A Judge's Pet Peeves - Appearance

A show hunter and rider turned out beautifully for competition.

A show hunter and rider turned out beautifully for competition.

I’ve been a USEF R-rated judge since 1984, holding cards in Hunter, Jumper, Equitation as well as Hunter Breeding. I’ve also been an exhibitor, coach and spectator for many more years. I’d like to share some of my thoughts from the judge’s booth. You would be surprised how some mistakes look a lot worse than you think!

It's all in the details. Sometimes the smallest things can make a bad impression on the judge.

In my 30+ years of experience in the judge's box and from having countless opportunities to sit with other top judges, I’ve developed definite likes and dislikes. Here are a few:


1) Dirty boots (Really? There wasn’t a rag or napkin around that you could have used?)

2) Poor-fitting tack (bridles with loose throatlatches come to mind)

3) Yellow tack (red flag that you are a beginner and just purchased your tack)

4) Too-large saddle pads (a saddle pad should be only an inch or so bigger than the saddle)

5) Big, fuzzy boots on a horse in equitation (so out of style and detracting)

6) Poor braid job (makes the judge wonder if you left them in overnight)

7) Spurs sticking straight up instead of level with boot seam (this is awful for the horse)

8) Untucked shirts (Inexcusable! If you have to wear low-rise breeches buy longer shirts please.)

9) Blingy belts (no place for circus attire in the hunter/equitation ring)

10) Bling on Spurs (No, no, no!)

11) Bling on brow bands (That’s for a different discipline!)

12) Charms on spur straps (OMG! No!)

13) Huge bows on pony children that obscure the rider’s number (very upsetting to judges)

14) Short hunt coats that look more like an untucked, fitted shirt (should touch the saddle as you sit)

15) Martingales that are too tight or too loose (defeats the purpose)

16) Crops that are brightly colored, have charms or are too big (detracting and non-traditional)

17) Odd-colored hunt coats, breeches or shirts (Let’s stick to hunter green or navy hunt coats and beige breeches please!)

18) Boots with snakeskin or multi-colored leather (not in the hunter/equitation ring please)

19) Horse in poor condition either/of weight and condition or coat (shows poor horsemanship)

20) Unconventional bits (Let’s train our horses properly instead of running to the hardware store for the newest fad.)

21) Messy hair! (No excuse! Hairnets and available, and they cost $1!)

22) Overly large, fake tails (Looks like a mop instead of a natural tail.)

In my opinion, anything that detracts from the horse should be avoided since it's a horse show, not a people show. Remember, you're showing off your horse and your skills as a rider, and the judge should be focused most on your performances! 

Until next time!

This post is synopsis of an article that appeared in Warmbloods Today magazine. 

Tricia Booker