Do I dare bring this up? Ok, yes. I dare. It seems people love to gripe about judging. Although I haven’t heard much lately. Maybe I’ve just grown immune to it, or maybe I’m choosing not to look for it. Criticisms are more common than proposed solutions. One solution often mentioned is that we should not have trainers judging. Well, I’m not sure how we fix that. I think those who are professionals in the field are often the best qualified. Even if they’re not, it’s easy enough to get your judges card. Anyone can go out and do it. I could get my judges card but I really don’t think I should be judging anything.

What about the opposite solution. What if we went the way of dressage judging and had a week (or longer) course (actual course, not just a few videos and group observation/analysis at a show). The course could go in depth to describe the breed standard and division requirements. I think the class as we have it now assumes too much. It assumes you’re coming to the table with significant background knowledge and I think this assumption allows ignorant people to slip through the cracks (I’m not saying ignorant as an insult, I’m including myself in that group).

So, what if we made it harder to get your judges card? What if we were more proactive about outlining what constitutes a winning horse/performance? Do you think that’s a viable solution?

6 Responses to Judging

  1. Trisha says:

    A good judge will be hired regularly and a not so good judge won’t be hired regularly. People like to complain and think that just because they (or their friend) didn’t win it was because it was political. Yes, sometimes politics are an issue, but usually that’s not the case. A good judge is someone who’s judging you can follow. Even if you don’t agree with their opinion, you can at least see that they do in fact have a method.

    A bad judge will eventually stop getting hired to do shows once show committees see that their exhibitors aren’t happy with that particular judge and probably won’t hire them back on to do that show. Show committees are pretty aware that they need to keep their exhibitors happy and that includes the big barns and the little barns.

    This really just shows why it’s important when a show you attend asks your opinion about something, you give them an answer. If they are looking for suggestions for their schedule and judges for next year, give them your opinion! If they suggest a judge you won’t show under, privately say so and suggest someone else. If you won’t voice your opinion, then stop complaining when you don’t like it.

  2. RaeOfLight says:

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to stir the pot here, but instead sat on my thoughts until this topic came up again on it’s own (as it always seems to do). I understand the concept of good judges getting hired while bad judges will fall by the wayside. However, there are a few individuals I believe would be good judges that are overlooked for one reason or another. And I’m sure there are many who would say there are bad judges that seem to keep getting work for whatever reason. Anyway, it does seem like complaints about judging keep cropping up. Sometimes thoughts and ideas get tossed around but no real solutions are ever discussed. One thing that gets repeatedly mentioned is that perhaps trainers should not be judges, and then someone invariably brings up the fact that “it’s easy enough to become a judge, so go out and do it.” What I’m wondering is, is the fact that it’s easy part of what leads to the dissatisfaction in the end?

  3. pjhmorgan says:

    I think people need to take in to consideration that the sometimes vague judging standards leave too much open to interpretation. Maybe the problem isn’t with judges (at least not all of the time), but with the standards. I too am not sure what the perfect solution is. I do feel that at the World’s show however, we should have 5 judges instead of 3 and the high and low card would be thrown out. It would level the playing the field and in a sense, remove some of the politics. It seems to work in other breeds.

    The other issue I feel needs to be addressed is accountability. We all have the option of filing a complaint against a judge we feel has performed poorly. However, where does our complaint go once turned in to the show office? Is the judge ever held accountable by those at USEF or AMHA? If they are, how many times must a complaint be lodged before a judges card is revoked or suspended (speaking hypothetically here as I am not sure if this can happen)?

  4. Trisha says:

    Judges receive all feedback on them that USEF is given (names are blacked out) whether it’s good or bad. However, this is rarely done whether the judging was good or bad. More often people only speak up when they aren’t happy. My trainer once told me in the 25 years she’s been judging she’s only ever received one judges evaluation (and a positive one shockingly).

    That may also be a way to go, filling out a USEF judges evaluation is free and only takes up a few minutes of your time. Whether you liked the judge or not, tell them what you thought they were doing right or wrong. Other judges especially should be doing this. You have to do it within ten days of the end of the show, but there’s no harm in making it clear to USEF which judges people like.

    And to reply to a previous comment, good judges are overlooked because there is a very pool of judges that are hired regularly (this came up in a letter to the Morgan horse magazine earlier this year) and many of them don’t stray from this go-to list. There are a lot of good judges out there that just can’t get someone to put their name out there when a show committee is suggesting judges. I guess the best they can do is let people know that you are a recognized judge; that’s a big list for people to look through so it’s understandable that they will pick a name they hear that’s often listed as a judge. Once you’re on someone’s radar, it becomes slightly easier to be hired I’d think.

  5. ElisabethK says:

    I think it depends on the complaint. I have seen judges criticized who judged every class freshly…that is, doesn’t hold past mistakes against a horse or rider. And get criticized that “wow, she/he is all over the place”.

    I’ve seen judges place the big trainers at the head of the ribbons because..well, they have the superior horses in the ring. And get criticized for politics.

    I’ve seen judges get cricized for placing a horse that ‘made a mistake’ over one that didn’t. People don’t understand the cumulative effect of a class…that even with the mistake, the winning horse was clearly superior. They get criticized.

    Most Morgan shows have several ‘first place’ horses in the ring, several ‘second place’ horses and the rest are 3rd place horses. Exhibitors and parents need to understand that with only 6 ribbons, many very nice horses won’t win, many won’t place.

    I wouldn’t look at the judges or the training unless it appears that the judging itself is actually way off base at a lot of shows. It’s good to review but don’t give sour grapes more importance than it deserves.

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