To be Judged, or Not to be Judged

by Stephanie Swain

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about people not wanting to be judged, and disagreement with or confusion about what Horsemanship judges have said or written on riders' cards. If you REALLY don't want to be judged, you can ride DO (distance only), but consider that you might learn something useful from what the Horsemanship judge sees and says.

Having spent many years in the horse show world before joining the NATRC family, I've had my fair share of being judged, and I must say that I didn't always agree with the judges. That being said, I always have to remember that judges are giving us their opinions (educated, but opinions, nonetheless) of our riding/horsemanship skills, based on their knowledge and experience. Opinions are not absolutes! As such, not all judges' opinions will be the same, even when they are looking at the same horse and rider at the same time.

While NATRC strives to provide skilled Horsemanship judges who have plenty of experience to base their observations upon, it is important to remember that each judge may place greater importance on different skills or attributes. It is very difficult to standardize something that is as subjective as horsemanship judging. The great benefit is that each judge may have something new or different to teach you.

Please remember, if you find inconsistencies with a judge's comments or suggestions, or don't understand them, it is okay to ask questions! This is not a horse show where you may not talk to the judge about his/her reasons for placings - the object is for you to learn from the judges' comments - to help you become a better, safer horseperson through feedback. So remember, it is not only ok to ask questions, it is encouraged! So, please, politely ask the judge if you have questions - before, during and after the ride.