What ‘R ‘Judge John Berkos Looks for in a Hunter Round


Have you ever wondered what the judge looks for while watching your round? I interviewed R-rated judge, John Berkos, to get an inside look for what he looks for while judging.

What are the three features that you feel support a great round?
Obviously finding the distances to the jumps and getting lead changes are big factors. But the three most important factors to me would be… even pacing, well turned out, and a high quality horse or rider.

What are some things you pay most attention to during a round?
To me, it really depends on the class or the show. At some of the smaller local shows, your winner is the one who can find good distances and get the leads. If it’s somewhere bigger, as judges we like the “wow factor.” When a horse comes in and lays down an amazing trip, and I can say, “Wow, that was fun to watch.”

Photo courtesy of Emmy Dolin

What are the most important things that can knock your score down?
Probably the biggest things that can affect your score would be a rail down (50), trotting on course (55), refusals (40-20), going off course, and the fall of a horse and/or rider (0).

From a judge’s view, what are some tips and tricks that the rider may not know? 
The biggest thing I would say is, study the rule book. Learn to understand why we score the way that we do. Obviously not all judges score exactly the same. It’s just our professional opinions. We all know a stellar trip, but it’s important to know that if you’re showing at a show for two weeks in the same division, and you are consistent both weeks, one week you may be the winner, and the next week you may be third. It’s just the way that it goes sometimes. Understand why if you have eight perfect jumps but you miss a lead in one corner, you can get a score in the 60s. The other thing that is important to understand, is that from where we sit on the side of the ring, it can be a very different point of view from where you or your trainer might be standing at the ingate. We have a different perspective at that angle than from there, so we may see something that couldn’t be seen at the ingate, and vice versa.

Thanks to John for giving us some insight to his judging! If you recognize John at a show, don’t be shy and be sure to say read about him in The Plaid Horse.

About the Author: Emmy Dolin has been writing for The Plaid Horse for two years. She rides hunter/jumper in Zone 5 on the A circuit.

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