A Cowboy’s Faith: From ‘pen’ to ‘pen’

buchmanheadRetirement from adjudicating horse shows becomes official this week.

Every three years since 1992, the first week in February has been at the International Equine Judges Seminar.

It was required training to judge horses for five breed associations. Clinicians reviewed the way show horses were to be evaluated. Associations had sessions about breed specifics, rules and classes.

After extensive college judging experience, there was annual in-state horse judging qualification. Thus, officiating open, 4-H and local group horseshows before going “bigtime.”

Fortunately for us, certification was in Oklahoma, but other attendees traveled from around the world.

After passing tests, judges were “carded” to officiate breed shows. Name was listed, and show committees made contact when needed.

Qualifications were met to judge at shows for Miniatures, Pintos, two Buckskin breed associations and Pony of the Americas.

Attempt to certify in a couple other associations failed. No effort was made to judge Quarter Horses, as qualifications were above abilities from get-go.

Yet, it’s been a rewarding professional judging career. Shows have been officiated in 22 states, including 56 counties in Kansas.

That’s from Florida, to Washington (state), to New Mexico, to Massachusetts, and in-between. Majority in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Horses and their owners and handlers are good wherever and whichever breed.  Camaraderie among horse people is the same everywhere.

Tight schedules, airport parking, check-in, midnight flights, rental cars, driving in Boston, Daytona Beach, Houston, Seattle, back at the desk Monday 7:30, are hard on a cowboy.

Judging is not a set science, or there’d only need to be one horseshow. Horses and handlers perform differently, and are seen differently every time.

Many shows have two judges, and several shows have up to six officials. Generally, every marked card has a somewhat different placing.

Each judge’s view and opinion. Somebody has to win, and another must lose. Everybody loves winning, and hates losing. It’s “the best judge” one minute, and “that dumb judge,” the next.

Dozens of service awards in the drawer. No recertifying this time, silver anniversary tokens will be mailed.

Competing in 29 horseshows personally last year, that’s forward intention. “Being scored in the pen, rather than scoring in the pen.”

Reminds us again of Ecclesiastes 3:1:  “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”


030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a radio marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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