Saturday, May 31, 2008

Can You Wear Jeans & Muck Boots to Judge a Horse Show?

I just signed a contract to judge another horse show. It's coming up in a few weeks and it's making me a little bit anxious. That's not because it's a high profile hunter and equitation show on the county circuit. And it's not because it was one of my favorite shows to attend when I was competing. It's because I've been told by the show manager to "glam it up a bit." In other words, I've been instructed to wear a dress or a skirt. Yes, that's how hoity-toity this show is, partially because it's held at a private country club. Actually, I'm very honored to have been hired to be one of the judges, but now I have to rush around town looking for a skirt. Why? Because, being a confirmed horsewoman... and a writer by profession who works from home... I do not own a single skirt or dress.

Hey, at least I've been wearing shorts a lot lately to get a tan on my legs so that when I do get all dolled up in that skirt I won't be sporting the typical horsewoman's tan. As most of you are aware, that means tan arms, really tan face (except for the raccoon eyes from wearing sunglasses all day) and pasty-colored legs.

Other than that, I'm excited about this judging job. I've come a long way from the very first show I judged. That was probably 15 or so years ago, and yet I remember portions of it quite well. It was a little, itty bitty show held in a dry plot of land adjacent to a dairy farm and a stockyard. In the back acreage that day, Civil War re-enactors were holding one of their annual soldier-fests and I had to deal with wayward Yankees and Rebels and the occasional "BOOMS!" of cannon fire. Most of the horse show participants were kids on scruffy horses tacked up in colorful nylon headstalls and "saddled" with everything from knock-off show saddles to bareback pads. I think I got paid a whopping $50 for the day, but you know what? It was a learning experience for me. It was my first opportunity to wrangle with the paperwork and decision-making that goes into judging a horse show. Regardless of how unkempt and disheveled the competitors were, someone still had to be declared the first place winner.

You might wonder how I happened into that judging assignment. Well, I asked for it. Literally. I accepted I had to gain experience starting at the bottom of the horse show ranks, so I made unsolicited phone calls to every horse show organizer I could find by consulting fliers and posters and volunteering my services for a very cheap daily rate.

Once I decided I was interested in judging part-time, I also consulted my friends who had obtained their AHSA (now USEF) licenses and they gave me some great impromptu tutoring sessions. I learned how to mark a score sheet. They gave me tips on how to penalize and reward various rounds over fences. I sat with them while they judged ("learning judging"). And, most importantly, I became very familiar with the rule book. After all, someone, somewhere, has to establish rules for competition. Otherwise it's a melee waiting to happen. However, I stopped short of getting my AHSA/USEF license. I just wasn't that interested in pursuing a full judge's card. That requires a certain amount of time, travel and personal expense. All of that is understandable, and I admire those who do complete the requirements. It just wasn't for me.

Yet I'm quite content to judge county-rated and regionally sanctioned shows. Thankfully, I've moved beyond judging the little dustbowl shows. However, there's a trade-off in such a promotion. Occasionally I have to update my wardrobe.

If you'd like to share a comment, just click on "comments" below. I always love reading your responses!


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about having to look for a skirt or so. Just last week I had to wear dresses TWO days in a row - the first was for junior marshals and I had to find a white dress. I ALREADY have the horsewoman's tan, so my legs were whiter than the dress.

Then I had NHS inductions next day, and tradition at my school is that all NHS inductees wear REALLY nice clothes to school that day, so I had to find a green dress appropriate for school! That was interesting......

Especially since the only heels I own are either hooker heels or prom shoes.

Anonymous said...

ya, a few days ago i went to town with my mom to find a dress for my middle school graduation. it took us FIVE hours to find one that i liked and fit me. i'm not the dressy kind of person...

Jessica said...

I was just in a schooling hunter/dressage show today, and the hunter judge was a nice girl in jeans and a tanktop - complete with cowboy boots. The dressage judge was in all black flowy capris and a black sleeveless shirt with sandals...almost looked like a hippy.
I guess most judges just like what's comfortable. Can't blame you for not wanting to wear a skirt though. Skirts and horses just don't mix. ;-)

Cindy Hale said...

Okay, I admit that during the summer I do tend to wear nice capris if I'm judging. And... this may shock some of you... but I've even worn nice, tailored jeans with cowboy boots! But I'd never wear a tank top. So your hunter judge beats me in the casual dress department, Jessica, LOL!

And don't get me started on "nice" shoes. I have tennis shoes, loafers and tennis shoes. Oh. And I have a pair of tennis shoes.

But I did find a nice skirt yesterday. Oh, don't worry. I didn't surrender completely and go to a mall. I found it at the swapmeet. It's actually quite nice: it's kind of drapey and soft and has a sort of tie-dye look to it. So now I'll look like a former member of Fleetwood Mac. But at least I'll be comfortable!