Collegiate Judging Teams and How They Work: A Chat with Betsy Larson

January 22nd, 2013 8:19 AM | No Comments

By Gabrielle Sasse,

Betsy Larsen and her horse "Bella". Photo courtesy of Betsy

At, we like to feature all different aspects of the horse world. We especially like talking to students who are experiencing them all! Today, we are chatting with Betsy Larson, a sophomore at Colorado State University who hails from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Betsy is a double major in Equine Science and Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Business Administration and is academically a senior on campus. She is on CSU’s judging team, and got the opportunity to travel to Quarter Horse Congress and AQHA World Show to compete! She shares with us her story:

“I have been riding and showing quarter horses since age seven, nearly 13 years. My trainer has been Kim Kuehne since I started riding. I showed mainly western, but I love the pattern classes, particularly showmanship, trail, horsemanship, and equitation.

I joined judging team as a way to stay involved and do what I already knew I liked and was pretty good at,” begins Betsy. “My sophomore year of high school, I judged for 4H and our team was Reserve Champion at state, so we competed at Congress as well.” Betsy’s trainer and judging team coach really never gave her a choice in the matter! “She just told me that I was going to be on the team and when practices were and such. There was never really a choice, so I did it.” A coercion morphed into love, and Betsy decided to join the judging team at CSU. Betsy explains, “we take an introductory class in the spring and compete at a spring contest, then those of us who wish to continue can register for advanced horse evaluation in the fall.”

Something interesting to note is that students only have one year of eligibility competing in each division. “Which means I can never compete for a senior college at Congress or World again. So each year, coaches are bringing completely new teams to these contests.”

CSU World Judging Team. Photo courtesy of Betsy Larsen.

CSU has an Arabian team and a Quarter Horse team. “Our Arabian team has one competition at the Arabian nationals. This year, the CSU Arabian Team won it overall, had the overall high individual, and swept the placings.” Betsy is on the Quarter Horse team, which competes at Congress and the World Show. “We judge eight performance classes and four halter classes in the morning, and then give our sets of reasons afterwards on the classes we have just seen,” Betsy explains. “They choose two of the halter classes and four of the performance classes for us to talk.  Essentially, we must explain why we placed the class the way we did and compare the horses to each other.”

The competitors are scored based on how well they can talk the class and their presentation in general. The way placings are scored is a bit more complicated: each class is scored out of 50 points, with a set of officials who come up with an official placing for the class. There is also a cuts committee, and they basically come up with the number of points that would be deducted should a contestant have a different placing. “For example,” Betsy further elaborates for us, “if the official placing was 1-2-3-4 with cuts of 1-3-8, you could tell that 1 and 2 are very similar horses, and 4 is an obvious bottom. So should a contestant place the class 2134, they would subtract 1 point for the top pair switch, making the contestants score 49. Scoring is a bit more complicated out of a pair switch, and pretty difficult to explain.” Just know that the officials know what they are doing! At least, we hope they do…

Photo courtesy of Betsy Larsen

“This year was a very successful one [for us]! At Congress, I was individually 2nd in Halter, 4th in Performance, 9th in Reasons, and 4th overall. My team was 3rd in halter, 4th in reasons, and 5th overall.” Not too shabby for a “new” team every year! “At World, I was just out of the Top Ten, placing 11th overall individually, but my teammate Kortney Bahem was 9th in Halter, 2nd in Performance, 1st in Reasons, and the High Overall Individual! The team was 3rd in halter, 4th in performance, 2nd in reasons, and 3rd overall.” Great job to CSU’s 2012 Quarter Horse team!

I asked Betsy if she had anything else to share, and she summarized by saying, “Judging team is a wonderful experience. Not only are you learning to evaluate horses and public speaking, and learning quick decision-making, but you must be confident in your placings and able to defend your decisions. It’s really a great learning experience, and you learn a lot more than just how to judge horses!”

Thanks to Betsy for speaking with me, and we wish her luck in her future judging endeavors! And the best of luck to CSU in their next judging competitions.

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