Jump Judges are Better Than You

If you event at all, even a little, and you've never jump judged, shame on you.

We're all busy. Kids, work, school, horses to ride, and just life in general all get in the way. Clear a half a day and go sit and watch kids jump their ponies over a log for four hours. You'll be helping the sport and maybe some people you know, too! You could help an Olympian get that last prep ride in before a big CCI or allow a forty five year old amateur to complete her very first event. Just by sitting there and calling "Rider 138 clear 5" every two minutes.

So to help you out, I've compiled some tips and hints to help you be the best jump judge evar.

1. Don't have friends
I feel like this one is kind of a no brainer. If you have friends, you're not going to clear a whole or half day and get up at 6am to watch other people compete. Unless you're really cool and great like me, because I have tons of friends. Tons.

It helps to get friends that are also horse people.
2. Eat all the food
The shows normally provide food for the volunteers. Some places more than others. Plantation had tons of sandwich choices and SMOOTHIES in the afternoon! Really good smoothies. I think mine had papaya in it. Fair Hill didn't have smoothies but they had boxes of full size candy, all the candy you could want although the Skittles went really fast. They also had cookies.

I try and be healthy. I bring carrots and fruit and protein bars and they sit in a baggy and wait for Runkle while I eat three bags of skittles and individually (!) wrapped oreos.

3. Shade
No, not like the "are you in my business and we're gonna go fight now" shade. Literal shade. Some people bring chairs and sit out in the blazing hot sun to jump judge. I'm the prick who always has to bring my car. Luckily every place I've jump judged has been fine with this. As a subheading tip, don't be an asshole and drive your car all over the footing thus ruining it. Give the jumps plenty of clearance especially if the footing is crap.

4. Own your jump
Speaking of crappy footing, I'm a big believer in being all over your jump like fruit flies on an overripe banana. I've only had to judge once so far when it was raining but I was so covered in mud by the end of the day it looked like I had fallen off. I hopped out ever 3-4 horses to stomp divots, check the stone dust and  call the Stone Dust Man if needed. My jump also had brush that kept getting flung out of the top of the jump. But when I was leaving I heard a couple of competitors comment to each other that my jump held up better than they thought and even though Fair Hill has good footing I'm taking full credit. You're welcome.

Sometimes owning your jump means
sitting in your car and calling a grounds person
5. No matter what jump you're at, something is going to happen at it.
I was recently at HPNJ doing fence three, so I figured it'd be zero's down the score sheet since most people make it over the first couple jumps just fine. It was looking like I'd be clear until near the end of the day, when I had someone skip my jump (I felt so bad... can we change the rules so I can say something in the future? It seems like such a waste). I also had someone fall at the jump behind me and the jump judge at the fence was busy assisting the rider so I hopped on the radio and have them hold the course.

6a. People are gonna be interesting (re: terrifying).
I feel like this is an extension of the above. You're going to see some crazy shit. It's just a fact of life when you're watching 70+ horses run cross country. It's easy to forget you're at a recognized show with a steep entry fee when you see people having silly brain farts like forgetting the course or not knowing the rules.

You'll have to sit there trying to sort out if the person has actually lost their temper or the horse just took a bit of coercion to get into the water. Unfortunately, there will be some bad riding. There will be a heads up on the radio to keep an eye out for number 55 because they don't look like they have any breaks and are cruising for an accident. So hold your breath as they barrel over your jump and exhale when they're clear,

There will also be people with clear rounds circle between the last jump and the finish and incur intentional delay penalties (that's a thing!!!! It's 15 points!). I guess it's a mistake you only make once, but at $500 a pop it's an expensive one to make.

Big smiles are the norm.
6b. People are gonna be interesting (re: fantastic).
You also get to see amazing displays of horsemanship that restore your faith in humanity. While judging the training once I saw a girl jump her horse over the more friendly novice trakhener before circling and jumping the training level jump. Yeah, she got time penalties but the horse looked nervous before and cantered away from the question braver and smarter.

The best might be the end. People have realized they've got one or two jumps left and canter towards the finish flags with a huge smile. The give their horses big pats and ringing 'good boys!' that echo over the field. Some people cry. It makes my heart swell to watch. Every single person beat some kind of demon that day, even if the demon was a dust bunny. I think it's really special to watch, and I fall in love with the sport a little more every time I go out.

So that's why I'll keep jump judging. The free t-shirts and Skittles. And I'll be at the next Horse Park of New Jersey crouched in my car surrounded by empty coffee cups and candy wrappers and calling every rider as they gallop past.


  1. I'm the bad eventer(ish) that hasn't jump judged. But I have scribed, helped with stadium warm up/gate, and help run the start box. I just keep getting stuck else where and honestly I'm ok with that.

    1. oh i should caveat - i just think you should volunteer period so youre good :P

      I couldnt do most of the heavy writing jobs initially bc of pinkygate 2016 so i've been put into jump judging and I actually don't mind it. It doesn't require a ton of energy and dealing with people lol

  2. I jump judged not very long before my first event and it was so incredibly inspiring. Educational and stuff just to help me get a lay of the land and see what the atmosphere was like and learn rules and blah blah blah. Mostly tho, plain old awe inspiring bc my classes were filled with the likes of Phillip and Boyd and Sally and so many other greats. Maybe since I'm not competing any time soon I should look for more volunteer opps?

  3. I love getting the chance to volunteer!!! Have only jump judged once and they put me at the finish flags but I did have a pretty awesome view of a good bit of the course ;)Scribing for stadium jumping has been one of my favorite jobs so far. All you do is make little check marks if they jump that jump clean and usually you're under shade!!

  4. Hey! Let me know when you are next at HPNJ. I'd love to watch - not sure if I can jump judge because I'm not an event rider, but basically at this point in my life, if it doesn't COST me money and it involves horses...I'LL DO IT! <3

    1. Also this is Ali Cooper, it just won't let me comment with my name, despite electing to comment via Google...


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