Six tips for giving oral reasons for beginners

Tips for successfully giving oral reasons as a beginner to horse judging.

A Michigan 4-H horse judging contestant takes notes on a halter class.
A Michigan 4-H horse judging contestant takes notes on a halter class.

As a newbie to horse judging, often one of the most intimidating parts is delivering oral reasons. Below are several helpful tips from Michigan State University Extension to help improve the content and presentation of oral reasons.

1. Stay calm and confident.

One of the most important things to remember when giving oral reasons is to stay calm. Sometimes easier said than done, but taking a deep breath before stepping into the reasons room is the best first step. Reasons can be nerve-wracking, but try not to show that to the reasons listener. Remember, the reasons listener has no idea what you were planning on saying, so if something doesn’t go according to plan, shake it off and keep going. Be careful to not overcorrect yourself or to make your mistakes obvious; often, the most successful at giving reasons are just better a disguising Plan B, C or D as Plan A.

2. Practice how you will present.

When practicing reasons, stand in a proper reasons stance with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands behind your back. This way, when you go into the reasons room, the stance is familiar and comfortable. Keeping your hands behind your back will limit fidgeting and talking with your hands, both of which would distract from your oral reasons presentation. Whether at a contest or in your room, another way to improve your presentation is looking in the mirror while practicing your reasons. This will allow you to see, practice and improve your facial expressions and posture.

3. Go slow and plan pauses.

One of the biggest struggles for many beginners is rushing through oral reasons. Try practicing your reasons as slowly as possible while including intentional pauses at certain points during your reasons. Pausing after a unique or detailed statement, sometimes referred to as a reasons “flow,” will give the reasons listener time to take in the interesting thing you just said and will leave them on the edge of their seat waiting to hear what you’re going to say next.

4. Don’t write out your reasons.

After judging a class, most of the time your first instinct is to go to work writing out your reasons. However, this is doing yourself a huge disservice. Writing out your reasons forces your brain to remember the piece of paper, not the horses. If you get stuck in the reasons room, you’ll have a harder time trying to remember what you were trying to say. Instead, jot down a few key words or bullets and refer to those when practicing, not your whole notes page.

5. Memorize one pair at a time.

Trying to memorize a whole set of reasons in one go will leave you frustrated. Instead, try memorizing your reasons by pairs. I work through my first pair (first and second place horses), and once I have it memorized I flow through my first pair and work on memorizing my second pair (second and third place horses). As you can probably guess, once I have my first two pairs memorized, I flow through them and work on memorizing the third and final pair.

6. Get creative.

The last thing a reasons listener wants to hear is the same set of oral reasons over and over. At a contest, they may be listening to dozens of sets of reasons and you want yours to stand out. Find a few flows you really like and memorize those to use in competition if you find a horse that matches that description or flow. You should also try to mix up the common vocabulary used in reasons, such as, “I grant,” “I placed” and “I fault.” These small changes will result in a more interesting final product, which will likely result in a higher score.

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