Judging Horse Events - Western Horsemanship

Horses January 16, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

 

The western horsemanship event is judged both on how the horse performs for the rider and the rider's skill. The judge:

  • evaluates the rider's position
  • tests the ability of the rider and the horse to perform a prescribed pattern

Rider's Position

  • The rider should sit in the center of the saddle, forming a straight line from the ear, through the center of the shoulder and hip, touching the back of the heel or through the ankle.
  • The reins should be adjusted so that the rider has light contact with the horse's mouth.
  • At no time should the reins require more than a slight hand movement to control the horse.
  • Excessively tight or loose reins will be penalized.

Procedures

  • The class must work at all three gaits at least one direction of the arena.
  • The ideal horsemanship pattern is extremely precise with the rider and the horse working in complete unison, executing each maneuver with subtle aids and cues. The following maneuvers are acceptable in a pattern:
    • walk, jog, trot, extended trot, lope or extended lope in a straight line, curved line, serpentine, circle, or figure eight, stop, back in a straight or curved line, turn or pivot, including spins and rollbacks on the haunches and/or on the forehand, side pass, two-track, flying or simple lead change, counter canter, or ride without stirrups
  • A back should be asked for at some time during the class.

Scoring

Before scoring a horsemanship class, a judge should be familiar with each association's rules and regulations as they may differ from one another. Some associations have a scoring system that is based on a scale from 0 to 100, whereas others use a scale of 0 to 20. Below are the instructions on both scoring systems.

► 100-Point Scoring System

Scoring is from 0 to 100, with an approximate breakdown, according to the AQHA 2014 Handbook, as follows:

  • 90-100: Excellent: Rider including body position and use of aids. Completes pattern accurately, quickly, smoothly, and precisely while demonstrating a high level of professionalism.
  • 80-89: Very Good: Performance in execution of the pattern as well as correct horsemanship and use of aids. Excellent horseman who commits a minor fault.
  • 70-79: Good: Pattern execution and average horsemanship lacking adequate style and professional presentation to merit elevating to the next scoring range. A very good rider who commits a minor fault, or an excellent rider who commits a major fault.
  • 60-69: Fair: Pattern that lacks quickness or precision, or a rider who has obvious position and/or appearance faults that prevent effective horsemanship; or a good horseman who commits two minor faults in the performance of the pattern, or an excellent rider who commits a major fault.
  • 50-59: One major fault or multiple minor faults in the performance. A rider who demonstrates a lack of riding ability and knowledge of correct body position.
  • 40-49: A rider who commits a severe fault, two or more major faults, or multiple minor faults in the performance, or an exhibitor who demonstrates a lack of riding ability and knowledge of correct body position.
  • 10-39: A rider who commits more than one severe fault or multiple major faults in the performance or exhibits poor riding skills but completes the class and avoids disqualification.

Faults

  • Minor
    • break of gait at walk or jog/trot up to two strides
    • over-/under-turn up to 1/8 of turn
  • Major
    • break of gait at lope, out of lead, or missing lead for one to two strides
    • not stopping within 10 feet of designated area
    • incorrect gait or break of gait at walk or jog for more than two strides
    • over-turn of more than 1/8 but not more than 1/4
    • exhibitor obviously looking down to check leads
    • failure of bottom of boot to be in contact with the pad of the stirrup
    • head carried too high
    • head carried too low (tip of ear below the withers)
    • over-flexing or straining the neck in head carriage so the nose is carried behind the vertical
    • excessive nosing out
  • Severe
    • loss of stirrup or rein
    • missing a lead for more than two strides
    • touching the horse
    • grabbing the saddle horn or any other parts of the saddle
    • cueing with the end of the romal
    • spurring in front of the shoulder
    • kicking at other horses, exhibitors, or judge
    • severe disobedience or resistance by horse including, but not limited to, rearing, bucking, or pawing

Disqualifications

  • Failure by exhibitor to wear correct number in visible manner
  • Willful abuse
  • Knocking over the cone, going off pattern, or working on the wrong side of the cone
  • Excessive schooling or training
  • Fall by the horse or the rider
  • Illegal use of hands on reins
  • Use of prohibited equipment
  • Failure to follow pattern correctly including failure to ever execute correct lead or gait where called for
  • Over-turning more than ¼ of prescribed turn

► 20-Point Scoring System

Scoring is from 0 to 20, with 0 as the worst and 20 as the best.

  • 10 points for the overall appearance of the exhibitor and horse
  • 10 points for the performance

Some breed associations suggest scores from 0 to 100, with 70 being average.

Severe Faults

  • Loss of stirrup or rein
  • Missing a lead for more than two strides
  • Touching the horse
  • Spurring in front of the shoulder

Disqualifications

  • Failure by the exhibitor to wear correct number in a visible manner
  • Willful abuse
  • Knocking over the cone, going off pattern, or working on the wrong side of the cone
  • Excessive schooling or training
  • Fall by horse or rider
  • Illegal use of hands on reins
  • Use of prohibited equipment (martingales, draw reins, nosebands, tie-downs, wire chin straps, or any chin strap narrower than ½ inch)
  • Failure to follow pattern correctly, including failure to ever execute correct lead or gait where called for
  • Over-turning more than ¼ of prescribed turn

Watch the video below about How to Judge Western Horsemanship.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.