JudyR: HBM, I think it is not a bad idea. I think being a total horseman or horsewoman is what we are all after. I think if we have to make it happen by testing, then we have to make it hapen by testing.

mountndad: I would love it if they televised the medal finals or offered a video tape after the fact. We, in the west, often try to guess on what is acceptable or the trend in the east. Is there anything you think is different in judging medals in the west vs. the east?

JudyR: The reality is that a lot of kids live an hour from the barn, they only have time to get on the horse for an hour and ride and hop off and go home to do homework. But the good ones make an effort to find out about the horse and take care of him. That’s all part of it.

JudyR: if they don’t that’s a dimension that is sooner or later going to catch up with them in the ring.

EquiStaff: We had an email from a chatter who could not make it tonight: Jo would like to know how to fix “puppy dog” hands. Jo tends to open her fingers and turn her thumbs in, rather than up. How can she fix this and how big of an equitation fault is this?

JudyR: If they don’t know the groom put the wrong bridle on the horse it can be a huge difference. .

JudyR: West v. east: I don’t notice any difference. The country has gotten smaller with satellite dishes, the internet and videotapes. There are hundreds of videos. There is one coming out this year that Kip and George are doing. One that Cynthia Hankins did a few years ago is certainly current.

JudyR: It hasn’t changed much. A good rider is a good rider.

hbm: I guess I noticed it mostly in Florida that a lot of riders are missing that relationship that forms when you don’t care for or don’t know how to care for your horse. I think that is sad but really is there a way to fix that?

JudyR: Re Jo’s question, it’s a big fault and she just has to think about it. There is no cure, the teacher can’t cure it. She has to make a habit of making the correct angle with her hands.

mountndad: Thank you for your time. Must get back to work!

JudyR: She knows it’s wrong and she has got to just fix it.

Amy: It is the rider’s loss if she can’t recognize the importance of that relationship. It is only a problem for the individual until it becomes a prevalent trend – then I think it could threaten the nature of the sport.

EquiStaff: Thank you for joining us, mountndad.

JudyR: HBM, I think the kids who really care about their horses make an effort. The others go to the beach–that’s what they do in Florida! Or they go hang out with their friends.

JudyR: Even flying back and forth in Florida, even not being there during the week, they’re there day and night on the weekends. If they are interested, the horse is there.

EquiStaff: You can review the transcript to read what you’ve missed on the website tomorrow.

JudyR: Mountndad, thanks for coming!

hbm: What are some of your favorite gymnastic or exercise to really tighten a rider?

AJ: Mrs. Richter, how do you think U.S. riders stack up to European show jumping riders?

JudyR: HBM, ride without stirrups. When I had my business up and running, if I went away for a week to judge a horse show I would just lock the stirrups up in the tack trunk.

JudyR: AJ, I think we have wonderful riders–probably the best in the world. Sometimes we are underhorsed. WE don’t have the best horsepeople. They keep the best and sell the rest.

Amy: ouch- you’re tough!

EquiStaff: Welcome, smirnoff and Petie.

JudyR: I think there are so many good riders that we beat each other up in the trials before we get there. That’s a case whre the elimination is just brutal.

JudyR: It’s interesting that the seasoned riders are very much in favor of subjective selection but the young upstart riders are in favor of objective. As they become more seasoned they realize you can only get a horse ready so many times.

hbm: Thanks for you time – have to get to back to class but will remove those stirrups tomorrow.

Petie: I am not a junior rider, but still try to horse show when I can and want to have good equitation. But, I also foxhunt a bit. Do you think that some riding can actually hurt your riding, or is time in the saddle time in the saddle, even if that time tends to form bad habits?!

JudyR: I mistyped earlier–we DO have the best horse people–I meant we don’t have the best HORSES all the time!

JudyR: Good, HBM! You should all go back and do your homework!

Amy: What do you mean by “horsepeople” – breeders? Who does have the best horsepeople?

Amy: Oh- good! I understand now! How do you think we can change that? Through breeding?

JudyR: Petie, foxhunting riding is not going to form bad habits. It’s a good habit to ride forward. think about the balance and the track and the pace and everything. If you’re rattling over all those solid jumps it can only help your riding.

Petie: So then I shouldn’t be too concerned with my back getting a bit round …

JudyR: Amy, we have no breeding program over here to speak of.

smirnoff: Do you think that the U.S. would have better horses if we were more concerned with breeding sport horses, such as the Europeans do?

JudyR: Petie, well if you want to win the equitation you’d better get concerned about it.

JudyR: Smirnoff, sure, we would be. But we are generations behind them.

AJ: How much does body build play a part in equitation classes? Can an effective, but stocky-built rider beat the lanky, leggy competition?

smirnoff: But, it also doesn’t seem like there is much of a market for sport horse breeding over here

JudyR: The Dutch have an incredible breeding program, the Dutch, the Germans, the French, the Danish, the Swedish, the Irish. Everybody but us and England–England doesn’t have much of a breeding program either.

Amy: Where would you say the best horses come from? Where do you think the best is centered in Europe?

JudyR: AJ, that’s a hard question. The look certainly helps–you can’t deny it. But a good rider is a good rider. The stocky person should still do the equitation division as a training division if they want to be a good rider. It’s a stepping stone, not an end to itself.

smirnoff: I recently did some riding in Ireland, and rode a lot of Irish Sport horses, they’re different, but so cool

JudyR: There are quite a few breeders here, but the whole system is different over there. They have a whole lot of little training shows where they bring young horses along.Over here everybody wants to go to Florida–they don’t want to stay home and break young horses.

Amy: Do you think that the Irish sport horses are good for competition- show jumping?

JudyR: Amy, I think that is a hard question. Certainly the Dutch horses are wonderful. They were the first to get the American taste and that has really become more worldwide, a quality horse. Not a jughead but a quality, breedy horse. That’s become the taste even over in Europe now.

JudyR: Smirnoff, Irish Sport horses are wonderful horses.

JudyR: Amy, some Irish sport horses have been very good–the best in the world.

EquiStaff: Another email from earlier today: Kay asks: Do you see aspects of equitation that have become trendy but may not be particularly good? For example, I see a lot of riders overexaggerating their crest release, yet still pinning well. Has that become acceptable?

JudyR: Kay, I don’t think by traditional judges that is acceptable. It beats hanging the horse in the mouth certainly. At a certain level it is very acceptable–children’s equitation.

AJ: Do you have any suggestions for a rider who tends to “perch” and those who have loose lower legs – sometimes one leg more than the other. Could you suggest any exercises?

Petie: So, then, the automatic release is the one to use?

JudyR: AJ, ride without stirrups. You can’t perch without stirrups.

JudyR: Petie, for experienced riders, sure.

Petie: I am usually grabbing mane or the neck strap … I think I may need to improve before I get too ambitious and go automatic!

JudyR: Petie, the next step is crest release and then automatic.

Amy: When there’s a broken line in an eq course, is it better to ride it broken or straight/diagonal? is it optional?

JudyR: When you get old you go backwards, you go to crest release and then back to the mane!

JudyR: Amy, it depends on the line and how you fit the strides in. Sometimes it has to be a broken line to fit the strides in, sometimes the strides fit straight.

JudyR: That’s why you walk the course and try to figure it out.

Amy: So then there is no right or wrong way? Do judges prefer one over the other – if it works out both ways, which do you choose?

Amy: is there a general rule to follow or it is entirely subjective?

JudyR: Amy, whoever does it best smoothly. It also depends on the horse’s stride.

Amy: Can I choose based on my horse’s stride length?

JudyR: Yes, that’s the best way.

Amy: Is the harder option preferable?

Petie: I must run, but thank you for your time and expertise!

JudyR: If it is a direct 4 for the little horse, then a bigger horse would put a little bow in it to fit in the strides nicely.

Rachel: Hi! I know I’m late, but I have a quick question for Mrs. Richer

JudyR: Sure, Rachel.

EquiStaff: Welcome, Rachel. We have time for final questions

JudyR: Thanks, Petie, for coming.

Rachel: Do you feel that it is beneficial for riders to ride in Europe even if they don’t have a horse?

Rachel: I mean, if they aren’t going to be doing competing a top horse?

JudyR: Yeah, there is that Intercollegiate thing. I don’t know what the situation over there is leasing horses, but certainly the Intercollegiate thing is a wonderful and inexpensive way to get experience in Europe.

Rachel: Is it possible and valuable to gain that experience – a different approach and perspective perhaps?

Rachel: Where would you recommend?

JudyR: You have to make the most of whatever horse you have. That’s what makes a good horseman or horsewoman. People aren’t going to stand in line to hand you top horses–even if you are Norman Dello Joio or any of those top riders.

AJ: Speaking of Norman Dello Joio, do you still work with him?

JudyR: I really don’t know Europe well enough to recommend. Obviously you want to find a good place and not take a pig in a poke.

JudyR: Yes, AJ, I do.

Rachel: Riding the top horses is important in top competition, but in terms of training as a rider/horseperson, you don’t have to be on the top horse to develop the skills to ride them, do you?

JudyR: It’s time to go back to the horse show for me. Everybody tune in to the Maclay Finals tomorrow! Tomorrow is a big deal. Goodnight everybody and see you next time!

AJ: Thank you so much for your time, Judy!

Amy: Thank you all and good night!

Sara: Oops. Looks like I missed it.

EquiStaff: Thank you all for joining us tonight and special thanks to Judy Richter for sharing her expertise. Please check the equisearch website tomorrow for the transcript of tonight’s chat. Please check the site for the time of our next chat!

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