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Two Minute Training Tips - That Judge don't know nuthin! Say what?!?

This is taken from the Carolina Omnibus sent out by Kay Whitlock - it's a good read! Reach out to her at to be on her distribution list for shows in the Southeast or for her great articles.

What does it take to be a USDF/USEF Judge?

Today's "S" judges have traveled a long, stressful road to reach this goal.

You don’t necessarily become a officiant at a horse show because it’s all glamorous and fun. It is a long road to get to become a judge. If you haven’t seen the classes for L Program I highly recommend you take them as an auditor because you will learn so much to help your training and develop your ‘eye’ as well as appreciate what the judges program does to prepare the judge who sits in the box. It’s a pretty weighty task – all day under less than ideal conditions – give you 110% to ensure the rider gets the most feedback; the ethics and integrity of the sport are upheld and maintained. Not exactly a walk in the park!

The first step on the road to "S" status is to graduate with distinction from a USDF "L" program. An "L" recipient is not a judge licensed by the USEF and can only officiate at schooling shows.

Next comes USEF certification as a "r" judge.To be admitted into a "r" judge program the applicant must have achieved 5 riding scores of 65% or better at Fourth level from 4 different "R" or "S" judges at licensed Dressage Competitions. Once approved the applicant must apprentice judge at USEF recognized shows with a "R" or "S" judge who then must review scores and placings and fill out evaluation forms. Then comes a very intensive training program that takes approximately a year to complete (and pass) including many more evaluation forms to be reviewed by the Dressage Committee.

Now we have our "r" judge who may only officiate through 2nd level at USEF/USDF recognized competitions.

To be accepted into a "R" program the candidate must be a "r" judge for a period of at least 2 years, officiate at a minimum of 10 USEF licensed competitions and judged a total of 40 Second level 2 & 3 rides. They also must have achieved a minimum of 5 riding scores of 65% or better from 4 different judges at Prix St. Georges. Then there is a repeat format of the "r" program. If approved these "R" judges may officiate at recognized competitions through Fourth Level.

Finally our candidate is looking at "S" status. Another 2 years have passed and now the requirement is to have judged a total of 40 Fourth level 2 & 3 rides at a minimum of 8 USEF licensed competitions. To top it all off the candidate must have achieved a minimum of 5 riding scores of 60% or better from 4 different judges at Intermediare 2/Grand Prix/Grand Prix Special. The training format follows along the lines of the "r" and "R" programs with intensive apprentice judging that includes 8 classes of 4 or more riders at Intermediare 2/Grand Prix/Grand Prix Special (very few shows have a class of 4 or more at these levels).

We often hear riders complaining when reading their tests that the judge "doesn’t know what she/he was seeing"! Not true of today's judges given the rigorous training they need to pay for and participate in and then maintain their status. They also have to ride and achieve higher scores than the USDF medals levels to be able to understand the rider and training point of view. It’s not all just ‘head’ knowledge. What the judges are paid for shows vs what it costs them to get there is upside down. It’s not going to make your financial advisor excited when they see it as a hobby. It's amazing we have the number of judges in this country that we do!. It’s important you have some respect for the judge and realize they are trying to communicate what they saw at that moment in how the test went. They may not know a month ago your horse couldn’t trot a 20 M circle at all and that today was a huge improvement. That’s for you, your horse, trainer and family to celebrate! The judge is giving a comment on this moment and time during the movement. A note on comments – the judge has to give a small comment on a movement that goes on for several seconds. They try to point out the best or worst of the movement in just a few words because the box and time we have is very small. It also keeps the poor scribe from writing volumes so the words uses are a judge’s specific terminology to help you understand their message. This guide will hopefully give you some insight on what the judge is trying to tell you and you can incorporate into your training so you see progress and then the next time you show the judge ‘that day’s riding’ you may find higher scores. After all, we’re all there for the love of the horse and the sport. Making it better, making it more fun and enjoying it more is the goal!

Want more saddle success for your horse? Some Dolce Vida? You can always email me questions at with the title of this post in the subject or check out our website Subscribe because there is so much goodness coming! For upcoming events like us on Facebook at!

#horseshow #judging #horseriding #revelationfarm #dressage #horsecompetitions #USDF #USEF

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