Tuesday, August 14, 2018

My judging system

Before we actually judged any horses, the members of the 1990 Colorado State University Horse Judging Team spent a lot of time learning about judging systems. We were taught different systems for different disciplines, and how to mark a scorecard for each.

I've forgotten most of that.

However, I have not forgotten how to score a reining class. That is the judging system that resonated most deeply with me, and is the foundation on which I have built my own model horse performance scoring system.
photo by Corina Roberts
Here's how the AQHA describes the reining scoring system on the AQHA Reining 101 section of their website: Each rider enters the ring with a score of 70, which denotes an average performance. The judge then adds or subtracts points during the performance. With seven to eight maneuvers in each pattern, each gets a score ranging from minus 1 1/2 (extremely poor quality) to plus 1 1/2 (excellent quality). Points are given for level of difficulty and finesse, while points are taken away for loss of control of the horse or deviations from the pattern. If no points are given or taken away, that denotes a maneuver that is correct with no degree of difficulty.
Since time is always an issue and most of the scoring happens in my head, I've simplified this a bit. Every entry starts with a zero. I then add or subtract whole number values ranging from minus three (major error) to plus three (holy crap, this is amazing!). Instead of looking like this...
my judge's notes tend to look like this.
I like this system because it doesn't just penalize mistakes. It also rewards excellence. That's important to me. While I'm not willing to overlook major functional errors, I also know that mistakes are only part of the equation. Clean and correct is the starting point. Clean and correct is a zero. There's a level or two beyond that, and my judging system helps me separate the good from the amazing. Please, please show me your plus threes.

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