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UF/IFAS team wins national horse-judging contest

 

2014 Team and TA after contest

Cutline: Left to right: Joel McQuagge (Advisor), Leigh Ann Skurupey (Coach), Logan Perry, Chelsea Lopez, Kaley Garner, Alexandra Leepack, Cheyanne Niedringhaus, Linsey Clark, Taylor Murphy, Maegan Hackett, Rachel Benfield, Matthew McQuagge, Kathryn Sheppard (Assistant Coach), Ashley Coxen (Assistant Coach).

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida student team has won another national title, this time in horse judging.

A team took home first prize in the 2014 Spring Horse Judging Contest on April 15 at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Texas. The team of Linsey Clark, Rachel Benfield, Taylor Murphy, Matt McQuagge and Logan Perry names cq beat 27 other teams from land-grant universities across the U.S.

Although UF has had a successful horse-judging program for more than 20 years, this is the first time a UF team has been ranked first overall, said Leigh Ann Skurupey, UF’s horse-judging team coach.

In a judging contest, classes are composed of four horses, said Skurupey, a graduate research assistant in animal sciences in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Contestants rank horses based on how closely they compare to the ideal conformation or performance. A panel of professional judges also ranks the horses in each class.

Every contestant begins with a perfect score of 50. If their ranking matches that of the officials, they get 50 points. For every ranking they make that differs from that of the officials, they lose points.

In conformation classes, horses are evaluated based on symmetry, skeletal structure, quality and quantity of muscling, breed and femininity or masculinity. In performance classes like western pleasure, western riding and hunter under saddle, reining and trail horses are judged based on quality of movement, response to the rider’s cues, attitude and accuracy of maneuvers or gait transitions.

Contestant judges also can explain their ratings to the judges, who then score their reasons. Excellent reasons can earn back points lost from errors in class placing.

Several of the UF contestants have been riding and showing horses for many years, Skurupey said. Some judged horses in high school through 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Team members were enrolled in a horse-judging course this spring. These students will take the senior-level course in the fall and travel to national competitions in Ohio and Oklahoma.

“I couldn’t be more proud of all of these students,” Skurupey said. “It takes a lot of mental power, quick decision-making skills, dedication and confidence to go through a contest. Each of these students has made a remarkable improvement in their judging and oral reasons skills since January. Their success reflects their desire to do well. I am a lucky coach to have a team that is willing to work hard.”

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By Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Leigh Ann Skurupey, 352-392-7529, skurupeyl@ufl.edu