How to start a 4-H horse judging team

Learn tips from coaches and leaders on how to develop a successful 4-H horse judging team!

Follow these tips and resources on how to have a successful 4-H horse judging team.

Follow these tips and resources on how to have a successful 4-H horse judging team.

Starting a horse judging team can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. With a few helpful tips and resources, developing a strong team can be done. Through participation on a judging team, youth learn vital skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. Communication, motivation and confidence are all developed along with the equine knowledge gained through horse judging. Additionally, participating on a judging team can help a youth see the horse show through the judge’s eyes, helping them to become a more knowledgeable, more understanding and overall more successful exhibitor.

In general, there are two basic things each participant will need to learn:

  1. How to judge classes of four horses.
  2. How to deliver oral reasons.

The first of those two can involve a great deal of variety. There are halter (conformation) classes and performance (riding/driving) classes. One of the first steps towards becoming comfortable in judging classes is to get very familiar with the class specifications for the group, association or breed of horse that you will be judging. These class specifications include detailed descriptions of what a judge should be looking for and how to score accordingly. There are a variety of classes to focus on, so if you are preparing for a contest, I would see if the contest rules have a list of potential classes that will be included in the contest. Another great place to start with halter is defining ideal conformation and form to function. An educational DVD from My Horse University, titled “Understanding Conformation Evaluation in Horses and Judging Arabian Halter,” has lectures from Michigan State University faculty member John Shelle on form to function, practice halter classes, judge’s critique and sample oral reasons. It is very useful for those just starting out and advanced horsemen as well. You can also purchase practice DVDs from the National Horse Judging Team Coaches Association.

If you’re looking for opportunities to learn more about this subject, you’re in luck! On Feb. 5, 2016, Michigan State University Extension 4-H Horse Programs will be holding an introductory horse judging clinic in conjunction with the 4-H/MQHA Clinic Weekend at the MSU Pavilion. Additionally, there will be a practice contest on Saturday, Feb. 6. This event requires pre-registration and will also be held at the MSU Pavilion. The MSU Horsemen’s’ Association Weekend, Jan. 16-17, 2016, will have a variety of clinics available, including horse judging. Be sure to also mark your calendars for April 22-23, 2016, for the Michigan 4-H Equine Educational Expo (E3). E3 offers hippology, communications, horse bowl and, of course, horse judging contests for Michigan 4-H participants.

Don’t forget to “like” the Michigan 4-H Horse Leaders Facebook page for up-to-date information on state-level horse programs and events!

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