Horse 4H, It Is What It Is

As a kid, I was a 4Her.   I really liked 4H.  It was fun and I learned a lot about horses.  I think it’s great for kids to be involved in 4H, but the showing aspect is really ridiculous.


I don’t know if all of the 4H horse show judges are as bad as the ones we have in our area.  It’s really a waste of time and money unless you are going just to expose your horse to a show.  One of my students qualified for the district competition, and I figured they could at least get a judge that had a clue for that but no chance.  I don’t usually get so irritated because all horse shows are basically judged by another person’s opinion.  But this particular show cost my student her rightful place in the state competition.  I would not have placed her first, but I most definitely would have placed her a solid second.  .


The class was showmanship, and my student had a really clean pattern.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was very clean.  She ended up sixth out of nine.  The second place horse was calling, walking around in circles in front of the judge, missed a part of the pattern and took a bite of grass.  The boy I would have placed third, he didn’t even place.  There were only three kids with a clean pattern, the first place horse, my student, and the boy who didn’t place.  All of the rest left out elements of the pattern.


After the class, I went to check the judges cards.  I always like to do that, because a judge should have some good insight you’d think.  You’d think, but not this time.  My student was placed sixth for her grooming, her pattern work scored as high as the first place horse.  Grooming is only 30% of the score, and it should never have knocked her down that far.  The only problem with her grooming that I could see is that her appaloosa’s mane is pretty sparse.  It makes the bands look less than perfect.  It is what it is.   Other than that, the horse was turned out perfectly.   The other horse’s that had their halter’s hanging off of their faces and the kids really messed up the patterns, and all of the lines they made were crooked fared much better than my student.  I tried to protest, but no one would listen.  I’m not the kind of person who likes to make trouble, but two kids lost out because of an unqualified judge.


I always tell my students that they should win showmanship for two reasons, one it is one of my specialties and I know all the nuances, and two any horse can learn showmanship.  Even horses that are not big money horses can win showmanship because the handler is judged and it has nothing to do with conformation.  I think it’s terrible that a judge can be paid to judge who obviously knows little about the classes they are judging.  What I have come to learn is that 4H horse shows around here are a waste of time, but the 4H program itself is worth joining.


Are your local 4H judges qualified to judge horse shows?


About Deanna Castro

Deanna Castro has been training horses and riders professionally for over 18 years. She trains riders in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, Showmanship and Trail Riding. Deanna is married to Native American Horse Trainer Fredi Castro and she is the author of "Six Weeks to a Better Horse".
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4 Responses to Horse 4H, It Is What It Is

  1. Jackie says:

    Interesting topic. I grew up riding in a predominantly western county … so the judging was pretty skewed if you were an English competitor. I think we usually had western judges, and they definitely didn’t always know what to look for in English classes, and in any that were combined (like pairs or teams or showmanship), the western riders tended to get preference. Once we got to Districts and States it was much better.

  2. dcastro says:

    Thanks Jackie, our area is the opposite, it is primarily English. I know exactly what you are talking about with the preference.

    The English kids are getting ripped off all the time too when the judges just are not qualified.

    I thought that this horse show would be different, because they split up the Western and English classes with two different judges.

    States and districts here are not much better they reward the fast horses with the high head sets that are completely inconsistent.

    I don’t even feel that they should necessarily get new judges, I think the judges they do have should just do their homework. I always think the best should win, whether they ride with me or not.

  3. Sabrina says:

    I don’t know who the judges for 4-H are in our area now but when I was in 4-H the judges that judged 4-H horse shows were also WSCA qualified judges so they really knew their stuff.

  4. dcastro says:

    Ours are “supposed” to be AQHA, APHA or something equal to that. Obviously they are not because they would be laughed out of those show rings.

    I’m glad yours actually were qualified Sabrina. That’s how it should be.

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