July 16, 2024
Analyzing Judging In The Hunter Planet

I have normally said that it wouldn’t be a hunter clearly show if there ended up no problems about the judging. 

When my owners and riders have concerns or issues, I always emphasize how well the horses went, and how far they have occur. Most of the time, I am amazed with the judging. After competing two weeks at Upperville (Virginia) and Loudoun Benefit (Virginia) this spring, I was in awe of the skill and accuracy of the judges. I was thrilled with how my horses went. My horses received some good ribbons, and when I did not win, I was simply just out-ridden, out-classed or out-experienced. I viewed whole lessons, and once again, I was impressed with how effectively the judges did their task, even however some of all those days began at 7:30 a.m. and went right up until right after 8 p.m. 

Regretably, this is not often the scenario. So far this year I have competed my horses at 12 displays, and at two of all those shows I questioned the competency or impartiality of some judges. At one particular of these reveals I could not reveal to my owner why her horses placed as they did. I have a fantastic respect for the other competition, so I reluctantly went to the steward, who gave me precious information about the importance of finishing evaluations of the judging at every demonstrate. 

Sissy Wickes wrote an excellent short article in the Chronicle past fall about the rising discontent with judging. This article prompted the development of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Hunter & Hunter/Jumping Seat Equitation Judging Process to perform on these troubles. Sissy wrote that responsibility for creating a much better judging atmosphere lies with governance, show management, judges and exhibitors. I feel all these teams also have to have to choose additional accountability for education, analysis, communication and accountability. 

“In my working experience this past 12 months, most of the judging was very great, sometimes fantastic, but it only usually takes one particular or two negative judging activities to poison the very well,” writes Sue Lyman. Mollie Bailey Photo 

On May perhaps 9, the USEF communications department reported on the development of their appointed activity power. The process power is a terrific concept, and I hope foreseeable future conferences and webinars that are remaining planned will consist of and elicit feed-back from all interested users. At the June U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Town Hall, just one of the most contentious discussions was about improving judging. These users must have been encouraged to mail their considerations and solutions to the task power. Potentially the USHJA should mention the activity pressure as a result of a information blast. 

The USEF web-site gives a private competitors and licensed officials type that is a likely handy resource for addressing worries about judging. In addition to inquiries pertaining to protection, stabling, administration and officers, this form presents a single box to examine certified officials, together with judges, stewards, technical delegates and course designers. I suggest producing a separate kind just for assessing judges, with the option to upload movies with evaluations. In addition, the variety really should invite positive as very well as adverse comments. Great judging demands to be rewarded. 

The Perception—Or Misconception—Of Favoritism

In my experience this past calendar year, most of the judging was pretty very good, often outstanding, but it only requires a single or two negative judging encounters to poison the well. 

In the hunter divisions, a round must be evaluated on splendor, good motion, wonderful jumping design and manners. On a few instances, I have witnessed horses with questionable leaping style ridden by effectively-recognised riders acquire around horses with far better excellent. I have seen a horse owned by a notable horseman wheel and spin in a compact beneath saddle class—and win. This spring a horse that played so hard the rider missing both of those stirrups was placed in entrance of a further horse that jumped in wonderful sort, although he acquired a bit potent after the very last jump. 

In the conformation division designs, it sometimes appears that the handlers are getting judged much more than the horses. Entrepreneurs and riders uncover these examples discouraging, even even though they are not the norm. 

When I have discussed these incidents with other horsemen, their feedback have been telling. One human being suggested my horses would do much better in the versions if I bought my judge’s license. A steward responded to my issue about the judging by asking how extensive I had been displaying in Virginia. A trainer prompt to me that my assistant may have been positioned decreased in a class due to the fact the choose did not know who she was. 

“It is only by offering truthful and genuine suggestions, whether or not optimistic or unfavorable, that we can aid the USEF boost both of those the follow and notion of judging.” 

“Maybe they didn’t see it” is the standard reaction to a query of why a horse that made errors did perfectly. These feedback do counsel a need to choose to a high standardevery time, because the rare instances when judging is not good can be incredibly discouraging and can eclipse the superb judging that is much extra prevalent. 

Riders, owners and trainers also need to have to get extra duty, and 1 way is to discover far more about the judging approach. Julie Winkel and Tricia Booker’s book “Judging Hunters and Equitation, WTF? (Want The Specifics?)” is an excellent commence, and they have followed up with clinics to support exhibitors understand the judging system. Exhibitors have to have this schooling to make educated selections about proposed variations. 

Exhibitors ought to also on a regular basis videotape their rounds from the judge’s point of view. Numerous occasions when I assumed that my horse need to have been placed greater, I recognized the final decision just after viewing the tape. 

Bettering The Program

At the June USHJA City Hall, contributors debated introducing scribes and transforming the system from comparative judging to standardized judging. Right after reading through about the discussions, I can see why the scribes may perhaps not operate in the present process, and I agree that standardized judging is deserving of dialogue, but I question if this transform will end the challenges with weak judging or hinder fulfilling excellent horses. I would welcome additional education to help me make a decision my own place on these proposals. 

Most importantly, exhibitors need to have to offer enter to enhance the technique. In her article, Sissy wrote that only 153 evaluations were being completed in 2022. Regretably, much of the criticism is presently unofficial and often verging on trolling: insulting texts, terrible e-mail, social media attacks and actual physical threats. These are examples of unprofessional speech and actions that ought to be unacceptable to exhibitors as well as licensed officials. 

As a substitute, we should phase up and fill out those evaluations. As I drafted this report, I decided to hold myself to this common, so I went on the internet and stuffed out evaluations for all the displays I attended this year, and the procedure produced me know how very good most of the judging has been. It is only by furnishing reasonable and trustworthy feed-back, no matter whether optimistic or unfavorable, that we can support the USEF increase equally the exercise and perception of judging. 

Whilst we really should assistance them establish and react to judges who are not executing their position, we must also assistance them understand and reward the lots of judges who are accomplishing a incredibly tricky task particularly well. We should keep in mind we count on our competent judges to make the full method operate. Though I think we should all operate to improve the technique, it is essential for them to know they are appreciated. 


Involving Rounds columnist Sue Lyman has been driving, education and showing hunters in the Middleburg, Virginia, region considering the fact that 1985. During this time she broke, started off, retrained and competed quite a few effective horses like Simbalu, Rox Dene, Irregardless, Townsend and All In A single. She served on the USHJA Industry experts Committee from 2008-2012. She has served on the USHJA Horse And Rider Advocates Committee since 2013 and turned chair of that committee in 2021. 


This write-up initially appeared in the August 2023, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. You can subscribe and get on the net accessibility to a electronic version and then appreciate a yr of The Chronicle of the Horse and our lifestyle publication, Untacked. If you are just following COTH online, you’re lacking so substantially good special content. Each individual print challenge of the Chronicle is comprehensive of in-depth competitors information, interesting functions, probing looks at challenges in the sports activities of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning images.