Biased Judging

Ok, this is not a new topic.  It’s been discussed here and elsewhere many times.  But perhaps it’s worth bringing up again.  I don’t have much to contribute to this topic as I’ve never felt a victim of it, nor do I know how it feels to stand in the center of the ring having to be quick and decisive with the fate of a class in your hands.  I personally feel that if exhibitors voice praise for the judges they feel are fair and honest to show officials and USEF, we’ll see more of those judges being hired.  As a result, dishonest judges will either need to change or move on.  But is there anything else we could do to make things more “fair”?

I’m curious how most judges evaluate a class?  As has been discussed before there are criteria for each division that are ranked and reordered in importance depending on what class you’re looking at.  How do you factor the relative importance?

This probably wouldn’t be feasible for being able to make quick decisions, particularly in large classes, but I was thinking it would be interesting if a judge was given a form for each exhibitor for each class.  The class criteria would be listed in order of importance and the judge would score each exhibitor for each criteria.  The scores would then be weighted by importance and added up for a final score for each exhibitor in the class and would determine how the class is pinned.  WAY too involved to be practical, but if an exhibitor could look at their form they’d know exactly what they need to work on to be better the next time.

This is not to say people wouldn’t still be unfair, but at least it would require them to think more critically about each person’s performance.  I’m sure if I tried to subjectively try to judge a class and then use a formula like this to get results they would probably not turn out the same, and the formula would probably give a more honest result.  Just brainstorming here…

12 Responses to Biased Judging

  1. DVFMorgan says:

    We showed under Nancy Troutman, Salem, VA. about a month ago. She is a carded Morgan Judge. She was very good, pleasant in the ring, followed the Morgan Judging guidelines quite well. She would penalize a wrong lead maybe a bit more harshly than others, but basically was very fair. I would recommend her to judge a Morgan division in an all breed type show, or for a full Morgan Horse Show.

  2. emmy says:

    I don’t want to hijack the thread here, but the recent posts on judging remind me of the “Ask the Judge” series that used to appear here WAY back when. . . (before you took over Erin). I really enjoyed those posts and reading the judges’ opinions and explanations. I learned a lot. Is there any chance of bringing that series back (after show season when the judges might have a bit more time to respond)? Thanks!

  3. RaeOfLight says:

    That “series” never went away. There’s always been an Ask a Judge category that anyone was more than welcome to post to. But if Beth was doing something in particular I can go back and search through the archives to get an idea of what you were talking about.

  4. emmy says:

    Beth had four anonymous judges who would respond to questions (which, I believe Beth posed to them). Here’s a url for one of those discussions:

  5. RaeOfLight says:

    Interesting! I’ll definitely have to think about picking that up again.

  6. Montehorse says:

    I enjoyed showing my horse for Larry Bolen at the Bluegrass Morgan Classic. His choices were pretty much right on even in the large hunter classes. He selected horses that were “typey” in conformation. The Saddlebred looking Morgan did not place well at this event.

  7. Carley says:

    Larry Bolen didn’t judge the hunter classes at the BMC. Cindy Mugnier did. I thought there were actually several saddlebred-looking horses that did well.

  8. Montehorse says:


    Oh, I forgot about Cindy Mugnier. I still think she did an excellent job with most of the hunter classes. I guess most of the hunter classes I was watching were Jr. Exh. What I was referring to is the English Pleasure classes at the Bluegrass Morgan Classic. What do you think about Larry Bolen judging the Saddleseat classes? Do you think he was objective?

    Disregard my original post. I guess I got my thoughts crossed.

  9. Carley says:

    I thought he did a good job. There were a few classes that I had swapped 1 and 2, but it usually came down to a preference thing.

  10. LLavery says:

    With all of the great champion horses and great champion trainers now residing up in Heaven do you know why God holds no Horse Shows? ……….No Judges there!!

    Seriously, questions and speculation such as this about Judging have been around ever since Noah had to pick a pair of horses to put on the Ark, and not much has changed since then. Systems using forms, point values and the like have been used successfully where entries are shown individually, one at a time, in classes such as Equitation and In Hand where there is more time to compute such things. However, subjective Judging is just as important to a correct outcome with these as well as other classes. Unlike horse races, jumping competitions, endurance rides, Polo and the like, where Beauty, style, grace, conformation etc. mean absolutely nothing, at horse shows, subjective judging not only narrows the field but also rewards outstanding performances from riders who have honed their craft to be way above the rest, to horses that are capable of performances far exceeding those of the normal horse. . Like two actors reading the exact same lines with one winning the Academy Award because of the art of his delivery and approach as two chefs cooking the exact same recipe with one ending up outstanding because of the one Chef’s special talent. Perhaps two identical twin models wearing the exact same “Little Black Dress”, one being a huge seller simply because of the flair in the walk of the one wearing it. Criteria met….Beauty style and grace also, quite rightly, rewarded. I would have to think that no one would want the very things that made horses such as, Special Flaire, Whamunition, Nobel Flaire and the other greats, so different and a part of history, to go unrecognized and unrewarded although they gave much more than the required criteria. Whether it was the unequaled athleticism, stunning beauty, exceptional conformation, that undefined “Look of Eagles” or just that fantastic show horse attitude, without it they were just like the others, simply completing the “criteria”. Having been a Judge for nearly 50 years and having judged with several alternate systems, I feel quite comfortable in saying I know the current system of Judging, which is constantly improving and the group of Judges we now have, are the best we have ever had. There is, of course, no way to please everybody all of the time but for the most part, the men and the women standing in the middle with the pencils are giving it their best try. Without them and their subjectivity, there would really be little need for Horse Shows, simply mail in those videos and registration papers and let the computer start calculating.

    LF Lavery

  11. Vintage_Rider says:

    What an eloquent response. I enjoyed reading this thoroughly. I haven’t been in this for decades, like many. But I have seen many new faces in the center ring, and thank God, as none of us live forever. Judges who are also trainers sacrifice a lot, especially if they judge nationals as their own customers can then not compete (for example). There have been a few I have avoided, mostly because they didn’t like our “type”, but by and large, “yous pays your money, yous takes your chances”.

  12. empressive says:

    Yep not matter where you go, especially shows, you are asking and paying for someone elses opinion.

    Being “judge” is simply an over-glorified position. A good one don’t get me wrong, but it is a position that WE allow because we want to be judged. But the controlling must stop somewhere. That’s where the judges opinion come in and sometimes our feelings get hurt.

    Kind of like raising a kid sadly. Eventually their opinion will be their own. As parents do you react like this to their job decisions, house decisions, etc?
    Yeah maybe it annoys you, but you settle back and live with it until proved correct.

    Same with judges. You hired and brought him or her to the show or you paid to go to the show… now live with it. We have created the Morgan breed, shaped and molded it into what it is now. Whether indavertently or not everyone has had a part in it.

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