Judging Components at Road to the Horse 2022

The purpose of Road to the Horse is to identify the superior colt starter who accumulates the highest score, across three days, during the competition. Judging focuses on the competitors and the effectiveness of their horsemanship methods as they communicate, educate and build a partnership with their colt. The world-class colt starting competition also strives to keep the long-term respect of the horse at the forefront of its mission. Inspiring horse owners to reach a higher level of horsemanship and develop unity with a horse based on trust, not fear. The first priority is always the horse.

RTTH competitors battle through two rounds and complete an obstacle course and rail work requirements on the last day. RTTH is a leader in the industry, and in 2022 will debut a renewed system of scoring. Built with the intentions of reflecting the evolution of the industry, while providing a fair advantage to competitors and horses the new scoring system will keep RTTH on the cutting edge of the industry, according to Road to the Horse Director of Operations, Tammy Sronce.

“With the evolving talent of the clinicians—look how far they’ve come over the years—the system has to evolve,” Sronce says. “Just like the colts do and the clinicians do and the industry does.”

RTTH is the onset of a colt’s education, therefore the simple act of a judge scoring maneuvers rather than the process in which a trainer interacts and build’s a colt’s confidence did not purely reflect the values of RTTH.

“Road to the Horse wanted a scoring system that directly reflects our message, and this is one which focuses on building the colt’s confidence and trust through the entire journey,” Sronce says. “To us, it’s about creating a solid foundation, rather than just being primarily centered on the obstacle course.”

This new system works on a basis of 0 to 5 points, which increase in half-point increments. With the 0 to 5 scoring scale, judges will mark a competitor on individual scoring elements throughout the rounds based on 0 being the lowest level of difficulty and 5 being the highest. Those scores for each individual scoring element will then be tallied and totaled at the end of each round of competition. At the end of competition, the competitor with the highest composite score will be crowned the champion.

Milestone markers have been added to the scoring system. Now, the new system reflects changes in scoring components based on how the colts’ education grows in the rounds.

In Round 1 competitors will be judged on 20 categories: catching and haltering, saddling preparation, saddling, introduction of rider, obstacle preparation, groundwork, general interaction, timing-reward and release, forward motion, willingness to guide/steer, progression of colt’s softness-yields to pressure, clarity of message, overall horsemanship—reading of colt, clinician’s conduct/demeanor, clinician’s confidence and understanding, clinician’s ability to build confidence in colt, clinician’s ability to adjust to the colt’s needs, clinicians ability to build a solid foundation, appropriate use of pen wrangler, and colt’s demeanor at end of session.

When competitors move to Round 2, all the same categories will be judged as in Round 1 with one replacement: obstacle preparation is replaced with use of obstacles.

The final round—which is comprised of four components: saddling pen, rail work, obstacle course and overall riding—also received updated scoring components broken down into more concise categories reflective of the process.

RTTH test-drove the new scoring system at the 2021 Days of ’47 RTTH Collegiate Colt Starting Challenge in Salt Lake City, Utah, with great success.

“It directly mirrored what we were watching in the round pen, and the scores reflected that,” Sronce says.

The scoring system has been continually adjusted since the event’s inception, however Sronce says key modifications were necessary to stay current with the times and talents of horsemen and – women.

“The critical evaluations is the colt’s demeanor at the end of the session. When the competitor walks out of the round pen, did they leave a better horse? To me, the new scoring system focuses heavily on the progression of the partnership between the competitor and colt, across all the rounds,” Sronce says. “It’s the establishment of confidence and the building of the colt. That was the most important key for us. It’s not so much, ‘Did you get over the tarp at Road to the Horse?’ It’s, ‘Did you build the colt’s confidence enough to get that done?’ The focus is on the journey rather than the destination.”

Sronce says ultimately the new system provides a more even allocation of points throughout the event, making the objectives clearer and the scoring reflective of the entire process of starting a colt with checks and balances along the way.

“There used to be a heavy allocation of points in the final round,” Sronce says. “We have now changed to more even allocation of points throughout the entire competition. Road to the Horse is not solely about the obstacle course.

“We are here to watch a colt build his confidence through the entire competition,” she adds. “We are about building horses here, and want a scoring system that reflects that.”

At the end of the day it’s a strategy born from a desire to provide the best opportunities available to both clinician and horse to build relationships together based on genuine trust.

“When we ask a clinician to put their reputation on the line, we need to have a solid foundation to judge them appropriately,” Sronce explains, “and they need to be confident in how they’re going to be judged.”


Horsemanship is ever-evolving, and RTTH strives to be on the cutting edge of those evolutions. Thus was the decision to create a new scoring system, but beyond that Sronce says the growth of the industry as a whole has always been the driving force behind what RTTH works to represent, for both trainers and horses.

“Everyone’s horsemanship methodology is different,” Sronce says. “There’s such diversity in horsemanship, and we want to display that, celebrate that, and educate people. The vision of Road to the Horse is about communicating with that horse, building trust and taking the time to do it right. We focus on a competitor and the effectiveness of their horsemanship methodology to communicate and build a partnership based on trust.”