Do you wonder what criteria judges use to make decisions in the show ring? Everyone has heard the phrase “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” but it might surprise you to learn the powerful effect that anchoring has on judges.
Anchoring is the term used to describe people’s tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information they receive. For instance, a rider enters the arena looking down at their horse’s head, leaning forward or continuously looking toward the judge. The judge’s immediate opinion is that this rider is worried, does not trust their horse or is about to make a correction. With only seconds to evaluate each pair, the judge perceives this pair as insufficient and quickly looks beyond the pair in search of the winners.
On the other hand, if a rider comes in with their head held high, postured with poise, confidence and control, the judge believes this pair capable of being a winner.
Once a judge has been anchored in a belief about a horse or rider, they will be biased toward that opinion. It will be more difficult for the rider to change the judge’s opinion about the pair. Thus the importance of making a good first impression – posture being the biggest factor in creating a positive anchor.
A judge’s job is to quickly evaluate a group of horses and rank the horses in order of preference. Once a judge has formulated an opinion, been anchored in a belief, it will be difficult to persuade the judge otherwise. Teams that make a good first impression will move up the judge’s card more easily than riders who make a poor first impression.
Ride into the arena with your eyes up. Do not look at the judges or down at your horse’s head. A rider with quiet hands, seat and legs strikes the judge favorably – the rider is in control and the horse is easy to ride.
Your job is to sell your ability to the judges. You must convince the judges that you and your horse are the best in the pen. Make it look easy from the moment you enter the arena. Whether the class has been called to order or not, if the judge’s are in the pen, you are making an impression, anchoring the judge’s opinion of you.