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8 Judging Questions, Answered


8 Judging Questions, Answered

By May 12, 2021No Comments

8 Judging Questions, Answered

National Reined Cow Horse Association Director of Judges Bill Enk tackles eight of the common questions he answers.

I hear from competitors and other judges all the time, but many of the same questions keep coming back around. Here are the hard eight, answered!

1. Can Limited riders elect to keep working the cow even if the judge game them the new cow option?
Bill Enk: Yes, they can, even though it rarely happens. Rule of thumb for Limited riders: If the judge thinks a new cow is warranted, the odds are in your favor to accept his/her decision.

2. In the herd work, if the clock didn’t start when the rider crossed the time line, does the exhibitor get a re-work?
Enk: Yes, even if they have a major penalty they are entitled to a complete re-work.

3. When do the 2-point B and reverse 1-point C penalties come into effect?
Enk: The 2B penalty comes into effect when the horse is in the open field, going from one end of the arena to the other and the animal they are working gets within 3 feet on the end fence, between the 2-point markers, before it is turned.
               If the animal is turned before it gets within 3 feet of the fence between the 2-point and the 1-point markers, it is a reverse 1C.

4.In the Limited, when boxing, at what time does the 3-point L penalty come into play?
Enk: When the animal leaves the end of the arena that they are being boxed on, is ahead of the horse for at least three strides, lined out, and the horse has lost all working advantage.

5. During the herd work, if the rider hasn’t entered the body of the herd deep enough to satisfy the deep cut rule and they are attempting to cut their third cow: On this cut if they ride deep into the herd, get some cattle out in front of them, and the buzzer goes off before they have cleanly separated a single cow, did they satisfy the deep cut rule?
Enk: No. A cow must be cut cleanly, and horse and rider in working position for the rule to be satisfied on the third cut.

6. When attempting to change leads, how many strides from the exact center can the horse be to receive credit for the circle and lead change?
Enk: Rule of thumb is a stride before the exact center, a stride to change leads, and a stride after center are all in the credit-earning “box.” If the change is before this box, it is considered an early lead change or out of lead and a 1-point penalty could be assessed.
If the change of leads is beyond this box, and you are close to the side fence before you change leads—or are starting to circle in the opposite direction and you’re still on the lead from the previous circles—it is considered a late lead change, and a 1-point penalty is assessed. If the lead change is in the “gray” area—not clearly early or late but not accurate—dropping the maneuver evaluation by half-point is a fair way to address the situation.

7. What is the difference between a bad stumble and a break of gait?
Enk: When attempting the circle and lead change maneuvers, if the horse stumbles, detracting from the quality of the maneuver, but doesn’t break the cadence of the lope with the hind legs, it is a maneuver deduction. Any time the horse is required to be in the lope gait and cadence of the lope with the hind legs and that is not maintained it is considered a break of gait and a 2-point penalty should be assessed.

8. What is the definition of an “open field” turn?
Enk: It is a cow horse turn in the open field part of the arena. To be considered a good open field turn the maneuver has to exhibit the qualities of a credit-earning turn. The three parts of a turn are: the entry, the turn itself and the exit.
To be credit-earning, all parts of the turn should exhibit good form, position and control.


Bill Enk is the NRCHA director of judges. He produces a column in each issue of the Reined Cow Horse News for the members to better understand the judging system. This column printed in the March/April 2019 issue.