NRHA Judges Program

In NRHA competition, reining horses are judged individually as they complete one of twelve specified patterns. One or more judges score each horse between 0 and infinity with 70 denoting an average score. Each horse automatically begins the pattern with a 70. The judge can either add or deduct up to 1 and 1/2 points on each maneuver in half-point increments based on the "quality" of the maneuver. Penalties are also allocated for minor deviations from the pattern; major deviations result in a zero score for the go. As the judges watch the execution of the pattern, individual scribes keep track of each judge's maneuver scores on a score sheet as well as penalty marks. Scores are tabulated and announced at the end of each run. The judge's sheets with individual maneuver scores, penalties, and total scores are then posted for the benefit of the exhibitors following each class.

In scoring, credit is given for smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority when performing the various maneuvers. Controlled speed in the pattern raises the level of difficulty and makes the reining horse more exciting and pleasing to watch. Increased level of difficulty is rewarded with higher scores if the maneuvers are performed correctly.

To rein a horse is not only to guide him, but also to control his every movement. The best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely. Any movement on his own must be considered a lack of control. All deviations from the exact written pattern must be considered a lack of/or temporary loss of control and therefore a fault that must be marked down according to severity of deviation. After deducting all faults, set here within, against execution of the pattern and the horse’s overall performance, credit should be given for smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority of performing various maneuvers, while using controlled speed which raises the difficulty level and makes him more exciting and pleasing to watch to an audience.
"To rein a horse is not only to guide him, but to control his every movement."

Unchanged since 1966, that statement serves as the definitive guide to the judging of reining events.


Do you want to know what judges are looking for when you walk into the arena? Have you ever wondered why you received the score you did? Then you are ready to attend an NRHA Judges Chair to You course! These courses are hosted by NRHA affiliates around the world and are targeted to answer these questions and more about the NRHA Judging System. During this one day course a member of the NRHA Judges Teaching Pool will walk you through the history of the NRHA judging system, explain how it works and show video examples of maneuver evaluations, penalties and more.


A prospective judge must submit an application by October 10th to be considered for the January applicant seminar and December 31st for the March applicant seminar. Apply here and provide the Judge Applicant Reference Form to respective references. Applicants must provide one reference from a current NRHA Judge and one professional character reference. The NRHA Judges Committee will review all complete applications and vote to extend invitations for the Judges Applicant Seminars held in the United States. International Applicant Seminars may be held in conjunction with NRHA Judges Schools. Once passing the Judges Applicant Seminar testing requirements as set forth by the Judges Committee, the applicant will be eligible to attend an NRHA Judges School. Only after passing the testing requirements of an NRHA Judges School, will the prospective judges have their names submitted to the Board of Directors for consideration for final judging privileges.


The applicant must be at least twenty-five (25) years of age and must have been an NRHA member in good standing for 24 months prior to the date of application before he or she can be considered for approval as an NRHA judge.


NRHA Judges Schools are available to NRHA Judges who need to recertify and individuals who have fulfill testing requirements at an NRHA Judges Applicant Seminar. Applicants attending an NRHA Judges School must be at least 25 years of age and must be an NRHA member in good standing for at least 24 months prior to application before they can be considered for approval as an NRHA judge. Judges School Fees:
  • $300 is applicable for eligible NRHA Applicants attending Judges School.
  • $300 is applicable if you are re-certifying prior to judging privileges expiring.
  • $400 is applicable if you are re-certifying with less than five (5) year's elapsed time following the expiration of judging privileges.


There are three (3) NRHA Judges Schools offered in the United States each year, all are held in Oklahoma City, OK. The first school is held in January, the second session is held in March, and the third session is held in the fall.

There is one NRHA Judges Applicant Seminar held in the United States each year. International Judges Applicant Seminars may be held in conjunction with International NRHA Judges Schools.

NRHA International Judges Schools and Judges Chair to You courses are scheduled as requested by affiliate groups and organizations wishing to host one in their city and/or country.

FOR INFORMATION: To host an NRHA Judges Chair to You course in the U.S., Canada or to host an International Judges School email Patti Carter
Judges Code of Ethics

NRHA Judge Application

Judge Applicant Reference Form

New NRHA Patterns 17 & 18: Lope In Patterns

For official Judges Educational Resources please visit the Event Officials Page

Find a Judge

Judges Schools And Seminars

2024 Schools

  • June 26-28, 2024
    Host: NRHA France
    Location: DIANETUM, Chemin des Cordeliers, 28260 Anet, France
    Contact: Mariannick Domont-Perret

  • July 5-6, 2024
    Host: Jody Toda
    Location: Fureai Kaigishitsu Shinagawa, Field Takanawa 301, 4-22-1 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
    Contact: Jody Toda

  • November 1–3, 2024
    Host: NRHA
    Location: 3021 W. Reno Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73107
    Contact: Patti Carter
    Pre-registration is required: Sign up here!