Judge’s Corner – Jonathan Rogers

December 9th, 2021 by Sophia Skeith

At 27 years old, Jonathan Rogers was trading horses. A cutting horse trainer stopped by and offered him a job to start colts. While at that job, Rogers was able to take a spin on a finished cutter. He thought that was the most fun he had ever had on horse. A few years later, he met trainer Dave Stewart who showed him the business including the ups and the downs.

“It’s a good place for your family. Twenty years later, here we are,” Rogers said.

Besides being a trainer, Rogers has been a AAAA judge for 15 years.

“I judge to stay accurate when showing. To me, if you judge it helps your showmanship so much because you see things that you might do that other people do that aren’t ideal. So you can adjust and realize if something doesn’t look good,” he said.

What are you looking for as a judge and do you have personal preferences?

“First of all, it’s cutting. It starts with the cut and how you approach the herd. How you handle your cow to get it cut. If a horse doesn’t really stop, it’s hard for me to like it.”

“It’s about painting that pretty picture,” he added.

What’s the main difference between a weekend event and an aged event?

“The aged events are an advancing game and you want to show your horse but every round you want to expose a little bit more so that judge is looking for that horse…Nowadays you have to go for a finals round in every round because it’s so good. You still want to paint a prettier picture at the aged event but still show.”

“A weekend event is like a finals because they go for it in each run.”

Explain your scoring:

“When I give someone a 75, I’ve told people what I like. This was a great run. This competitor has done everything I would want them to do. There is still room to beat that score though… I’ve always wanted to mark a 79 but I never have.”

How are aged event classes judged differently?

Three-Year-Olds: “What gets caught the most is holding onto them too long. For example the Futurity is coming up, and it’s the first time they have shown they don’t really know the horse. The trainers may take that point to make sure the horse is in the right spot.”

Four-Year-Olds: “The trainers will throw their hand down and go for it.”

Five-and-Six-Year-Olds: “It’s really tough because they throw their hand down and it’s really fast. It’s a difference in the power of the horse and the chances trainers will take.”

What are some of the biggest mistakes you have seen in showing?

“Those cuts separate a lot of people.”

“Everyone I’ve ever judged with, is waiting for someone to show their horse. The judges want to mark them. Nobody wants to watch a 72 or 69 cutting all day long. When someone comes and shows their horse they will throw a [higher] number at them.”

“You have to be able to handle the herd. It’s not a sorting. It’s cutting.”

Because you’re a judge, how do you advise your clients before they show?

“Don’t turn your horse around in front of the judge. When you walk in front of the judge, human nature is going to make them judge you… It’s a judged event.”

When you are in the arena show the judge poise and be prepared to go cut. Those judges sit there all day long, Rodgers said don’t make them wait on you any longer than necessary. Don’t rush but be considerate.

If you’re not happy with your score Rogers said, “First of all you need to go watch your run and really watch it on video and be honest with yourself before you go look at that judge’s sheet. Judge yourself critically. If you still have complaints about it, talk to Pete [Fanning, NCHA Director of Judges].”

If you have critically looked at the run and you still don’t agree with it, turn the judge in so one of you can get educated. Rogers said he has never judged alongside anybody that wants to take people out of the cutting. They want to mark competitors.

”Don’t ask another judge to give you their opinion because it’s different.”

When asked about name or location bias?

“Human nature will kick in because you expect a big name trainer to be good and you know they are good with good horses. I’m sure there have been some mistakes on [scoring big names].”

Rogers added that he enjoys seeing an up and comer show their horse well.

“As a judge you have to be very professional. You can’t have friends when you’re up there. You’re just judging the run.”


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