By Molly Schwister
Every year AHYA hosts a National judging contest at US Nationals in Tulsa. During the contest Junior AHA, 4H/FFA, and Collegiate teams judge ten different classes and give four sets of oral reasons on the final Friday of US Nationals. This contest has many awards and gives out a lot of money each year in scholarships.
This year is my fifth year on a judging team. I started judging five years ago I knew nothing about judging or oral reasons and I filled in on a team one month before the contest. I was overwhelmed finding out that I wouldn't be able to talk for the entire day and I had to sit there and judge horses in the cold arena. At the end of the contest it wasn't as bad as I thought and I had a lot of fun. Watching older team members place individually at nationals made me realize that I could do that well one day. The next year I got my first top ten individual in judging and now I have twenty top tens from nationals.
Why should someone join a judging team? Not just for the prizes but for understanding how horses function. Judging gave me the understanding of what judges look for in horses which helped me in the show ring. It also gave me the understanding of how horses conformation helps them function. After learning form to function I can easily tell if a horse is going to be a good performance horse just by looking at it without a saddle on. I think every youth should know the form to function on a horse so they are aware of how horses are built and so they can identify traits of horses that are undesirable. Other than knowing how horses function, judging helps with communication. Oral reasons are a very important thing in a judging contest. Everyone seems to fear giving a set of reasons. Reasons have helped me so much in communicating with other. When you are giving a set of oral reasons you have to defend the way you judged a class to people you has never met before, which can be very scary. Oral reasons give people the confidence to talk in front of people that they don't know and help them get over the fear of public speaking.
If you ever have a chance to join a youth judging team do it! Even if you have no idea what you are doing you should try it, you can learn so much in just one year of judging. It builds better horsemen and women. Youth Judging has opened so many doors for me so go out and see what kind of doors it will open for you!
About the Author Molly Schwister is the current AHYA Secretary & Region 10 Director