November 16, 2012
By Allison GraysonThe American Quarter Horse Journal
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The state of Oklahoma sweeps the AQHA Intercollegiate Horse Judging Contest at the 2012 AQHA World Show. (Journal photo)
The AQHA World Championship Show is known for the many champion horses and riders who make their way through the Gateway of Champions every year. But just yards from the Jim Norick Arena, a different competition takes place.
Every year, collegiate judging teams make their way to Oklahoma City to compete in the AQHA Intercollegiate Horse Judging Contest in the hopes of leaving with the coveted high-point overall team trophy (Read on to see the results of the 2012 AQHA Intercollegiate Horse Judging Contest).
The contests consist of judging actual classes of four horses, as well as giving reasons, which is a way for students to explain their placings after the classes.
Like the horses showing in the arena, preparing for the contest takes a lot of dedication. Clay Cavinder, coach of the Texas A&M University team, and Pete Agalos, coach of the Cal Poly State University-San Luis Obispo team, will tell you that preparations start at least a year ahead of time.
“I start my kids off a little bit differently (than some),” Clay said. “We’ve kind of got two different teams that get ready for different things. The team that came here started about this time last year. We start them out slow and in the spring they start putting together sets of reasons and learning how to do the reasons stuff and kind of get them acclimated to that.
“After summer break, they basically start hitting it hard,” he said. “They work out (practice) a couple of days a week in the classroom and at some farms, and then on the weekends , we go to a horse show or something like that.”
Pete has a similar tactic.
“We start in the winter with the first group of kids, and then I try to bring up a second group,” he said. “We work a couple or three days a week and try to go to a horse show and then the spring show. This group went to the spring show, then the (All American Quarter Horse) Congress, and now they’re here. This is their third contest.”
Many student judges struggle to find the perfect balance between perfecting their judging and being stellar at giving reasons. Both Clay and Pete explain that both aspects go hand in hand.
“I tell mine, ‘You gotta get them placed before you can talk them,’ ” Clay said. “I mean that’s really kind of the easier thing you can work on is the reasons because you can do it in-house and they can do it on their own and do it in the car, you know. But a lot of these kids are not really in anything horse industry-related and the kids are going to go on to be doctors or lawyers or dentists or whatever it may be, and those oral communication skills become vitally important.”
“I agree,” Pete said. “When they get out into the real world, they need to be able to communicate and get their point across in a logical manner. And you know, we’ve had students come back to us over the years and a number of students have said, ‘I’m glad I knew how to do reasons because in this interview or this situation that I was in, I had to speak very quickly.’”
Each section of the competition has its own challenges, but Clay and Pete say that many students excel for different reasons.
“My kids are totally personality driven,” Clay said. “Some of them are great horse people and can pick out the horses and then struggle with the reasons side. And some of them are very good actresses and actors and they really get the reasons side and struggle with the placings side. It’s very dependent on their personality.”
“Students pick one side up quickly, and the good thing is, one thing enhances the other,” Pete said. “If you’re a good speaker and you get the reasons a little quicker, that’ll help your judging. If you’re good at judging and you’re motivated, that’ll help you’re reasons.”
“You can only fake it so far before you got to understand what you’re looking at,” Clay said.
After tons of preparation, the collegiate judges finally make it to Oklahoma City. Pete said that the competition is broken up into performance and halter classes that the students all judge at the same time. Then the reasons are given. Classes are scored based on 50 points per class and 50 points for each set of reasons.
“There are 800 possible points that they can get,” Pete said. “Of course, we’ve got teams of five and we take the top four scores and we add those together for the team score.”
Once the competition starts, a committee gets together to decide the “cuts” for each class.
“At the competition, they actually put together a panel of AQHA judges to do that,” Clay said. “They have an official committee that places the classes, and then they bring those official placings to another committee of judges that say, ‘How would you like to place the classes?’ Basically everybody gets to have their own opinions and they just average the cuts together.”
Both coaches have been very happy with the competition in past years.
“It’s always pretty fair,” Pete said. “And the judges do a good job and the cuts committee always does its job pretty well. It’s really difficult putting these contests together. I mean, it takes a lot of work, a lot of working behind the scenes. It’s a tough job and we know that. From the perspective of coaches, we could always change something, but overall, it’s a very good contest. It’s very well done and very organized.”
High-Point Individuals 2012 - Overall:
High Point Teams 2012- Overall:
Senior College: Oklahoma State University
Junior College: Northeastern Oklahoma A&M - Team A