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Is that Smoke Coming from the Judge?

By Cindy Hale

Monday, March 8, 2010

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Believe it or not, the show season is just around the corner. I’ve been getting phone calls from horse show managers recruiting me for judging jobs. I’m already booked for every weekend in May and for several dates throughout the summer and into fall. But I figured I’d also add another judge’s card or license to my resume, which will (hopefully) increase my chances of getting even more judging assignments. That means I’ll have to fill out some forms, join a few breed associations or riding organizations, take some quizzes and attend a clinic. That’s all fine with me. After all, if there weren’t some kind of criteria for evaluating a judge’s expertise, can you imagine what the ribbon placings might be like at a horse show?

Then again, that might explain some of the odd placings at horse shows. The judge’s credentials weren’t scrutinized enough!

At any rate, I thought I’d share one peculiar incident I encountered while researching what was necessary to gain acceptance as a judge in one of the smaller breed organizations.

I filled out the application, stating my previous judging history and citing references. Then I was sent the official Rules for Judges from this group. Listed among them was this: “Judges are not permitted to smoke or chew tobacco while judging a class.”

Now, I have to ask, is it really necessary to have that rule? Are there truly judges out there who are puffing away on a Marlboro while deliberating whether to place the chunky mare or the leggy gelding first in a showmanship class? Are exhibitors in danger of being expectorated upon while they’re in the line-up of a pleasure class? I try to imagine the scenario:

“Uh, Number 97, can you back your horse for me please? Oh wait… (Patooey! Spit and wipe chin with shirt sleeve)… Now go ahead and back up a few steps. Thank you.”

Heaven knows I’ve had some inglorious moments as a horse show judge. More than once I’ve arrived dressed sprightly in an equestrian print dress only to end up shivering from the cold and shrouded in a borrowed horse blanket to stay warm. Nothing says “glamour” like being wrapped in a size 82 turnout rug (complete with hind leg straps). But at least I’m not dripping tobacco juice from my chapped lips. The worst thing that’ll ever cling to my lips is shredded cheese from the taco wagon that’s parked behind the judge’s booth.

Yet despite my bemused astonishment, I’ll probably go ahead and sign up to get a judge’s card from this organization. In this economy I’m not about to turn down a way to earn some extra bucks. And I promise there won’t be any cigarette smoke or chewing tobacco tarnishing my image. Or my score sheets.

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Reader Comments

Joy    Mansfield, OH

3/10/2010 6:34:47 PM

I glad there are rules against Judges smoking if I was competing I wouldnt want to see a Judge with a Cigar, or Cigarette, dangling out of His/Her mouth while asking Me and My fellow competitors what sequences to do, not only is this gross but a Person with a Cigarette Cigar etc dangling out of their mouth are very hard to understand.

Samantha    San Juan Capistrano, CA

3/9/2010 9:29:42 AM

I'm a trainer/riding instructor and I usually bring a a handfull of students with me when I show open, some as crew, others to compete. As a normal part of the show experience, we spend down-time between classes observing the judge and other competitors as a form of learning. More than once we've been quietly discussing a judge and what his/her expectations for the next class will be, and watched as said judge lights up a cigarette in the shade of the judges' booth or on the side of the restroom - so judges *are* doing it, at least occasionally.

I myself do not smoke, but I will say that while it's tacky and bad form to smoke or chew tobacco while judging, I think that especially here in California, there are so many regulations about tobacco use (one city is currently considering legislation to ban smoking thought the entire city, INCLUDING inside personal residences), that the rules for it have passed the point where it's about public safety and are simply unnecessarily intrusive.

I do understand banning tobacco use at 4H shows or youth-specific events, though.

CINDY HALE    HORSE CHANNEL, CA

3/9/2010 7:20:58 AM

BOTH MY SISTER JILL AND I JUDGE 4H SHOWS, TOO. BUT WE'RE TOLD TO GO BY USEF RULES (FOR THE MOST PART) SO I WASN'T ACTUALLY AWARE THAT 4H HAD THE "NO TOBACKY" RULE, TOO!

IN ALL MY YEARS AROUND THE SHOW CIRCUIT, I HAVEN'T SEEN A JUDGE USE A CELL PHONE WHILE JUDGING, BUT I'VE BEEN JUDGING AND HAD COMPETITORS' CELL PHONES RING... WHILE THEY'RE JUMPING A COURSE OR STANDING IN THE LINE-UP! I JUST WANT TO LOOK UP FROM THE JUDGE'S BOOTH AND YELL OUT, "HEY, DO YOU WANT TO STOP AND GET THAT?"

WHICH IS WHY THERE'S NOW A USEF RULE AGAINST CELL PHONES COMING INTO THE ARENA.

AT    Laporte, IN

3/8/2010 12:10:08 PM

I judge 4-H and open shows and that is actually a normal rule for the 4-H groups that I am approved with. Some will even say no tabacco use on the show grounds. But I do love to hear judge horror stories....I always like hearing about judges taking a cell phone call in the ring...That stuff is crazy, how do they get jobs?

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