Equestrian judges are often practicing or retired trainers, educators, breeders, other equestrian professionals or just general horse lovers. Judging takes commitment, involvement and incredible knowledge of horses and the discipline you want to judge.
Depending on the discipline, standards for licensure are different, but all represent large time, money and travel commitments. Nonetheless, it can be very rewarding.
The William Woods University Equestrian Judging team gives Equestrian Studies students opportunities to learn about competitive judging and learn about horses. The team meets once a week to practice for fall competitions and they participate in multiple judging competitions. In the spring, the judging team helps at clinics and contests throughout Missouri, and puts on one of their own clinics in Fulton for local 4-H clubs and the community.
If you’re a graduate student in the William Woods University Online Master of Equestrian Education program and you’re interested in getting involved in judging as well, there are many ways you can get involved in your community, across Missouri and all around the country.
Different organizations and disciplines have different steps and requirements for judge certification. A few from the United States Equestrian Federation include their Dressage Judges Training Program, American Saddlebred or Saddle Seat Equitation.
Within the USEF, there are six classifications of judges — senior (marked by S, and only in Dressage), registered (R), recorded (r), special (SJ), guest (GJ), and learner (LJ).
In an article in Practical Horseman, (R) judge Gay Talmey offers great advice to those who want to become a judge:
- Study the USEF rulebook, and the particular rules for the discipline you want to judge.
- Attend judges’ clinics if you can.
- Practice good bookkeeping skills, learning to keep scores and entries in a class straight.
- Talmey mentions more steps and advice for working toward becoming a judge and obtaining a judge’s license.
Talmey says, “Join your local riding associations, volunteer at shows teach lessons and clinics, and get to know people at barns in your neighborhood.”
Current judges are great resources to share advice, stories, and what kind of time, money and travel it takes to achieve licensure.
While the process is hard, those who get involved in judging find it very rewarding, as an opportunity to keep learning, help others and continue to be involved in an industry they know and love.