ETS: Judging Criteria (2024)


  • Judges will visualize a perfect 10/10 score for their obstacle and score you according to their ‘perfect performance’.
  • You are being judged on your partnership with your horse.
  • Equine and rider are awarded 0-10 points each for their obstacle. A plus for the equine and/or rider are awarded at the judge’s discretion and may be given to any score range. Pluses are used to break ties, they are not added to the score. Examples of pluses given would be for patience, finesse, or for an unusual circ*mstance during the obstacle.
  • Judges award according to the scoring scale:
ZERO/ ONE0Fall, Pass, Did not get past the start point1 Passed the Start point
PARTIAL CREDIT2Bless your heart3Not "Purdy"4Close but no Cigar
AVERAGE RESULTS5Okay6Average7Almost Good
ABOVE AVG RESULTS8Good9Excellent10Perfect


  • Equine should proceed at rider's cue without hesitation.
  • Any form of spooking, disobedience, stepping away, or refusal will incur a penalty.
  • Equine may regard obstacle for a moment, but prolonged hesitation will incur a penalty.
  • Rider should have a centered and balanced seat, straight posture and eyes forward. Heels, hips, and shoulders all in alignment. Heels down.
  • Soft use of reins/bit will be rewarded.
  • Subtle/refined cues will score higher than obvious cues or harsh use of aids (reins, bit, spurs, whips, sticks, voice).
  • A calm, patient, willing equine will score higher than nervousness or rushing.
  • A good attitude of the equine is most desirable including no excessive swishing of the tail, pinning ears, pawing, kicking, or bucking.
  • Maintain cadence with all forward and backward movement.
  • Unless otherwise specified, always stay centered when crossing over or through obstacles (jump, logs, vines, etc.).
  • Rider is expected to exhibit behavior consistent with the ETS Participant Pledge.

SPECIFIC MANEUVER JUDGING CRITERIA (general judging criteria applies)

GATE: Maintain control of the gate at all times by keeping one hand on the gate.

MOUNT: Mane and saddle may be used as a point of contact for 'gentle' balance. The reins and saddle may not be used with any use of force or leverage. Rider is to land softly in the saddle.

UPHILL: Rider should be balanced and have an up and forward position parallel with the tree-line. Rider's hands should be forward giving the equine his head for movement. Grabbing mane is not a perfect score.

DOWNHILL: Rider should be balanced and have a vertical position parallel with the tree line. Rider's hands should be forward giving the equine his head for movement.

SIDEPASS: Penalty if sidepass does not possess good lateral movement with hips and shoulders moving simultaneously with crossing feet (not a shuffle).

USING ROPES:Always hold rope in a figure 8, not coiled around your hand. Keep ropea distance from your equine so they avoid getting tangled up in them.Never dally rope on the saddle horn. A half dally providing leverage is acceptable.

JUMP:Rider should have eyes forward, seat raised forward out of the saddle, heals down with feet under them (not swayed back), and hands forward giving the equine his head.

FORWARD MOVEMENT:Penalty for loss of cadence or broke gait, gait should be calm and controlled rather than rushed, correct gait or transition should be immediate, gaited equines can gait accordingly but must canter/lope if instructions ask for a canter/lope.

BACK:Equine should back with soft neck and poll.Rider may glance backwards but a penalty will occur if balance is compromised.

TURN ON HAUNCHES(Yield Fore):A hind hoofshould remain relatively in place as the front end of the equine maneuvers around.

TURN ON FOREHAND (Yield Hind):A front hoofshould remain relatively in place while the hind end maneuvers around.


  • Penaltyfor equine pushing intohandler.
  • Penaltyfor handler standing in front ofequine or an unsafe position.
  • Penaltyforequine not going wherehandleris sending them.
  • Equine should move freely onleadline and stop with ease, no pulling.
  • Handler should have good leadline management with lead in hand(s) at all times.
  • Leadline should be in a figure 8, not coiled around the hand.


  • Soft or minimal use of aids such as reins, bit, spurs, whips, sticks, and voiceis optimum.
  • Penalty will occurif use of reins/bit causes equine to raise or throw head up, gaping mouths, hollowed-out backetc.
  • Rider should allowhorse full use of his head, neck, and eyesight to negotiate obstacles, especially on the trail; hills, ravines, down-fall etc.
  • Rider should useone hand on a leverage/shank bit for an optimum score.




  • If you are required to pick up an item, situate your equine to minimize leaning (causing unbalance and risk).
  • If you are required to turn on the haunch in a box, pay attention to position your equine's hind feet towards the center of the box so the front feet can maneuver around the haunch without touching the box.
ETS: Judging Criteria (2024)
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