While most cutters were focused on the exciting horseversus- cow action in the Will Rogers Coliseum at the Futurity, the NCHA was also working to hone the skills and knowledge of the next generation of judges and competitors at the annual Judging Contest. This is the third year that the NCHA has hosted this contest, but the first year that the organization opened it up to more than just collegiate teams, with many high school students also competing. Colleges, FFA teams, and 4-H teams traveled from all over the US to show off their judging prowess. Each judging contestant is required to complete a rule book test, a penalty clip test, and score two sets of 10 cutting runs.
The top 10 individuals in each division were placed in a designated area and allowed to judge one day of the World Finals. They scored them just as a regular judge would, and were awarded points based on how close they were to the official scores given by the actual judges.
Prior to the contest, Beth Hughes, NCHA Marketing Specialist, spoke with Russell McCord, Director of Judges for the NCHA. He said, “This event will not only provide a more in-depth educational aspect of cutting horse events, it will help the younger generation of equine enthusiasts understand how to recognize a well-rounded performance in the arena, as well as outside of one.”
Hughes included in an NCHA blog post: “It is the goal of the NCHA that, by making these judging competitions available, to make this event an investment in younger generations so they may be able to, one day, thrive from this experience and gain more knowledge of their own abilities as well as those from their equine counterparts. The future of the NCHA fully rests in the hands of those who will take on the legacies that will be left behind.”
Nancy Crawford-Hall, owner of Holy Cow Performance Horses is the sponsor of this event. She welcomed the judging contestants by stating, “I am proud to be able to support the future of our industry and this contest. Knowing that some of you will be judging one of my horses one day is a wonderful feeling.”
This year there were ten colleges that came to compete, bringing 60 individuals. Josh Briggs who is a freshman North Central Texas College (NCTC) was this year’s Champion Individual at the collegiate level.
Josh said he wasn’t originally a member of the NCTC Horse Judging team, “I started practicing with them because of my interest in the NCHA Judging Contest and wanting to compete there with the team.”
A few of his teammates had competed in this contest in the previous year, but were mostly unfamiliar with scoring a cutting horse.
Briggs explained that leading up to the contest, he and the team met with judges to prepare and became educated on how to properly score a cutting run.
His coach also talked them through cutting videos in preparation.
“When we worked with the judges prior to the contest, we were getting a lot of information given to us. It got a little confusing. Russell did a really good job of smoothing things out and clarifying things for us at the clinic, and had us pretty confident going through the [judging] videos.
Because of the college’s close proximity to Fort Worth, the team was driving back and forth to the competition. They were under the impression that if they made the Top 10 and needed to come back the next day to judge the live class, they would be notified in early afternoon.
“We were already home and it was pretty late in the evening,” Briggs said. “My coach hadn’t heard anything so we didn’t think that we had done any good. Around 7:30 that night my coach called me and let me know that we had made the Top 10. It was really exciting!”
“The live judging was really hard for me. It was the Novice class and all the riders were solid and knew what they were doing, but the horses were kind of average. There weren’t any bad runs but there was nothing spectacular, so all the scores were really tight,” Briggs explained.
He was given the opportunity to sit in the arena and judge the Open World Finals, as well as the Non-Pro World Finals right along side of the NCHA official judges.
When asked to describe it, Briggs said, “Oh that was amazing, for the view more than anything! Getting to sit down there and watch those great horses go was a lot of fun. There were some pretty great runs, especially Hashtags. That was a great run to get to watch from down there.”
“My team really enjoyed the experience and getting to get to come down and watch all of the cutting. I would tell anyone to come to this contest. It is great!” Briggs explained.
Briggs was awarded a $750 Scholarship for receiving the highest individual score in the collegiate division. His team finished 4th overall. Due to NCHA rules, judging champions are not allowed to return to compete in the contest.