Understanding Equestrian Judges’ Scores

Any time you earn a blue ribbon in hunter or equitation disciplines, you probably don’t think about how the judges evaluated your performance. You may feel the same way about a red… unless you feel you did your very best and wonder how you or your horse could do better. Same for a white ribbon, or not placing at all. We’re here to help you understand equestrian judges scores!

Your trainer can undoubtedly spot the details in your posture, control of your horse, your horse’s form through the course and more, all of which affect your scores. Those details will probably be the sorts of things the judges are looking at too.

But as soon as you perfect the details that need improvement, you might uncover other aspects of your performance that can keep you out of the ribbons. That’s where our new interactive Judges’ Score Card comes in handy.

There are dozens of elements of perfect form for horse and rider that influence judges scores. In order to remind themselves of how a rider performed—and any faults or highlights they noted—judges use a scorecard with a kind of shorthand for common elements. You can find the complete set here.

How it can help!

Whether you’re just starting to ride competitively or have been doing so for years and want to take your skills to the next level, it’s important to know what judges are looking for. This can help guide your schooling regimen, provide focus, and frame your overall development for a single season or years at a time.

Yes, despite your best efforts a horse may knock the pole down.  But that just means your best may need to be better. Recognizing the issue might change the exercises in your schooling or even how you prepare and equip your horse. Ultimately, every fault is a reflection on the rider—either their personal preparation, how they’ve prepared their horse, or how these factors come together in the heat of competition. The more you can dissect these elements, the better you can address them.

Share this scorecard with your trainer (and with any stable mates you think might appreciate it). Refer to it periodically, especially if you sense something is off in your form or your horse’s. Or just peruse it to inspire thoughts on your technical development.

And get ready to display more ribbons.