Chatting with the judge: Jennifer Kiser

Here we’ll learn more about Michigan 4-H horse show judge Jennifer Kiser’s personal perspective on her favorite classes, pet peeves and best piece of advice she’s been given!

Learn about horse show judge Jennifer Kiser’s favorite classes, pet peeves, and much more! Photo credit: Jennifer Kiser | MSU Extension
Learn about horse show judge Jennifer Kiser’s favorite classes, pet peeves, and much more! Photo credit: Jennifer Kiser | MSU Extension

I’m excited to continue a series of Michigan State University Extension interviews with some of your favorite horse judges from around our state! I spent some time with one of these industry professionals recently, Jennifer Kiser. For Jennifer’s “day job,” she’s a legislative assistant for the Michigan State Senate and in her spare time, she’s a horse enthusiast and judge. Here’s what Jennifer and I chatted about!

Taylor: What's your favorite class to judge and why?

Jennifer: All equitation classes, but perhaps hunt seat equitation the most. I love seeing the teamwork between horse and rider that is necessary to work through a beautiful pattern. I also love that the horse doesn't have to be the best moving or fanciest mount. It's about the team and how well they work together.

Taylor: What are your favorite things in that class that help the top exhibitors shine for you?

Jennifer: I like a rider that is quiet in body and soft in hands. A deep heel with strong leg position allowing for a line from hip to heel. Eyes looking where they are going. Constant communication between horse and rider that is nearly impossible to detect. Everything should look effortless.

Taylor: What trend in the show industry would you like to see leave at any time?

Jennifer: The belief that the expensive attire and tack is more important than the hours spent riding. I see so many unbelievable outfits come through the gate. Don't get me wrong, some outfits are stunning. But the sad part is more than half of them fit poorly or otherwise distract from the rider's abilities. Proper fit is a hundred times more important than how many crystals or what color. Shirts that are baggy and not pressed properly make a rider look slouchy. Chaps that don't fit properly can actually hide a good leg – if your chaps twist when you ride, get rid of them! A well-pressed and fit Oxford with jeans that are long enough to go to your heel is perfectly fine. Put the money you would have spent on the outfit into something like lessons or clinics instead!

Taylor: What is the best piece of advice (in regards to the equine industry) that you've ever received?

Jennifer: "Don't forget to have fun." A few years back, things were getting really intense for me on the show circuit. There was a point where I had so much time and money invested, that it became incredibly stressful. As the year came to a close, I realized I wasn't having fun anymore. I took a year off from showing and came back with a new outlook. As riders, we put our hearts and souls into horses. We work hard and spend ridiculous amounts of money to do this thing we love. So when things don't go our way, we sometimes get upset…and that's okay. But we can't forget to enjoy ourselves too. You got cut off, forgot your pattern or the judge just didn't like you…but you still got to play with ponies all day!

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for spending a bit of your time with me. I loved hearing some of your thoughts!

For more in this series:

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