For a newcomer to the sport—and to be honest, even for many avid competitors—the judge’s booth can seem like an inaccessible mystery. But speak to any judge, and they’ll make it very clear that they don’t want it to be perceived that way.
Judging, at its core, is subjective, but the top judges’ opinions are derived from fact—what they are seeing in the ring in front of them. And while a judge will ultimately pin a class based off their opinion, there is a formal scoring rubric in place by which they must abide.
The best way to gain a better understanding of the judging system is to educate, and USEF “R” judge, Equestrian Canada Official, and trainer Laura Kelland-May has made herself one of the sport’s most accessible judges by way of her popular YouTube Channel and Equestrian Skill Builders program. Kelland-May’s light-hearted demeanor and apt for clearly and succinctly explaining a complicated topic makes her videos a pleasant watch or listen.
We’ve collected some of her videos, along with others that put judges on the record, to shed light on some popular topics—from making a good first impression, to making sense of scores, comparing hunter and equitation judging, and more:
Horse Show Tips — How Do Hunter Judges Score a Round?
“So, what’s a 90, anyway?”
Hunter vs. Equitation — How to Enter the Horse Show Ring
“As soon as you enter the ring, that’s when the judging starts, so remember that. Have all your prep done before you enter the ring.”
How to Judge a Hunter Horse Show Round
Kelland-May welcomes a judging panel to break down the evaluation process.
Hunt Seat Equitation Tips for Riders
Kelland-May shares five ways to improve your equitation.
Hunter Horse Show and Equitation Tips
“What is your first initial impression of this horse and rider team? Is it a thumbs up, or a ‘I don’t want to watch anymore’ type of video?”
“Even before she completes the course, we have a thought in our mind of what this rider is doing and what this rider’s all about.”
What are Hunter Judges Looking For? Interviewing Geoff Teall
USEF “R” judge, trainer and clinician Geoff Teall, author of Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation: Develop a Winning Style, explains how he judges hunter derby competition, with great sound bites:
“The rider’s job in what we do is to show off the horse.”
“The most important thing not to do is to scare the judges.”
Watch the video to learn about Teall’s column ranking system and more in this interview. To more you listen, the more you learn!