Judge's Cards

Back when I showed as a junior rider (ages ago) judges’ cards were available in the show office OR even posted outside the show office and my trainer and I would go in and review them. She would use them as coaching and I would get a “report card” on my riding.
After not showing and riding for awhile, I started my own barn and we made our way slowly back to the “A” show ring about 5 years ago. At my first show, I asked if I could see the judge’s card after my green hunter round and the gate guy acted shocked! He said I’d have to talk to a steward who would have to check with the judge and then MAYBE I could see it at the end of the day. The steward told me she would check with the judge, but they would have to check with show management and then I could possibly look at it at the end of the show. Then it was my turn to be shocked!?
What has happened to transparency? Feedback? I pay a LOT of money for my classes and would love to know what I did right and what I did wrong. There is precedence in this with dressage riders- they get their tests back with scores and comments.
I think it would be especially helpful to new trainers, equitation riders, people with green horses, etc…
I would like to know what everyone’s thoughts are on this issue and what (if any) push-back there might be if we try to implement a rule change to provide for the posting of judge’s cards at shows (after the class has been pinned, obviously). I cannot really think of a “down side”, but I’m sure I’m not seeing the whole picture.
TIA for your opinions. :slight_smile:

USEF GR 1304 section 13. No one shall approach a judge with regard to a decision unless he first obtains permission from the Show Committee,
Competition Management, steward, or technical delegate who shall arrange an appointment with the judge at a
proper time and place. No exhibitor has the right to inspect the judge’s cards without the judge’s permission.


Did you show at lower rated or schooling shows as a junior? Cards being made available after a class is pretty common on local circuits, but pretty unheard of in the As.

And what you experienced is exactly what should happen - the request should go through the steward, who will ask the judge if they’ll release the card. And if the judge doesn’t wish to; that’s it.

I only ever saw it happen once at an A show, and it was an unrated division. The judge was Kip Rosenthal, and she sat down with a pony rider and reviewed all her trips on the cards and explained what she saw. I was blown away at the time; Kip essentially gave that kid a clinic.


McGurk, that is awesome! Like I said, it was a LONG time ago… and I’m old now, so I don’t recall if this was at rated or non-rated shows- it didn’t matter to me as a kid… I LOVE what you said about Kip and the pony kid… maybe that was the intent of the restriction in the first place?

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Today, reading a judges card would be pretty much useless as many judges have their own symbols or shorthand they use during a class. Some are fairly uniform, some are not. Many judge score numerically - so unless their was a huge miss, rail or something - there might not be any notation whatsoever other than a score; same thing with the under saddle classes. The only thing you might see in regards to your number might be an identifier i.e. "brown jacket/chestnut. or something like. Dressage has a series of movements within each test which are scored and then collective points/comments. They also have scribes writing for them.

Good points. Thanks!

yes, the reason they stopped letting you post the cards is that the symbols and abbreviations are up for interpretation. I learned to judge from so many, including Ronnie Mutch, and he used to post his cards. It was always a great learning experience. But something along the lines of " a dog ran in the ring, judge wrote DOG, exhibitor thought they called the horse a dog" and so on.


That’s such a shame… I understand what you are saying though… people are understandably very sensitive…

I am a USEF R hunter judge. I also judge dressage. I will give you my opinion on the subject. As everyone already mentioned, the chain of command in regards to seeing judges cards is correct. You must first go through the appropriate channels before being able to approach a judge and/or ask to see judges cards.

Comparing dressage to hunters is like comparing apples to kittens. :wink: In dressage, each rider gets a 5 minute block of time. This allows the judge to stop in between each test and write comments on the score sheet. In the hunter ring, a judge does not get this luxury. If we did the same type of scheduling in the hunter ring, I would be judging until midnight!

As well, there are scribes in dressage that write down a mark out of 10 for each movement…and each movement has clear instructions in regards to what makes a sufficient movement or an excellent movement. In hunters, the scoring is a lot more complicated and subjective, much like figure skating…as the ENTIRE round is based on style, manners and way of going. There is no such thing as scores for individual movements in the hunter ring. So, while a judge could theoretically consider one jump an 8 out of 10, the judge then also has to consider the approach to that jump, the lead change into the corner, the pace, form, etc., etc…so it is impossible to have a scribe and give a simple X score out of 10 for each jump. Judging hunters is also about what happens in between each jump.

In dressage, you are essentially competing against yourself and no one else and you get ONLY your score sheet back…not a score sheet containing everyone else’s scores. When a dressage judge judges a class, there is absolutely NO thought to comparing one rider against the other and putting riders in order of how you think they should place. You simply give each rider a score and move on to the next rider. However those horses end up placing is completely up to the calculator in the show office. :wink:

While in theory, this sounds like a good idea, I will explain the down side and why it just won’t work. :wink:

In hunters, the judge’s job is to remember every single round of that same class and place the riders and/or horses in the appropriate order. Asking to see the judge’s card in the hunters means you are also getting to see how everyone else did in that round, and that is not necessarily fair. Because things can happen quickly in the hunter ring and the judge must remember every round and everything that happened in every round, each judge using their own version of “short hand” to narrate a story for each round, which also makes it impossible to have a scribe…as the scribe’s short hand might be totally different than the judge’s short hand, which would make it tough to go back and review the class if the judge needed to do so. Because each judge has their own version of short hand, most judge’s cards just look like a bunch of chicken scratch with no real explanation. Things written on a judge’s card like NAH, WR, TM, LF & MO are only going to make sense to myself. :wink: If you are lucky, the judge will have used numerical scoring, which could at least give you a final score…but many judge’s do not use numerical scoring on their cards (unless required to do open numerical scoring), and the score also does not tell you what went wrong or right during the round. Also, what one judge calls an 80 might be a 76 to another judge…so it is a moot point.

Here are two examples of hunter score cards I found through doing a Google search that helps explain the above information.


I have been showing A circuit hunters for 25+ years and judges cards were never ever posted for anyone to review at any of the shows I have attended. So I have to wonder if you might have been at a lower level show for that to have happened in the past.

There is no rule stating a judge has to agree to discuss your round(s) with you. I don’t mean to sound cruel…but at the end of the day, I am there to judge a horse show, not give a clinic. :wink: If I had to discuss rounds with a bunch of different people, again, we would all be there until midnight. :wink: Your statement above is the key reason competitors should have a trainer with them at a show. It is the trainer’s job to watch their student’s round and discuss the round with them after they are finished. The trainer will be able to explain where marks were lost and gained. If a trainer comes out of the ring and cannot clearly go through their round in their own head and does not understand what went wrong and what went right during their round, they are not ready to be a trainer yet.

“If” a judge does give you permission to discuss your round, a good judge will only do just that - discuss your round and not allow you to look at the judge’s card. One, only the judge is going to be able to interpret the chicken scratch they wrote on the judges card, and two, this prevents you from viewing the rounds of the other riders in the class, which is a big no no.

Don’t shoot the messenger. But hopefully the above information helps explain why hunter scoring is so vastly different than dressage scoring and why hunter score cards are not posted after the class is done.


Great post, Daventry, thank you!

Obgsm, you don’t have tell us how old you are, but I showed as a junior in the 70s, and did most of my hunter showing in the 80s and 90s. The Kip Rosenthal incident I described was mid 80s.

I feel pretty certain the shows you remember where cards were made available were unrated or a local circuit.

To put some color around my story, here are some key points - it was an unrated division - no points, no year end awards, no zone awards. The pony rider did everything right - the approach was through the steward and show committee. Kip had time between classes because she was judging the third ring, which was periodically held for the other rings. The kid’s attitude was NOT “Why didn’t I pin?” but “Can you tell me what I can do better?” Kid was extremely polite. Kip reviewed her notation on the cards, but didn’t actually hand the kid the cards. (to Daventry’s excellent point above - that wouldn’t exactly be fair to the other exhibitors.)

One of the many things that impressed me about this was that Kip was able to completely and accurately reconstruct the kid’s trips from the cards. Her notation was very precise and thorough.

I don’t know if the initial approach was made by the trainer or the parent, but the kid talked to Kip by herself. And then thanked her very politely for her time.

I don’t think this could happen today for a whole host of reasons. One is, as showing has become increasingly political and litigious, the risk to the judge FAR outweighs any benefit to the individual rider. Two, I remember a time when judge’s notation was fairly standard (other than Victor Hugo-Vidal’s infamous TUT for take up tennis or CC for chocolate chip); but I think it’s in the judge’s interest now NOT to have their notation be standard or readily decipherable. Three, I can’t imagine show management allowing it because of the potential liability as well.

If you’re really interested in how all this works; host a clinic. Invite a local judge or a learner judge. At the end of the day, have a mock class, have the clinician score the class and review their card. Great learning experience. It can be the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.

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In the past, I have been approached several times when asked to judge a Pony Club level show, to sit down with each rider afterwards and discuss their hunter rounds. It is a great learning opportunity for everyone…but it is discussed and approved with me ahead of time and this can often only happen when the entries are low, which allows sufficient time for conversations and the show not going into the dark of night. :wink:

The other option is to attend a hunter judging clinic. They can be an eye opener for non-judges.


I will only add that a judge’s willingness or unwillingness to discuss an exhibitor’s round may be a result of prior experiences. After an unpleasant session or two with an indignant pony parent who knows nothing about ponies, but is convinced their child should have won… a judge might choose to err on the side of caution.


This is a really great idea, and wonder if some more schooling shows would consider doing something similar, almost like a Fix A Test in dressage. But it really would require the judge having someone with them to help notate the round so the judge can watch (which is what dressage judges have in their scribe, which can be a tough job!) and it would require scheduling trips, so there is a set number of entries and time for all of that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done for hunters, and could be a really helpful tool.

That said, if you can lesson with someone who is a judge, or who has at least been through judges training, it can be really enlightening. I sometimes ride with someone who is an R, and really enjoy when she gives us a course, then a score, and tells us what we need to fix or improve, and what worked well. That is incredibly helpful when you’re then able to take that knowledge into the show ring and ask “ok, that felt like a good round in a sea of 15 good rounds, what do we need to do next time in to stand out and pin rather than just be ‘good’?”

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Nope, no extra person needed. It is no different than actually judging a class. :wink: An experienced hunter judge has already trained themselves to watch the round and write at the same time…and remember that rider and horse. I should be able to go back a year later and read through my short hand on one of my judge’s cards and know exactly what I wrote about each individual round and what that round looked like. All that is required when discussing rounds with riders later on is having the judge’s card in front of me so I can read through and remember what that rider did during the class. For those that are used to judging regularly, it is not a hard task.

Many years ago, I remember competing the Year-End Medal Finals class and each rider got to go up to the judges booth at the end of the class and sit down with Geoff Teall and talk about our individual rounds. It was a wonderful opportunity. I’ve heard of this happening at a few other Medal Finals over the years with various judges.

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I was seated behind two of the judges at one of the BigEq finals a few years ago and was able to see the cards as they were writing on them. Might as well have been babylonian cuneiform. :lol:


I have my 1990 rule book. It is only hard copy, so I can’t do a search, and I may have missed something

Article 1032.6 (applies to all disciplines) says that it is the shows prerogative to post (or not post) judges cards.

Article 804.13 says that no one may approach a judge about a decision without going through a steward/TD, and that no exhibitor has a right to inspect the judges card without permission.

Also if you really want insight into hunters, be an announcer! I basically get a free judging clinic every time I sit next to a judge , it’s eye opening and as a hunter rider has helped immensely.


Thank you all so much for your insight and thoughtful replies! Daventry, I especially appreciate all the time you took to explain the process and describe the “big picture”. You are right on so many points! I agree that in this day and age people are so sensitive and litigious and there is no need for further drama and I know that judges already work EXTREMELY long hours… I don’t know how they do it sometimes.
Thank you again for taking the time to educate me to the “bigger picture”. I TRULY appreciate it!

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