Leveling the Playing Field Survey Results

In the beginning of this exploration into the possibilities of positive change, we discussed our desire to create a structure that manages a process for dialogue, mediation and arbitration for our own performance and success. We stated that Breeders, Owners, Trainers & Judges first need a common vision. We also discussed the need to create and play by the same rules and the need to commit to these rules based on fairness, trust, honesty, and good sportsmanship.

Along this path that we hope will move us toward a higher purpose, we have heard your passion, your ideas, your thoughts and your frustrations. We have shared all of the survey results, and your collective visions with the “powers that be” in the Arabian Horse Association. It is our continued hope and mission for our “common vision” to be heard and acted upon.

We sincerely thank you for the responses to the survey “Leveling the Playing Field.”



Frank Hennessey


Below are the survey results, as well as contents of a letter that was submitted to the Arabian Horse Association.

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When the new Arabian Score System was first implemented, many people (including representatives of the AHA) expressed that the new system would offer a more level playing field for all competitors by making it very easy for the judges to judge a horse and be held accountable for the scores in each category that were given. We posed the following question to the AHA’s Judges and Stewards Commissioner: ‘Do you believe that the Arabian Scoring System accomplished a goal of holding judges accountable?’

The new rules stated that Purebred Arabians would be scored in seven (7) attributes in a range from 1 to 20. The rules further stated “Major faults in any of the four categories that comprise the ‘Conformation Category’ cannot be scored any higher than a score of 10 for that category.” A definition of “Major Faults” is included in the description of the Score System and includes 54 Major Conformation Faults. We posed the following question to the AHA’s Judges and Stewards Commissioner: “Do you believe that the judges as a whole have followed this instruction since the new Score System was implemented? Do you believe that the judges have a complete understanding of these Major Faults, recognize them and score according to the rule as stated above?”

In our recent survey, Leveling the Playing Field on the State of the Arabian blog, we asked 6 questions regarding judging. Below are the responses to those questions answered by over 450 people.

1 – Do you believe that an evaluation of every judge after each event by an appointed evaluation panel would be beneficial?

Total 445 Votes: 64% – Yes | 17% – No | 19% – Not Sure

2 – Do you feel that it would be beneficial for a potential  judge candidate to have extended education available to them in individual divisions that would produce a specialized card for them in that division upon successful completion of the course? 

Total 448 Votes: 85% - Yes | 6% - No | 9% – Not Sure

3 – Do you believe a public website that includes evaluation panel reviews, performance ratings and complete descriptions of events that have been judged including the divisions and number of horses in attendance by each judge would be valuable? 

Total 453 Votes: 81% - Yes | 10% - No | 9% – Not Sure

4 – Currently National Rated card holding judges have to attend Judges school every six years. Do you feel that this should be changed to a shorter time period? 

Total 451 Votes: 74% - Yes | 18% - No | 8% – Not Sure

5 – Do you feel it would be beneficial for each team of judges at National events to be led by a professional judge (one that only makes his living as a judge)? The professional would be assigned as the forman so-to-speak that would lead the team in an opening discussion regarding the rules, scoring, penalties, etc.

Total 452 Votes: 63% - Yes | 22% - No | 15% – Not Sure 

6 – Currently there is a Judges Selection Committee for National Judges. The committee members are voted on and appointed at the AHA convention by the member delegates. Would you prefer to have your National level judges selected based on their merit as determined by the evaluation process previously mentioned or one like it?

Total 462 Votes: 78% - Yes | 9% - No | 13% – Not Sure

Most of the questions are common sense responses and require no explanation of intent. Question 5 however, possibly holds an answer to the issue of interpretation and accountability to the AHA’s own explanation of the Arabian Score System. The idea is that each National Event would include a “professional judge” that holds a certificate of Further Education in the Evaluating of In Hand (breeding horses), does not make their living in or by the Arabian Horse community and has a record of being fair, educated and impartial. This ‘professional judge’ would lead the team of judges throughout the National Event and would be responsible for reports, evaluations and leadership of the team. We posed the following question to the AHA’s Judges and Stewards Commissioner: ‘Is this an idea that AHA would consider as useful and helpful?’

This question was also asked of AHA: “Do you agree with the general public’s perception that there seems to be multiple discrepancies between judges for each horse in each category?” A common question asked  is how can one judge use a score of 12.5 in a category such as feet and legs while the other two judges score the same horse at the same moment a 17.5 and a 16. This happens time and again in ‘Conformation Categories’. ‘Major Faults’ as described in the associations own rules and instruction for judging seem to be ignored more often than not. More importantly, all to often 3 judges interpret and score a single category with far too large a spread in conformation categories.

It is our opinion that for most professionals, breeders and exhibitors, this is not about winning or losing. We, as a whole, would like to know and understand how the best horse in the class, according to the breed standard won and be able to be explain this win. As it stands, it appears to the general public as if nothing has changed regarding fair and impartial judging. In fact, many now believe that the score system enhances the ability to see a judges lack of knowledge and/or perceptions of impropriety.


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