When you’ve been training horse shows since 1982 and judging for almost as long, you see a thing or two at the shows you attend. We spoke to show judge, Chris Jetter, for an insider perspective on the life of a judge and what we can learn from his side of the table.
Chris has judging in his blood, so much so that he actually started judging while in 4H as a kid. He later started judging open shows at age 18 and the rest is history. He absolutely loves it, now doing 30-40 different shows each year! Chris judges mainly AQHA and NRCHA shows, but loves almost all disciplines. In fact, while he mainly rides ranch versatility and cow reining, he rode hunter-jumper and dressage styles for eight years, and regularly learns the latest in other disciplines as well! He likes to stay on top of all of the disciplines because a good rider will learn something from the other disciplines that he can apply to his main focus. As a judge, this is really important because then you are aware of all of the nuances that you may be have to judge other riders on.
In talking to Chris, it became clear that showing a horse is all about you, and it’s nothing about you. Quite the paradox, but when you hear what he has to say, it makes a lot of sense!
Showing your horse, It’s All About You
Showing your horse is all about you and the positive attitude you give off. As a judge, he sees that riders typically telegraph their main problems to the judge right off. If you can learn to focus on portraying your strengths and minimizing your struggles in a show, you’ll do better. But ultimately, it’s up to you how you do in a show!
While you may think there are politics going on with judges, Chris said that the rules matter first and foremost! Know the rules for your class because they are pretty clear guidelines that the judges will follow. It’s hard to place someone who hasn’t followed the rules; everyone can clearly see that you showed favoritism. That’s why judges, across the board, are sticklers for the rules. So, it’s up to you to do well. If you prepare well, and know the guidelines for your class, you have a better opportunity for success.
It’s Nothing About You
While you can prepare, and ultimately a horse show is all about you doing your best at the level you are at then, the show is really not all about you. Let us explain. Some days, the best you can show is the best your horse is willing to give you. Sometimes that is not a lot. Remember, you are working with a living being who has bad days too, and working with a horse is a lifelong project. Accept where your horse is that day. Don’t ask him to be more than he is that day. Then, go home and make him better for the next show.
Shows are also nothing about you because you are not the only one there. In a world where it’s easy to ignore others and focus solely on yourself, manners do matter and they do get noticed. Manners also don’t cost you a thing! A simple “congratulations” to someone who placed in their class says a lot about you and your character. Not only that, but so much of the shows happens outside of the arena. Saying hello and smiling is a simple way to make the shows an enjoyable experience all around, encouraging others to get into the sport and fall in love with it as much as we are!
Judges have a hard job.
As a judge, you are watching for every little detail with every rider and horse. Every single judge is out rooting for the very best that you can do. They love seeing the underdog coming out and giving it their
As a judge, you are watching for every little detail with every rider and horse. Every single judge is out rooting for the very best that you can do. They love seeing the underdog coming out and giving it their all, and pray as they watch that they’ll be able to place on something. “We’re praying that that person gets to a place where they get to hear their name called, maybe not today, but someday. We’re hoping for the best for all of the riders and horses.” Chris has seen a lot in the hundreds of shows he judges and has perhaps one of the biggest hearts for riders being successful as anyone we’ve ever known.
Want to touch base with Chris? He’s happy to help! Feel free to reach out to him: cdjetter @ msn dot com