Put the Judge Back on the Pedestal

country tough trail versatility equine competition Feb 01, 2024
horseshow judge judging

My husband and I own and operate Von Holten Ranch, a trail riding facility in Mora, MO.  We have  hosted over 70 events a year.  When people view our life looking from the outside in, they think this is a cake walk and think there is not any stress related to owning a trail riding facility.  In all actuality, there is a massive amount of stress!  With us choosing to put our last name as the name of our business, we try to go above and beyond in every aspect of the events we put on at the ranch.  From ribbons, to t-shirts, to leather products, to fliers, to judges; you name it and we have put hours into our selection.  This brings me to a topic I feel very passionately about; putting the judge back on the pedestal.  Here are a few key points to ponder.

Respect the judge.

For some organizations, judges must take rigorous test or go through certification processes.  Some judges have extensive equine knowledge that you may not be aware of currently.  You should address them with ma’am or sir, shake their hand, and thank them for judging.  A judge has agreed to put themselves in a position to be analyzed and scrutinized, when they had to make a decision in a split second.  In today’s world of technology, you are able to go back and pick apart your competition and review everything with a fine toothed comb.  A judge is not given that opportunity.

Accept your placement in subjective competition.

Nobody wants to hear that they lost, but ultimately there is only one first place.  Talking negatively about your placement is not going to change it.  Sometimes you just need to grin and bear it.  Sometimes you need to step back and take what they say to heart and try to grow.  This is extremely true when dealing with young competitors.  Try not to let them hear you complain about the judging.  Set a good example.

Judges are human.

Even with all the experience in the world and certifications, mistakes are going to happen.  This is not the time to glorify yourself for finding the mistake, it is time to handle it and move on.  You should address this in a humble manner and not over verbalize the mistake.  I can tell you that the judge will be completely upset if they made a mistake. 

 Ask how you can improve.

Once you have asked a judge how to improve, you should listen.  Do not use this as a time to debate their decision.  Remember, each judge has a different set of experiences which will result in them having different opinions.  You may disagree with what the judge tells you, but remember it is only one perspective.

Dress the part.

In subjective competition, you should always dress the part.  Think about it this way; a judge has given up time from their family, received training, put themselves on the line by judging, and then you show up in a t shirt.  By dressing the part, your outward appearance matches the hours of training you have put in.  It says, “I’m here to compete and best showcase myself.”  You don’t have to have expensive clothing, but your clothes need to be ironed, cleaned, and tucked in.  Plus, this will make you feel better and in turn help you compete better.  Dress for success!

True purpose of competition.

The true purpose of competition is to satisfy ourselves during our quest for self-improvement.  A competition is just meant to help us gage our growth.  A one day single competition does not define who you are or the quality of your equine.  It is literally just a snap shot.  Maybe we need to reassess how much emphasis we put on competitions, ribbons, and buckles.

Competitors think success will bring them happiness, but that is completely out of order.  Happiness will bring you success.  Focus on the positive aspects of competition and success will find you.  It is not the winning of titles that we are working on, it is the relationship we form with our equine that is the greatest reward.  A judge is needed to award you that first place ranking you are trying to achieve in the future, but between now and that moment; you must put the judge back on the pedestal.  If you spend too much time fighting against them, are you really going to value their opinion when they say you are number one?


If you are interested in an equine logbook to track your competitions, visit www.horsemanshipwithbrandy.com 

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