When does the task before a judge of a performance class conclude? Spectators have often asked this question, as have exhibitors on occasion.
While their eyes will be on the gate, as a performance class enters a show ring, most judges give each turnout a few feet to settle into their drive before their performance is taken into account. However, once those first few feet are travelled, most judges will mentally start to score the turnouts the teamsters have in hand for errors seen. Errors can take many forms. These include the failure of a lead team to go into the show ring's corners, failure of a turnout to drive tight on the rail or failure of horses in a turnout to settle, albeit at a walk or a snappy trot, when called upon to do so. A turnout with a lame horse, a balking horse or a horse that is pulling ahead of his teammates, are errors judges note, as they will a horse being crowded by his teammate or pulling sideways, away from his teammate. Windy horses and horses that blow up, fail to impress. Judges of a turnout, be it a cart horse, a team of horses or a unicorn, four or six-horse hitch, look for horses whose heads are well set in a comfortable manner, horses up and on the bit, that are taking the line, and horses that are matched for style, stride and colour. Horses in a turnout, whatever the turnout's configuration or size, are expected to give a smooth, yet brilliant performance, where all horses are tramping in position and appear to be enjoying their drive. They should be working as one, for this is what teamwork is all about.
When a hitch crosses the show ring on the diagonal, judges will fault those back turnouts whose horses have a problem getting into line. Most judges will reward such a smooth reverse. Likewise, when turnouts are pulled into line, most judges will keep an eye on each entry as a given entry is being inspected. While difficult after a rousing drive where the adrenalin will be flowing, once in line, the horses in a turnout must settle into a stand, for this, too, most judges will consider part of the performance. This is as important to a given teamster before he is called on to back his turnout, as it is important after he has stepped his turnout forward and back into line. While a judge may have moved on, many will have their eyes focused on you whenever he finds it possible. Turnouts that fail to settle when brought to a stand, that are circled when the judge passes down a standling line of turnouts, fail to impress most judges and spectators. And rightly so.
When large performance classes are shown in two, three of four flights, teamsters must realize after first entering the show ring with their turnout, the judging continues until they have left the arena, regardless of how many times the turnout enters or leaves. Until the judge hands the ringman his marked card, a given class of turnouts is still being judged.
At least this is how I see it.