Editor’s Postcard: A Few Thoughts on Competition

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After the Show—a Judge’s Musings

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—I love horse shows, and I love being a judge. Judging horse shows takes me places I’d never be able to see and allows me to meet wonderful like-minded people. I also get to see horses, beautiful horses, one after the other, for days on end. And as a true horse lover, that’s as close to heaven as I can imagine. 

I judge working equitation shows and I recently had the privilege of judging a show in Montana at a stunningly beautiful private facility. Cattle were lowing in the distance, birds sang, and snow fell just above us in the mountains. We had a little rain and a bit of wind but really, for spring in Montana we lucked out. The competitors tried hard, and the show managers were kind and made sure everything went smoothly. It was an exemplary event!

When the show concluded I thought the worst part of the job was having to rank winners. Judging is hard. I want to reward with high scores and make everyone feel good about themselves, but I’m hired to say what I see at a given moment and come up with a score. I do not take the job lightly and worry about every tender heart. The good part about dressage and working equitation is we get to give reasons for every score we give, which means competitors have an opportunity to learn. 

I competed for years, and I know how hard it is: the frozen brain that takes us off course, the fear of failure or of looking like an idiot, the worries about how our horses are going to react to a new environment or new challenges. The tears, the I’m never going to be good enough feelings, and also the feelings of accomplishment and closeness to my horse. Competing taught me that the most important thing is to love my horse no matter what, and that only those who get out in the arena and try can fail (or win for that matter). 

Next time you enter a show, look at the judge as your friend and helper. Most judges want to see competitors do well. We are pulling for you and understand that if you get a bad score, last place, or the gate, the judge and most of the other competitors have been there. Best of luck to you in whatever you do and happy riding! [email protected] 

See this article in the June 2024 online edition:

June 2024

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