An Overview of Road to the Horse Judging Criteria

In a pursuit to reach its own exceptionally high standards, Road to the Horse has created a cutting-edge judging system where each professional lends their experience and expertise, as they judge every step taken from beginning to end.

First and foremost, this is about correct horsemanship. Contestants may use various methods, but in the end, the goal is the same; to create a calm willing partner using accepted methods of natural horsemanship.

The Mission

The Road to the Horse Mission Statement provides a clear picture of the event’s goals:

Road to the Horse was created to present the art of colt starting to the equine industry through an educational, entertaining and challenging event that displays each clinician’s individual style and philosophy. Road to the Horse was developed to enrich the knowledge of both the horseman and the spectator. Road to the Horse officials and management are committed to ensuring a fair and impartial competition for the horses and the horsemen. Road to the Horse is also committed to education and the acknowledgement of modern horsemanship with respect to the horse and true horsemen.

The Equipment

Contestants are limited to tack that meets guidelines established by the American Quarter

Horse Association. Other items used in the round pen to introduce the colts to obstacles are

provided by Road to the Horse. Each contestant can bring two items of their choice. Contestants can use a saddle horse to assist and a Pen Wrangler to help in moving obstacles, etc. There are rules and limitations regarding the use of both saddle horses and Pen Wranglers.

The Scoring

Scoring in the rounds are primarily based on the following:

1. Attaining forward motion
2. The degree of difficulty of a colt
3. Yielding to pressure
4. Smoothness of contestant’s presentation
5. Confidence and trust that the colt exhibits                      
6. Overall demeanor of the colt                                 
7. Fear management                     
8. Clinician’s demeanor
9. Amount of progress being made
10. Reading the colt’s responses correctly

There are numerous penalties that can be applied, such as unnecessary roughness, not giving the colt the required rest time, failure to exit the round pen on time, etc. Penalties can range from 2 points to 30 points and are assessed per occurrence per judge. All scoring throughout the entire competition is based on 70 being the average and a scale of 3 points up, to 3 points down to reward excellence and penalize ineffectiveness.

In the finals, scores are awarded for completing rail work and for each obstacle.

The criteria used by the judges in the finals include: 

1. Overall horsemanship                              
2. Horse’s willingness to guide                   
3. Control at increasing speed                   
4. Control at decreasing speed                  
5. Horse’s demeanor                     
6. Clinician’s demeanor

Bonus points can be added for completion of the mystery obstacle and for a freestyle performance. The overall score used to determine the champion is an accumulative total for the go rounds and the finals.

We hope this will provide insight into the challenging task of judging an event like Road to the Horse.