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News

AAQHC Judging Competition is a Success

October 15th, 2015

By: Barbara Aitken 

Mississippi State University Judging Team with Coach Clay Cavinder

 The Collegiate Judging Competition wrapped up this morning at the 2015 All American Quarter Horse Congress (AAQHC). 30 youth teams and 28 junior college and universities participated in this year’s event resulting in 281 total participants.

Collegiate Horse Judging Competitions began in 1965 with the Ohio State University heading up the first known competitions. Competitions have been a part of the AAQHC since its inception in 1967.

Jennifer Zooler, the Texas A&M judging team coach, believes the main purpose of a judging team is for students to learn and enhance their self-confidence while simultaneously learning about the industry. “They get a well-rounded knowledge of what a good horse looks like, moves like, and they can take the skills they learn and use them beyond their college career,” said Zooler.

Although most teams are based towards animal science and equine majors, anyone who is interested in the horse industry may participate on a team. According to Clay Cavinder, an AQHA judge and the Mississippi State judging coach, there is no stereotype for a good judging team member. “I’ve seen pre-med, pre-dental, pre-law, you name it.”

Like any competition oriented team, judging teams are viewed as extracurricular classes on top of a full class load. Casey Orr, the University of Arkansas’ judging team coach demands time and commitment from his students. “An average practice schedule for us is three days a week, five hours a day.” Not only do students have mandatory practices, but they must complete an equine evaluation class where the students study each AQHA discipline offered in the judging competitions. Cavinder also made the point, “although 15 hours a week doesn’t seem like much, even the NCAA prohibits athletic teams from working out more than 20 hours a week.”

Each judging team member is only eligible to compete for one year. Students will start preparing at the beginning of the spring semester and continue into the fall semester where they compete in three competitions including the AAQHC, AQHA World Show, and the NRHA Futurity. “Only allowing the students to be eligible one year is a way for students to get involved in the industry,” said Cavinder.

The AAQHC judging competition is, “like going to the big city lights,” according to Orr. “Some of my students who don’t show horses don’t know what to expect when they hear they’re going to the largest single breed horse show in the world. But when they get here and they see all the horses that they’ve read about in articles and studied in videos, it becomes a magical place.”   

   Cavinder, Orr, and Zooler all believe that some people may perceive the judging teams as purely academic and not a hands-on experience. However, they understand the positive influences the teams have on students. “I’ve seen kids go from being shy where they won’t talk to being energetic, talkative and look you in the eye. “The horse industry is a hard nut to crack and this is a way for many students to get into the industry,” added Cavinder.