If you love riding horses and showing horses you may have wondered if there is a way to turn that love of horses into a fulfilling and well paying career. For those with a love of horses and an eye for quality, a career as a horse show judge can provide personal satisfaction and financial rewards.
Becoming a certified horse show judge is not as easy as many people think. Each breed organization has its own rules for the certification and testing of judges, and those who succeed generally have years of experience working with the breed of their choice.
That is why it is important to get started as early as possible. If you have experience training and showing horses of your own, that experience can help you when it comes time to judge practice classes and take the breed association's judging exams. If you are a youth, getting involved with your local 4H club is a great way to prepare for a career in horse show judging. Many 4H clubs have their own horse judging programs where youths can learn from judges who have already undergone the rigorous training and certification programs required to become a judge. Those who have passed the age limit of the 4H program can look for a college, like West Texas A&M University, with a good equestrian program and a history of success in judging competitions.
Attend the required judging seminars and practice judging classes. Most breed associations and horse organizations, including the American Quarter Horse Association, require would-be judges to attend judging seminars and judge practice classes before they can become horse show judges. Many organizations also impose a minimum age for judging certification--in the case of the AQHA the minimum age requirement is 25. Horse lovers who are younger than that can use their time to learn as much as possible about the breed's history, the rules for each class and the practices employed by current judges.
Pass a certification test to become a certified horse show judge. The requirements for certification and testing will vary from organization to organization, so it is important to review each breed association's requirements carefully. In most cases the testing procedures will include not only written exams but live practice classes as well. This type of hands-on exercise helps to ensure that only those with a trained eye and a discerning nature are permitted to judge those high-level breed shows.