Judging Show Horses with Caris Reside

Judging Show Horses with Caris Reside

Caris and her sister Britt run the successful show stud Leeara Park in the Swan Valley and have bred, trained and campaigned a number of champion ponies and hacks at a National Level. Caris is a show horse judge, and in this latest blog post talks about what it takes to judge and some of the hints and tips she has picked up along the way.

I have loved horses ever since I was a child. I used to walk over to my parent’s neighbouring fence and call them over to give them a pat. My sister Brittany and I grew up on our parent’s property in the Swan Valley but were not brought up with parents who were ‘knowledgeable in horses’. We were however, blessed with parents who were willing to support us in any way they could so that we could go down the equestrian path and aim to reach our goals.

Photo: Aussie Platinum Photography
Photo: Derek O'Leary

I started at pony club as a teenager and was initially very interested in show jumping and concentrated on this with my 16.2h chestnut mare at the time. The showing bug caught on after a couple of ‘hack days’ and I moved on to unofficial show horse and then official showing. Over the years, my sister and I have been inspired by many successful competitors and all-round great horsemen, who have taught us everything we know today. As I haven’t ridden at shows as much since losing LP Supermodel (Chanel) in 2016, I became interested in being involved in official showing on another level. I liked the idea of giving back to the sport in the form of judging and sought out how to become an official show horse judge.

The Judging Criteria is different for both Equestrian Australia and Show Horse Council of Australasia. However in summary, both require a Judge to have significant prior knowledge and provisional judging appointments before upgrading to a State Level Show Horse Judge, which then requires an exam to pass and seminars to be attended every few years to keep up with the current rules and regulations.

I have had the pleasure of judging for 10 years now which has taken me to a number of states in Australia. I have judged in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and here in Western Australia, at Grand National Qualifiers and State Horse of the Year shows. These have been very prestigious events which I have been honoured to be a part of. During my experiences judging to date, I have collated a number of ‘hints and tips’ to share from a judge’s point of view.

Photo: LMG Photography

Hints and tips


aim for a classy, sophisticated look when choosing my outfits for judging. I always cover my shoulders and aim to cover my knees. Choose a fascinator that compliments your dress, or a hat of choice depending on the level of show you are judging at. And remember always comfy shoes that you can walk on grass / arena surfaces in! (Even though I still usually choose the stiletto option with heal stoppers! ☺)

Photo: Lucky Penny Photography

As a judge, you are always on show. People are often watching you and they are critiquing your scores. You will at one point be judging people that you know – always remember to stay professional and be true to yourself and the expectations you hold of a show horse when scoring them. Score fairly and choose the horse you would want to take home at the end of the day. Remember to be confidential following events.

3. What to look for

Make sure you know the rules of each class, for example there are specific rules for lead rein, first ridden, show horse, show hunter and rider class events. There are also guidelines for open and child’s events, whip lengths, spurs etc! Know what you are required to judge and be confident of your understanding of
these rules.

4. Give each Competitor the Opportunity to Show their Animal

Where you can, aim to give each Competitor a fair opportunity in presenting their horse or pony to you. They have all worked so hard to be at the competition, make sure you show your respect for their efforts. Their horse or pony might not be your favourite pick of the show but aim to walk around all competitors and watch their workouts equally.

Photo: LMG Photography

As a judge, I have seen many reactions when Winners have been called forward. A reminder for competitors – always be gracious as a winner and in defeat. Always thank the judges where possible, and a smile and a pat for your horse or pony never goes astray!

Judging is something I wish to continue for many years. Not only do you have the privilege of viewing stunning horses across the country, but you will also be surprised how many friends and judging colleagues you make along the way. If you are interested in judging yourself and would like to give back to the sport in this way, I would say give it a shot, you will not regret it.
My aim for 2023 is to upgrade my Judging License to a National Judge on both the EA and SHC Panel.

Happy showing all, and I wish you all the luck you need to achieve your goals in 2023.

Cheers, Caris

Ally Doumany
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