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The Profession of Judging
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What Makes a Good Judge

Since I was a horse show judge for over 25 years, often I am asked by people interested in the profession what it takes to become a good horse show judge.

My reply is a simple description but a hard bill to fill. A good judge is someone who is a keen observer and able to make sound decisions.

Many traits are needed to be a successful judge. The characteristics can be, for the sake of discussion, divided into physical attributes, intellectual capabilities, emotional tendencies, and moral standards.

PHYSICAL health is an essential. The task of standing for eight to ten hours in the center of an arena full of circling horses can be tiring and taxing. Only a person with strength and stamina should attempt it. A judge needs to have sound feet and a healthy back to tolerate long hours in a rather immobile stance.

Keen eyesight and quick reflexes enable a person to accurately observe and record mentally, or clerically if necessary, the details in the show ring.

Anyone who is overly sensitive to long hours in the sun, or bothered by dust will have a hard time concentrating on the job of evaluating the horse's performance.

A judge needs to be punctual, have a good sense of time and be organized. Often the show committee looks to the judge for guidance in the general flow of events.

In addition, a judge should have legible writing and basic organizational skills.

So far, the traits I have mentioned, will not, by themselves, make or break a judge, but they help the mechanics of the job function more efficiently. They are, for the most part, easily measurable PHYSICAL traits.

There are several INTELLECTUAL functions that are involved in the judging process. One is the storage of information. It is the judge's responsibility to thoroughly know the rule book of the organization for which he is officiating. Besides class specifications, breed standards, bye systems, and patterns and courses, a judge is expected to also be an expert on anatomy, lameness, and unsoundness. A judge has to be able to indisputably read a stopwatch or call the winner at the finish line. He or she must be able to calculate penalties, estimate distances, approve hunt courses, trail classes or reining patterns. All of this requires a great deal of knowledge, a spatial sense and geometric aptitude.

Much of a judge's manner in the show ring is dictated by his or her EMOTIONAL temperament. A judge should be stable, not moody. It is probably best for a judge to be somewhat reserved yet pleasant. Excess formality or "good-old-boy" casualness can be misinterpreted and counterproductive.

In many cases, the judge dictates the mood of the show, so personal feelings must often be put aside in the interest of public relations.

Perhaps the most important characteristic in a judge is his MORAL or ethical standard. No person in the horse industry determines the direction our breeds and activities will follow as single-handedly as does a judge.

A judge is responsible first to himself. All selections and decisions must be based on fair play. A judge that follows such an edict is being good to himself. Problems are minimal, questions can be answered straight-forward, there will be no restless conscience.

The judge is also responsible to the exhibitor. Each owner pays a fee for a judge's professional opinion. Every entry should be considered with open-mindedness. It is a great disservice to all showmen when a judge gives unfair advantage to a specific exhibitor.

Most importantly, the judge is responsible to the horse industry and more specifically to the breed or association he is representing. By placing various horses and/or riders, a judge sets ideals, both in conformation and horsemanship. He decides the relative importance between a sculptured head and inadequate limbs. A judge dictates future wither heights, hoof size, muscle type and color preference. He determines the frame we shape our horses into, the speed of their gaits, the desired responses at certain ages and many other factors.

It is the judge's opinion that sets our goals for the future. A good judge is alert, knowledgeable, confident and ethical.

 

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