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United States Equestrian Federation

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Title of Article: "Rating Horses Can Be Less Subjective"
Author: Valeri Buman, NAES

Photo credit: Outstanding young horses can be seen on the annual
KWPN-NA keuring tour, like Harlowe (Van Gogh x De Naoma by
Judgement-ISF) owned and bred by Barbara Mitton (CAN).
Photo by Roy Maher. ©
  Rating and judging horses can seem like a very subjective process, dependent upon the individual judge or appraiser. But in some arenas standards have been set to help create a more balanced process for judging horses.

One of these arenas includes Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland translated into Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands – North America (KWPN-NA).

This studbook registry for Warmbloods,
called the keuring, is held each September in the United States and Canada. Warmbloods include middle weight horse types/breeds distinguished from “cold bloods” like heavy draft horses and “hot bloods” like Thoroughbreds and Arabians.

The KWPN-NA looks at foals, yearlings and two-year-olds and mature horses ages 3-7 years-old. Evaluations are performed by a judging committee led by a KWPN inspector.

Foals, yearlings and two-year-olds follow the same protocol. First the horses are individually stood up in front of the judging committee, then they will walk and then trot in a clockwise direction around the arena, lastly they are stood up in front of the committee again, this time facing the opposite direction from the first showing. After each of the horses have been shown individually they come back out as a group in the order that they were shown for a final walk around.

No score sheets are filled out for these younger groups of horses. Instead, following the showing, the committee places the horses into premiums (1st premium – exceeds breed standards, 2nd premium – meets breed standards, or elimination) while giving commentary. Owners are encouraged to talk to the committee personally.


For mature horses, 3-7 years-old, judging and inspection is catered more toward each of the breeding directions: dressage, jumper, hunter, harness and Gelders.

Dressage is considered “the highest expression of horse training.”

This riding type requires horse and rider to perform, from memory, a series of predetermined movements. In this category the committee will evaluate the walk, trot and canter on both directions.

In the hunter and jumper categories the committee evaluates the trot and canter, in both directions as well as how the horse performs while being directed through a line of three jumps.

Harness riding requires a horse and rider to race at a specific gate, usually while pulling a two-wheeled cart. However, during the keuring horses are shown in-hand only.

This judging process includes a detailed description of a horse’s traits and an overall score of the primary traits of conformation, movement and jumping.

The KWPN-NA has been able to set a precedent for the horses listed in their registry. When showing a horse in the keuring horses and judged by and compared to previous horses who have met that precedent.

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