Morgan Horse Show Judging – What Are YOU Willing to Do?

There has been a lot of discussion about not only the judging at New England this year, but about how deplorable horse show judging is in general.  Complaining about the judging has probably been going on since the very first horse show.  However, I have seen very few suggestions for improvement or change.  What are YOU willing to do to affect positive change?  Are you willing to pay more into the judges’ education fund that we pay at all of the Regional shows?  Are you willing to spend the time and money to educate yourself and practice making decisions in order to become a judge?  Are you willing to use your vacation time to spend 12 – 14 hour days judging shows for minimal compensation?

There are good, honest people in AMHA who are attempting to make improvements to the judges’ pool.  But let’s face it, they are facing an uphill battle and perhaps they could use some help.  We can’t expect them to find the time to wade through all of the chatter to pick out the pearls.

I would like to see the AboveLevel community become a force for positive change.  Let’s generate suggestions for improving and increasing the judges’ pool and then discuss the pros and cons of each suggestion.  I will volunteer to consolidate the suggestions, along with the pros and cons of each idea, into a letter to the AMHA Board of Directors, the AMHA Professional Committee, and the Judges’ School for them to consider.  I will post the letter for everyone to review before sending it to the Board.  I would like to have this done before it’s time to leave home for OKC.  Are you in?

21 Responses to Morgan Horse Show Judging – What Are YOU Willing to Do?

  1. colwilrin says:

    How about if every Regional show would take on up to 3 amateurs to “Jr. judge” the show?

    You could apply to AMHA to be allowed to attend the show and act as a “judge”. Of course, you couldn’t show there that year. The AMHA would pick 3 of the applicant amateurs (either by drawing from a hat, or first come-first serve). The experience would count towards whatever requisites are needed to becoming a judge.

    It would be a chance for interested amateurs to do a “school atmosphere” closer to home, thus decreasing the initial cost. Also, by having this experience, the amateur would get a taste of judging and be able to decide if they would like to invest the time and money to continue.

    By stepping into the shoes of a judge, the amateur would have a better understanding of what the class looks like from center ring and the challenges and distractions faced by a judge.

  2. denu220 says:

    That’s a great idea, colwilrin. I’d love to become a judge; I just never thought I was famous enough. I’d certainly volunteer or judge for minimal pay—even during my vacation. I do something akin to it now; I scribe for dressage judges and do administrative paperwork for the sport horse coordinators at both Morgan shows and recognized horse trials. Also, I will start filling out those USEF forms in earnest. It’s time to stop complaining and start acting.

  3. colwilrin says:

    I have also thought about applying, but the schools are only a few times a year, and usually too far from where I live to make it feasible.

    Also, I would like to get a taste of it before I dive into the full commitment. It is probably FAR tougher than it looks to us “rail judges” and “arm-chair quarterbacks”!

    This idea could even be broken up. If the Amateurs couldn’t commit to the full show, perhaps different groups of 2 or 3 could do 1 or 2 days each.

    Also, if the regionals work, then maybe some of the A rated local shows would try it as well.

    If the initial experience was more accessible, more people may try to see what judging is like, and you may get a bigger pool of judges.

  4. Mocha Mom says:

    Thank you colwilrin. Good idea. I have recorded your suggestion. Thoughts from others on this idea are welcome.

    I had a similar thought about getting people (not only amateurs) into the ring to see what the judge sees. I would have interested parties pay the same entry fee paid by an exhibitor in the class to see the class from center ring. Only one “practice judge” would be allowed in the ring at any one time. That person would be escorted into the ring by either the ringmaster or show steward and would NOT be allowed any interaction with the official judge. I would like to see AMHA encourage shows to offer this opportunity. I hope that this practice would not raise additional liability issues for shows, but if it does perhaps that could be addressed by the USEF waiver that exhibitors sign on the entry blank. The advantage to the show would be the income from the additional entry fees.

  5. bella92290 says:

    Mocha,,,was wondering where you were! I am in, let me get my thoughts together and I will add my two cents.

  6. KarenL says:

    Now that could be interesting! Might increase accountability of the judge in the ring too as they’ve now got an up-close spectator to ask “why” a class was pinned a certain way. Could either deter or at least remove the illusion of political placings :)

  7. Mocha Mom says:

    Hi bella,
    I got home from NE on Monday after helping my friend get home on Sunday. Then I spent the next two days visiting my horses that are in training. I have been observing all that has been happening here and love it! I’m starting to wonder how I’ll ever have the time to keep up with all that’s going on, but I think that the direction that things are headed on Above Level is worth my time. Now if only more people would start advertising here….

  8. Mocha Mom says:

    I think that it would be important that the “practice judge” NOT be allowed to interact with the official judge as that could also create the illusion of influencing the judge. Perhaps the practice judge could meet with the judge after the show is over, as exhibitors are allowed to do. In keeping with the idea of the “liability waiver,” the practice judge would be treated as another exhibitor in the class.

  9. jjoker says:

    Judges are not accountable and don’t have to be as long as trainers are allowed to be judge jury this will keep happening. Wake up! you can tie classes from no one cares. It’s about who you are and how much money you have behind, try and do thew write thing you’ll go hungry. Hard work counts for nothing winning is all that matters good or bad, the little guy stands no chance.

  10. Mocha Mom says:

    You have NOT answered the question. Bellyachin’ doesn’t count or help to change things. What are you willing to do to improve what you obviously think is not well-done? Do you have constructive suggestions that you would like to see put into place? Are you willing to pay higher entry fees in order to train more judges? Are you willing to attend the judges’ schools? The AMHA Professional Committee wants your suggestions for change. Do you have any?

  11. Stacy says:

    Sorry to hear you feel that way, JJOKER, but some trainers that judge work long and hard to do their very best. Hard work will get you everywhere in this sport and integrity will as well.You can do the right thing and not starve…just goes back to the hard work part:)

  12. jjoker says:

    Fair enough, i believe the judges are already smart enough and there are more than enough to pick from. My problem is i don’t feel the new judges get a fair shake, maybe we should poll the exhibitors, and trainers at the end of the show and then get a feel for how the week went. Along with that get ideas on judges that would be interested in judging the show.
    I didn’t mean to cry the blues, i just believe judges are smart enough to judge and be good if they choose to be. Get everyone involed, that would go a long way with me.

  13. pduback says:

    I love both suggestions! Ever since I got into this, I have said “I’d love to see the class thru the eyes” I do think most of our judges, trainers or not, are fair and do have integrity. I also think it’s up to us, as competitors to be current and knowledgeable of the current judging standards. In the spring the Granite State club hosted a judging seminar, each division was reviewed, there were questions and answers, it was a very eye opening seminar for me. There was also an article in the current Equine Journal related to this with 3 judges giving their views on questions asked. I think more of this would be a great thing. I work a full time job and have very little free time. I would give up a show or two, to get a better perspective on the subject. I also think “Ask the Judge”, right here on this site is a great resource and can’t believe there aren’t more post. “Once you know the rules of game you can win!” Playing blindly isn’t a good idea, neither is relying on others for that knowledge, go out and seek the answers for yourself. We live in a wonderful world where there is an over abundance of information, seek it out, verify it, and show accordingly.

  14. Mocha Mom says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, JJoker. I think your idea is a good one and one for the show committees rather than for the AMHA Professional Committee. (I also happen to agree with it. I think shows that hire more than one judge should make it a practice to have at least one small ‘r’ judge in order to give them the opporunity to work with someone more experienced, and to give them the experience they need to get their large ‘R’.) Every show has either a show manager and/or a show committee chairperson published in their prize list. Send your suggestion, along with a list of judges that you would like to show under, to that person. Show committees are working NOW to lock up their judges for next year’s shows. Or, you could refer the show committees to this website to look for suggestions on how they can can make improvements to their show and their judging panels. Let’s hear which judges you would like to show in front of.

  15. Stacy says:

    I think you are right, to some degree, jjoker, about the new judges. I don’t think it is a conscious decision by the committees, but it is hard to randomly pick a name that you have never heard of and say they are going to be the judge. That is why I think it is important for some people that know committee members, etc to tell them who some of these people are. And, when some “known” judges are offered jobs that they can’t take it is helpful if they can make a suggestion of one that they know of that might need a “boost”.

  16. bella92290 says:

    I am on the show committee of Syracuse International, we are picking judges for next year now, and let me say for sure, we would LOVE feedback, so I am sure many other show committees would also.

  17. jjoker says:

    One idea would be to ask a known judge for help in picking up an coming judge, who would know better or asking a known judge would he be willing to judge with a new comer an help mentor them. That seems to me away to get new judges a leg up and maybe even a person they could call on for help in the future. It’s away to give back to someone who are in the shoes you once were in

  18. jjoker says:

    Didn’t mean to step on any toes there, i think were all expressing the same ideas.

  19. Mocha Mom says:


    I like your idea of having seminars that educate exhibitors about what judges are looking for (essentially the Judging Standards) without having to attend the Judges’ School. Would you volunteer to organize such a thing? It could also cover things like which errors must be penalized more severely and which are penalized subjectively. Something that was mentioned in the thread, “Anyone Keeping Score of the Judges?”.

  20. empressive says:

    I own Morgans and go to Paso Fino shows somebody will probably shoot me sooner or later but, I have learned soooo much from the breed and people it is amazing! I mean what kind of people shake hands and congratulate each other before the judge announces his “verdict” while still on their horses and after the class!? It’s amazing! Anyway, WAYYY off subject I think though something we should ask our judges to do is announce why they placed the class the way they did, each horses qualifications for each place, and why they did not get a higher placing. This in the Paso world has done wonders everyone walks or rides away with a much better understanding of showing and what to do better or work on for the next time whether they are trainers, owners, or observers. Anyway just my input.

  21. I Don’t know that time would allow for an explanation at the end of each class, but I did see a very neat judges card, I am thinking it was from an Arab halter class, that had categories for each major area ( i.e. head shape, 9, head and neck, 8, topline, 9.5), and then a total. This judge also wrote a comment about nearly every horse. It was just kind of neat, and there were always people there looking at the cards. I would like to know where I was faulted, and I think that type of scoring could be really great in the equitation division where it can be very easy to like the overall “look” of one rider, and miss really incorrect foot position.

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