East Coast services set for prominent judge Artie Hawkins

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday Feb. 10 in St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Bedford, N.Y., for Arthur Hawkins, who was the gold standard for horse show officials. Visitation is 5-7 p.m.Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home, 288 East Main St., Mount Kisco, N.Y.

Services previously were held on the West Coast for Artie, who died Jan. 23 after a long illness.

He had been a partner with show jumper McLain Ward in a jumper, Tina La Boheme, but McLain bought the horse back when Artie became ill.

“She’s a lovely mare. I hope she’ll go on and have some great results in his honor,” McLain said.

“The relationship goes back to when he was very dear friends with my parents,” McLain said, noting his father bought Shannon stables, renamed Castle Hill, from Artie in 1970.

“It’s an end of an era, losing some of these great horsemen and gentlemen. I was lucky enough to have had a lot of influence from him,” McLain commented.

U.S. show jumping coach Robert Ridland said Artie was “who we think of when we think of this sport and judging. Artie is in a category all by himself — he’s the sport.”

Arthur Hawkins. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

The creator of the numerical judging system that made officiating more precise, Artie stopped judging in 2012 at the age of 82, though he kept on working as a steward.

Fellow steward David Distler called him, “One of the last of the great old horseman and a great guy,”

Artie was part of a formidable equestrian dynasty. His grandfather, Charles, worked with race horses in England. His father, Frank, was one of the first professionals to become a judge accredited by USEF’s predecessor, the American Horse Shows Association. His late brother Steve, also was a highly respected judge.

After serving in the Air Force in the early 1950s, Artie lived in Westchester County, N.Y., while working in the marketing department of  Parade magazine, then operating a couple of photography shops in New York. But the horse business still called him.

“The commute into the city was killing me, so I gave it up and bought my father’s Shannon Stables in Bedford, N.Y.,” he recalled. He eventually sold the farm, which had been in his family since 1943, to Barney Ward in 1970. It is now McLainWard’s base, renamed Castle Hill. McLain became a partner with Artie in a show jumper named Tina La Boheme, who had a lot of success last year and kept Artie involved in the game.

At Shannon, Artie bought and sold horses and gave lessons. But since his father, as well as his brother, and sister, were judges, he also started judging in 1956. By 1959, he was judging practically full-time.

Artie got plenty of work from Honey Craven, who managed many shows — including the National at Madison Square Garden. He asked Honey why he kept hiring him so often, and Honey replied, “One of the hardest things to do is getting the right judge who’s not going to make a mistake and really know what they’re doing. I know I’m never going to have a problem with you or Steve, so I hire you both.”

As Artie observed, “That’s quite a compliment.”

Ironically, Artie did not like to compete himself.

His job at his family’s stable was “getting horses ready for my father; my brother, who was a lot better rider than I was, and my sister. I did the ground work and schooled the horses at home for them. I’d get too nervous going to the horse shows,” Artie recalled in an interview several years ago.

“I would shake like a leaf. If there were five strides going down one side, I wouldn’t know if  I did four or 11.”

Discussing why he started the numerical system of judging that is the standard today, Artie noted, “The old-time judges would write the number of the horses on the side of the card; they’d put the number of the horse they liked best on top. Four horses later, if they had one they liked better, they’d put it above  that. I said to my father, ‘I’ve got to figure a better way to do this.’ I could relate to the numbers so much better.”

They help differentiate among the fine points, he commented.

“At the end of the class, you could have six horses scored between 91 and 88, and the only variation is a little bit of the adjustment,” made by the rider.

“The perfect horse is the one that comes in, makes the circle and hits so many rpms. It doesn’t change it all the way around the turn, up the diagonal, across the other turn until they pull up finished. It’s very rare that that happens; what’s going to separate them is a little bit change of pace.” And what sets them apart is all done by the numbers,” Artie stated.

Unlike many judges, Artie would not mark down a horse for a limited display of equine enthusiasm.

“If a horse jumped down the line and showed a lot of energy and shook his head to say, ‘Man, that was great,’ I would never count it off. They’re not machines. I have never counted strides, other than an in- and-out.”

As he recounted his career, he expressed satisfaction, saying, “I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve done all the major shows and judged the Maclay and the Medal eight times.”

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