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Wyoming horse judgers get sound advice from UW champion team members

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Douglas – “Ma’am, after evaluating the Quarter Horse geldings, I found a distinct top pair in two and one, who offered the highest combination of balance and structural correctness in the breed. I just as easily found a bottom pair in the horses that were the weakest with 4 at the bottom, making the placing 2-1-3-4.”
    UW horse judging champion Stephanie Schroeder demonstrated the beginning of one of her award winning sets of reasons for 14 4-H and FFA youth who attended a horse judging clinic at the Big Wyoming Horse Expo the weekend of April 21-22.
    Coach Amy McLean and three members of the champion horse judging team, Lacey Teigen, Corinna Slingerland and Stephanie Schroeder, worked with the students to make them more comfortable judging horses and giving reasons. During the judging clinic, the students placed four classes – stock-type geldings, stock-type mares, Western pleasure and Western horsemanship.
Strategies for reasons
    After the actual judging contest, McLean directed a classroom session mainly focused on giving compelling reasons to defend a class placing.
    “Everyone is different, and everyone gives reasons differently,” McLean told the group. “The important thing is to stick with the format, and find what works for you.”
    To show how styles can differ, McLean asked Teigen to give a set of reasons.
    “The placing for this class of aged mares is 4-2-3-1, finding an obvious top mare with the best combination of size, balance and overall structure,” she responded in her opening sentence.
    “She is very effective and pleasant,” McLean said of Teigen’s presentation. “She is more relaxed and conversational giving reasons, while Stephanie is more formal and direct. Stephanie uses a lot of expression when she gives reasons, which makes people want to listen. She leaves people asking, ‘Tell me more.’”
    “Everyone has their strengths,” she stated. “What is important is to keep it simple, and try to describe in detail what you saw. The judges you are speaking to want to know what went on in the class. It is your job to paint them a picture of what you saw.”
Positive comments on placings
    Stephanie said what she likes about horse judging is being able to give reasons that are more complementary about the horses being judged. In livestock judging, in which she has also competed, competitors are encouraged to grant, criticize and compare the four animals.
    Lacey added, “I like being able to focus on the positives when I judge horses. Anyone can see the bad in a horse. My grandmother can pick out one that is swaybacked. I think it is more challenging to find the good in a horse that maybe isn’t so good.”
    “When you are judging horses, you need to remember there is no such thing as a perfect horse,” McLean told the students. “What is important is to find something positive about the horse you can talk about.”
    She also encouraged the students to learn as much as they can when they judge horses, and from anyone they can.
    “Get as many opinions as possible,” McLean encouraged. “These three girls have had many different coaches who have contributed to their success. I am by no means solely responsible for the successes they’ve had.”
Judging resources
    McLean also shared some resources to help the youth improve their horse judging skills.
    “Horse judging is important because it not only teaches you how to select horses for a purpose, but it teaches you how to think on your feet, make a decision and defend your opinion,” she said. “I may not agree with you, but I will respect you if you can defend your opinion.”
    For more information about learning how to judge horses, McLean said youth should refer to the American Quarter Horse Association website for valuable teaching tools: McLean also offers horse judging clinics and additional horse judging resources. She can be reached at 307-766-4373, or by email at
    Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup from Wheatland. Send comments on this article to

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