Hail to the Chiefs

By Cindy Medina

The sun may not have been shining that cold Thursday morning in January at the 2022 USPC Convention in Norfolk, Virginia, but that didn’t stop some big smiles from shining brightly as six new Chief Horse Management Judges (CHMJs) were sworn in.

Chief Horse Management Judge (CHMJ): The CHMJ is a volunteer (often a graduate of Pony Club) who has earned and acquired the skills and experience to oversee the judging of Horse Management during rallies and Championships. Horse Management is judged at all USPC rallies to reinforce and evaluate the Horse Management principles, skills, and knowledge of safe, sound, and practical horse care practices. HM is also tested at each certification level earned in Pony Club. The CHMJ works with local clubs/centers and regions to help educate members on Horse Management skills and knowledge.

While I can’t speak directly for my fellow new CHMJs, for me the road to becoming Chief was a roller coaster ride to say the least, with plenty of ups and downs. But it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. The biggest challenge was that I entered the Provisional Chief Horse Management program pre-Covid. Then BAM! Covid hit, and the world hit the pause button.

All my provisional rallies booked for the 2020 rally season, began to cancel and drop like proverbial flies from my calendar. It was like having to take a gap year, and maybe more.

In 2021 I attended nine, yes nine, rallies. Between my region’s rallies, my provisional rallies, and Championships, it made for quite a busy year. Then add the challenges of having to work through and cope in a COVID environment, with the constant checking and abiding by COVID restrictions, state by state.

It was all worth it that chilly gray morning. During the CHMJ and Horse Management Organizer (HMO) meeting, five of the six newly minted Chiefs were able to attend. We were asked to come to the front of the room to receive our CHMJ pins, and take our oath. While the Presidential “Hail to the Chief” did not play as we proceeded to the front of the room, it didn’t make it any less special.

Now, I’m closer to 60 than 6, but my inner child could hardly contain itself. We were finally getting our CHMJ pins! Melissa Dabadie (Horse Management Committee co-chair) gave each of us our pin, and a little Chief swag. Sydney Wilson (Horse Management Committee) placed a crown on each of our heads. Catie Itschner (Horse Management Committee provisional chair) held the Horse Management rulebook and had us all gather round as we each placed our right hand on the rulebook and repeated the oath spoken by Sydney. The little ceremony they put on for all of us meant the world to me, as I’m sure it did for my fellow new CHMJs as well.

USPC’s newest CHMJs are:

  • Annette Ruths – Delmarva Region
  • Cindy Medina – Midwest Region
  • Eben Haber – Middle California Region
  • Heather Baugh – Delmarva Region
  • Shawna White – Midsouth Region
  • Stephanie Infante – Central New England

What Does a Horse Management Judge Do?
Horse Management Judges (HMJs) at USPC rallies are first and foremost educators. At rallies, HMJs are present to offer constructive advice and support and encourage safe practices and teamwork. The role of HMJs at rallies is to:

  • Promote the safety of competitors and mounts
  • Cultivate an educational and productive environment
  • Constructively evaluate how well competitors care for their mounts and manage their work in the stables
  • Encourage competitors to assume responsibility for the independent care of their mounts
  • Use practical sense when making decisions and encourage practical thinking on the part of competitors.
  • Encourage teamwork
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