What perspective do you have for the judge? I often hear variations of the following;

‘The judge didn’t like me.’

‘The judge doesn’t like my horse.’

‘The judge keeps pinning that rider/horse so that must be what they want to see.’

‘The judge is mean.’

And the list goes on…..

I want to discuss both sides of the coin. I travel all over the United States and work with many judges. I can say that MOST judges are not out to get you. MOST don’t sit there and say ‘oh I don’t like that horse so it is getting last.’ MOST judges are truly trying to find the best horse or rider out of the group they are judging. The flip side of this coin is the minority of ‘bad’ or ‘grumpy’ judges out there. Whenever I teach a clinic on judging, I always speak to this because most riders, at some point, have encountered an unfortunate experience with a judge. I have seen some of these experiences first hand and felt sorry for the judge who is ‘bad’ or ‘grumpy.’ I felt sorry for them because their view of the rider/horse was limited, like always seeing the glass half empty. They no longer had joy doing what they were doing, and this was directly affected their judging.

When this topic comes up in my clinics, I encourage people to share their feelings with management. If an unfortunate experience is happening, it is probably happening to many competitors, and if many express their feelings to management, hopefully the judge will not be called back. I have seen this happen! So speak up and share with management.

The only way to change our perspective is through understanding. I try to teach people what judges do all day, and tell them exactly we are looking for. That way they can understand what we are thinking and going through all day. This leads to more comfort because the exhibitor understands what the judge is doing, and the judge doesn’t have any negativity coming towards them! 

Judging is fun! Certainly there are days where judges watch the best of the best. And then there are the other days, which are the majority, that are watching everything else. Most judging is watching the beginning-intermediate levels, and this leads to watching and keeping track of mistakes.  Embrace the comments and suggestions from the judges, and if taken to heart and applied in your daily practice, your showing success will undoubtedly follow.  I say this to educate, as education and communication is the key to understanding and being in comfort. Best of luck in the show ring!