Horse Judging

Join the educational and fun experience of judging horses with AQHYA.

competitive horse judging contestants judge a halter horse class

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Competitive horse judging teams are offered through senior and junior colleges, as well as through 4-H, FFA and AQHA state affiliate youth associations. Participants evaluate a variety of four-horse halter and performance classes and give four to six sets of memorized oral reasons depicting their placings. At contests, professional judges determine an official placing for each class. Participants' scores are calculated based on how close their placings are to the officials' placings. Each class and set of reasons is worth 50 points. The competitor who drops the fewest points wins the contest.

Horse Judging Resources

AQHA Horse Judging Manual

The AQHA Horse Judging Manual is a guide for developing a successful horse judging team. This manual includes the following chapters:

  • Coaching the Team
  • Developing a Set of Reasons
  • Conformation
  • Halter
  • Western Pleasure, Hunter Under Saddle
  • Reining
  • Western Riding
  • Trail
  • Hunter Hack
  • Horsemanship, Equitation
  • Connective Terms


AQHA Horse Judging Contests

AQHYA World Championship Show Horse Judging Contest

Join AQHYA, 4-H and FFA judging teams from around the nation at the AQHYA World Championship Show Judging Contest. Interested coaches should contact their AQHYA affiliate youth advisor, state horse extension specialist or state FFA advisor for qualifying rules.

The judging contest consists of eight classes with four horses in each class. Two to four halter classes, composed of geldings and mares, and four to six performance classes selected from the following: western pleasure, reining, trail, western riding, western horsemanship, hunter under saddle, hunt seat equitation, hunter hack, and ranch riding. A total of four sets of reasons will follow class judging and will be given on at least one halter and at least one performance class.

  • Find more information on the Youth World Show Horse Judging Contest here

AQHA World Championship Show Collegiate Horse Judging Contest

AQHA is pleased to host the 2021 AQHA World Championship Show Collegiate Horse Judging Contest Sunday, November 7th in Oklahoma City at the Farnam AQHA World Championship Show.  Entries are due October 22 with a late entry deadline of October 29 with a late fee.

NEW for the 2021 Collegiate Horse Judging Contest:

  • All entries will be completed online, linked here.  

  • AQHA will host an educational clinic Saturday, November 6th for all judging contestants (time TBA).   Join us for a free educational session allowing contestants and coaches to receive information and insights from a carded AQHA judge.  The clinic will focus on 1-2 popular AQHA events contestants may see during the contest.  Attendees will be able to ask questions of the judge related to the specific classes covered.

  • A youth audit option will be offered for free in conjunction with the collegiate judging contest to allow youth the opportunity to practice their placing skills concurrently with the World Show Collegiate contest.  The audit option is open to all AQHA youth members and will provide placing cards for youth to submit, and tabulation of placings at the conclusion of the contest.  There are no awards or reasons judging offered with this youth audit option.   Youth members can register at no cost online here

  • Click here to learn more about the AQHA World Championship Show.