Hi Ralph—I gave up my US card 3 years ago, and no I don't think all that much has improved. Maybe some judges are paying more attention to type, but I watched class A Halter classes in my area this spring, and I know that Dick Reed will agree with me that the judging at one show was incomprehensible to say the least. On the other hand the judging in Sport horse in our area has been great—fair and easy to follow, it has exploded to the extent that the in Hand classes are bigger than Halter at many shows. I think that the stallions that Michael Byatt has brought in the last year or so have helped make judges more aware of true Arabian type and movement.
I really don't want to get my card back at the moment. In my opinion one or two on the Judging and Education committee are somewhat political and have not passed 2 very experienced and knowledgeable breeders/trainers whom I respect greatly. They both passed the actual judging exams and written tests with near 100%, but were failed on their interviews which included ethics. Knowing these people it makes me wonder. The one breeder is extremely well known throughout the world, breeds wonderful horses winning in almost every countries showring, and received the AHA Breeders award last year.
As controversial and outspoken as I am I know that I would have no chance of getting back my card under the present system/committee !! I still have my British card, which I've held for over 35 years, which means that I can judge anywhere in the world apart from the US and Canada. This year I will have judged in Uruguay and Australia, and have been booked for shows next year in Australia and the UK. I really enjoy judging overseas far more than I ever enjoyed judging in the US. Having to stand out in the ring from 8 am until 9 or 10 at night with 2 breaks can be very tiring for 2 or 3 days at a time.
I do have a big problem with the US system in having to judge such a wide spectrum of divisions. I feel in no way qualified to judge Reining, Working Cow etc because I've never trained one. I have no problem with Western Pleasure and Trail, because I trained many while teaching at the University. I was ok judging the Saddle seat classes although I don't enjoy particularly doing so. I still judge non affiliated shows in the US.
As to the future, who knows—the US tends to be a bit fickle and fad and fashion conscious, so it's always very hard to predict. In my opinion AHA is at a cross roads. The merger with the Registry has not gone as well as people had hoped. The future results of the settlement of the law suit with South America will be interesting to follow. Entries at shows and foal registrations are way down. The US Straight Egyptian scene seems to be pretty stable and more or less in line with the rest of the world, although US breeders need to pay more attention to movement in my opinion.