Take a look at my life as a judge.
By Nancy Swarm in The American Quarter Horse Journal
I guess horses were truly my destiny, as I was born with “horse” in my blood!
I bought my first horse when I was 9 years old for $134. A lot of care and love later, we were ready to go to our first show. We didn’t have a trailer, so my father and I walked “Goldie” 10 miles to the show grounds. My mother met us at the show. We won some ribbons, and at the end of the day, some exhibitors felt sorry for us and gave us a lift home.
John Arena, Bobby La Pergola, Kitchie Little and C.T. Fuller of Willow Brook Farms had faith in my ability and made quality horses available to me. I showed youth activity and, at 15, began training and showing horses for other people. After high school, I apprenticed with Sandra Vaughn of Westenhook Farms to learn the hunters. Then I went to work for the legendary Dale Wilkinson to learn about reining and cutting horses. It took me three years to get him to hire me. I was the first woman he hired.
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As a trainer, I believe it is important to have respect for the horse and to train it humanely. In my opinion, if a horse cannot be taught to do its job willingly, then it obviously needs another job. True horsemanship holds to this theory.
Through the years, I have shown reining, cutting and halter horses, Honor Roll hunters and jumpers, and numerous AQHA world and reserve world champions, AQHA Champions, Congress winners, and have trained and coached all-around youth and amateur champions. I have been National Snaffle Bit Association high-point western and hunter under saddle.
I became a judge because I think I have a vast store of knowledge, and I wanted to give back and share with the industry. Becoming a judge also gives you a different perspective, which has been very helpful to my showing strategy and successes. Being on the inside looking out, from a judge’s viewpoint, can teach you that things don’t always look like they feel.
It is not an easy task to get every horse placed correctly in every class, but as judges, that is our goal. I try to judge each horse on his correctness of gait, precision of patterns, consistent performance, balance, eye appeal and by the point system that AQHA has in place. Everyone should, at least one time, have the opportunity to stand in the center. You might see things differently.
I feel that the quality of our horses has improved greatly through breeding, creating a more form-to-function structured horse for its discipline. In my opinion, trainers collectively have improved their training techniques, creating better-educated, happier horses, thus making competitions much more refined and stringent. AQHA has truly helped its judges improve with further education and by creating a core-defined judging system.
In establishing a career as a trainer, I realized that in the horse business it is wise to diversify. So in addition to being a trainer, I became a consultant, coach, appraiser, broker/agent and judge. I am very proud to have earned my AQHA 20-year judging pin, and I have served the same amount of time judging for National Snaffle Bit Association.
I have served AQHA on the international committee, the show committee and the Professional Horsemen’s committee. I have judged the AQHA and the AQHYA World Championship shows, the Texas Classic and shows in Italy, Sweden, Belgium and Canada.
One day I said to my dad, “If I had devoted as much time, years and effort to another business as I did to the horse business, I would be a very wealthy person.”
He said to me, “Nancy, how many people are fortunate enough to live their life making a career out of their greatest passion? I think you are wealthy.”
For “Showing to Win: Trail,” AQHA teamed with some of the best-known and well-respected AQHA Professional Horsemen, judges and exhibitors who walk viewers through the required parts of the pattern and explain the maneuver scores, pluses and minuses. Don’t miss out on this awesome DVD!