The Tom Powers Triple Challenge: From a Judge’s View

Originally published in the June 2016 issue of Show Horse Today

DSC_0655Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the western pleasure industry knows that the Tom Powers Triple Challenge Futurity is one of the most prestigious futurities of the year and steeped in rich tradition.  From an exhibitor’s standpoint, the Tom Powers is usually the event that kicks off the start of summer futurity season and where many pleasure horses begin their careers. 

However, what does the Tom Powers look like from the center of the ring?  To be asked to evaluate the best of the best is a goal of any horse show judge.  Not only is the Tom Powers not “just another horse show,” but this is where many household names in the pleasure pen made their start.  So, what is it like to see things from a judge’s perspective, instead of the exhibitor’s or spectator’s view?  We asked several past and present Tom Powers judges for their take.

Christa Baldwin (Stanton, MI)

Christa Baldwin“I was fortunate to judge the Tom Powers show two years ago. I absolutely loved it and was so honored to judge the quality of horses at this show.  This is such a different and fun show to show at but especially fun to judge since it mainly consists of futurity horses both English and Western and the future of our industry.  

Every class we would walk out of the ring just shaking our heads at the quality of the horses, but also how the exhibitors were showing the horses. They were standing up, moving great and showing as the rules have asked.  As is usually said, it is easier to judge quality and that is especially true of this show.  There are some shows when I wouldn’t even want to take home my first place horse, but at the Tom Powers Futurity, I could have taken home horses that didn’t even make the Top 10.  That speaks volumes for the quality of horses and how they are shown.

Everyone loves to show outside (when the weather is good), and of course, it is early in the year and the horses all look so fresh. For me, it rates up there with any of the World shows or big shows that are so much fun to judge. It is the most prestigious futurity show in the nation, so the BEST are there showing which makes you bring your game whether you are showing or judging.”

Jerry Erickson (Sanger, TX) 

Jerry Erickson“I judged the Tom Powers Futurity once and left thinking, ‘I would do this again.’  I came to that line of thinking for several reasons.  First, I am confident many exhibitors will tell you that they enjoy riding in the arena at Berrien Springs. Well, the same holds true for judging in that ring. Due to the good footing, the horses, as a rule, move so comfortably that from the center you get a true evaluation of each horse and his movement.

For the most part, the quality is so excellent that being able to judge the horses on their merits rather than mistakes, is a great change of pace from many other shows. Plus the staff is really friendly, upbeat, and truly interested in providing a great experience to not only the judges, but the attentive spectators as well.” 

Mike Hay (Pinnacle, NC)

Mike Hay“Judging Tom’s futurity is unique for a couple reasons. I don’t think pleasure horses look any better in any other arena all year than they do when the weather is good in the show pen at Tom’s.  Exhibitors can really show “off” their horses. The quality is good enough that, as a judge, you can generally find what you want, rather than have to pin horses because they are your only entries. I’ve judged the futurity twice with 20 years in between, and the competition, quality, and prestige of winning there means as much today as it did 25 years ago. The relaxed atmosphere is also appreciated by judges as well as exhibitors.”

This year’s judges include new faces and a returning friends.  Sissy Anderson, Tony Burris, Judd Paul, and Jerry Erickson will be the ones to grace the famous arena as, once again, the Tom Powers kicks off at the end of the month.  Don’t miss any of the action by visiting for updates, photos, and results.



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