Judging Educational Program Information

Judges by far have the largest impact and shape the future of Cowboy Dressage.  Riders will return from a Cowboy Dressage show and take to heart the judge’s comments on their score sheet.  Judges have a  tremendous responsibility, so Cowboy Dressage World is very selective about giving any judge “Recommended” status.  The judge is not only judging a class, but also providing constructive feedback as a guide for the horse’s future training in Cowboy Dressage.

A judge is not expected to give a riding lesson, but provide concise feedback, and how it is expressed is very important.  We cannot stress enough that Cowboy Dressage is different from other disciplines, in that we never destroy the “try” in either the horse or the rider. Cowboy Dressage is a safe place to learn, grow, and improve.  Be kind, but helpful in pointing out training flaws.  Judges must always keep in mind that everyone deserves a “pat on the back” and give constructive comments for improvement.  At no time should a rider feel defeated because of a judge’s comments on the score sheet.  Competitors are trying so hard to “get it right”, and the judge must keep in mind this discipline is new to many of the competitors.

When judging Cowboy Dressage, many different breeds and types of horses will pass in front of a judge.  It is important to judge each horse as an individual and base judgment on that particular animal’s individual merits regarding gaits and conformation.  Think about form to function and determine if that horse is giving all he/she can with its particular type of conformation.

A Cowboy Dressage judge must be in good physical condition to withstand a full day of focused concentration. Judging Cowboy Dressage is unlike judging other types of classes, requiring intense concentration while maintaining a strict class and time schedule. Each maneuver scored 7.0 or lower must have a comment to the rider relevant to the score.  Judges must be able to be concise and timely in writing their “further remarks”, which a summary of what was done well and what needs improvement, without destroying the “try” of horse/rider.

Cowboy Dressage World is looking for judge applicants who can make decisions based upon common sense, safety, and the needs of the horses/riders and show management. Sometimes a judge must make a decision that is not in the rule book, which should be made in the best interest of the horse/rider/show staff. This doesn’t happen often, but a judge must use good judgment and common sense when in “uncharted territory”.

Additional Responsibilities:

  1. Uphold the philosophy of “Soft Feel” and good horsemanship in accordance with the Western horse
  2. Be prompt and keep the arena running on time to the best of your ability
  3. Be courteous to show management and competitors
  4. Educate yourself with the material, including tests, diagrams, rules, etc.
  5. Be available for a brief discussion before the first class to bridge the gap between the judge and competitors and answer any questions
  6. Be mindful of the safety of competitors and their horses, and run your arena accordingly.

Qualification Requirements for a Cowboy Dressage Recommended Judge
USDF “L” Graduates

If an applicant is a USDF “L” judging program graduate, they can become a recommended Cowboy Dressage judge by completing the following :

  1. Handshake:  Take the Cowboy Dressage “Membership with a Handshake”
  2. Mentoring Session:  Attend a mentoring session with Eitan Beth-Halchmy, Garn Walker, and Lyn Ringrose-Moe (A conference call session by appointment is allowed)
  3. Knowledge Base:  Have a deep knowledge and understanding of the rules, divisions and classes, the difference between Cowboy Dressage and traditional/Western Dressage, and how the judging differs.
  4. Ride a Test:  A judge applicant must ride Walk, Jog, Lope Test #3 and provide a video, along with a brief evaluation/description of the ride.  If an applicant is unable to ride, a regular riding student video can be substituted.
  5. References:  Provide 3 professional references, and 3 personal references with email addresses, physical addresses, and phone numbers.
  6. Sit with Judges at a Cowboy Dressage Show:  Sit with 2 different recommended Cowboy Dressage judges for a minimum of 8 hours total at a Cowboy Dressage Show or shows.  Applicants should try and spend time watching all of the 6 different divisions and how they are judged. (Form must be signed and dated by the recommended judges).

All Others

If an applicant is NOT a USDF “L” judging program graduate, the following must be completed additional to the above requirements:

7. Sit with Additional Judges at a Cowboy Dressage Show:  Sit with 2 additional recommended Cowboy Dressage judges for a minimum of 8 hours, totaling 16 hours sitting with judges, minimum.  The 16 hours must include all 6 divisions of Cowboy Dressage.  A signed letter from the judge is required.
8. Clinic:  Attend a two day (minimum) clinic with either Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Garn Walker, or Lyn Ringrose-Moe.
9. Scribe:  Volunteer as a judge’s scribe for a total of 16 hours.  A signed letter from the judge is required.
10. Shadow a Judge:  Sit at a Cowboy Dressage show and “Shadow judge” for a minimum of 8 hours.  The applicant should validate their score sheets against the class score sheets and placings.  This is done on their own time with their own score sheets (found here).


After completing the above requirements, a judge applicant may judge a Cowboy Dressage schooling show.  A letter from show management must be provided stating their performance was professional and accurate and the show was judged according to the Cowboy Dressage standards and philosophy.


At this point, the candidate will be sent for consideration by Cowboy Dressage World as a recommended judge for Cowboy Dressage.  After observing the performance of a judge candidate, the partners in Cowboy Dressage World may recommend the applicant spend more time practicing, sitting with judges, etc., until all partners agree that the applicant is ready for the full responsibilities of judging Cowboy Dressage, and can be listed as a Recommended Cowboy Dressage Judge.

An application fee will apply.

NOTE:  A recommended Cowboy Dressage judge may be removed from the list at any time by the partners of Cowboy Dressage World if their performance and/or ethics are not in keeping with theCowboy Dressage Handshake and philosophy.

For further information regarding the Cowboy Dressage World Judging Program, please contact:

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