Cal Poly Horse Judging Team

They are the only collegiate Horse Judging Team in California, the only collegiate team west of Colorado.

The lack of competition within close proximity hasn’t deterred The Cal Poly Horse Judging Team – and each fall they make multiple trips to where the competitions take place in the Midwest, namely places like Oklahoma City and Columbus, Ohio.

Competition Activity

Once they arrive, the competition consist of evaluating horses conformation and performance, ranking them based on their Halter and Performance classes, concluding with a formal justification of their findings.

Two minutes is all they are given to make a position and justify it in an articulate, and convincing oral presentation.

Skills For Life

The skills that they acquire through the Horse Judging Team will affect every portion of their lives, tools not limited to the Equine Industry. You spend only a short amount of time with these young women and find yourself impressed with the eloquence and confidence with which they express themselves.  Leaving no doubt that the Horse Judging Team under the leadership of Pete Agalos is well worth the time and money put forth into such endeavor.

Not only does this team have a thorough knowledge of the standards set before them by the AQHA in regard to conformation and performance, but they have the ability to draft compelling arguments for their findings.

Mr. Agalos explains – “What it does in terms of teaching, is it teaches someone how to make a decision based upon learned principles and then orally justify that position to an official.   If you take the process and put all that together that’s what we do in daily life, through a lot of different facets.  It teaches someone how to quickly take facts and put them into logical order, and then how to compare those facts, and present them to someone.  That’s what reasons are designed to do.”

Oral Communication and Critical Thinking

The students are not only developing their oral communication skills, but their critical thinking skills as well.  Traits that allow them to view their own experiences analytically and gainfully implement these lessons into their daily routines.

While some students will go on to pursue their judges card for the AQHA and the NRCHA, others have utilized the tools they received from the Horse Judging Team in others areas of the Equestrian Industry.

“I’ve been riding and showing horses for years and the Horse Judging Team gives you a different outlook as a competitor.  The understanding of all the rule books of the different disciplines, and what the judges are looking for helps you apply that while competing.  But mostly it’s the critical thinking aspect – Having the ability to quickly turn it around, eloquently and articulately say what you mean, making it convincing as well as accurate.   It has to be honest and accurate…” – Danika Kulczycki

“It really teaches you fantastic presentation skills and being able to articulate what you want to say when you’re up in front of someone under stressful situations.  The judging aspect can help you learn things and then apply them to what you’re doing with your horses.  I learned a lot of different stuff about all these different types of horses, since the AQHA has such a broad spectrum. I can look at that and think how am I going to use that information in my riding as well.  So you apply it everywhere and it really teaches you to pay attention to the smaller details. ”  – Shannon Merala

Natalie Baker, the Cal Poly Equine Center Supervisor can also testify to the usefulness of the Horse Judging Team through her own experiences while attending Oklahoma State University and West Texas A&M University.  “Specifically related to judging, these girls have an excellent foundation of how they are going to judge as an AQHA judge. We teach them the standards, the rules and the fundamentals, and they take all that and if they want to get their judges card, they now have such a great start under their belt, and a good foundation of what they will eventually be tested on. “

Pete believes that the Horse Judging Team instills in these students much more than an opportunity to pursue a judge’s card upon graduation. “I think it’s the skills you get in terms of being able to make independent decisions on your own.  To think things through without someone influencing you, and you trusting yourself to make those decisions. It’s the difference between opinions and decisions.  It’s easy to have an opinion, it’s difficult to have an opinion and then go support it.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s the biggest thing that comes out of this program.”

Cal Poly Horse Judging Team 2012

Cal Poly’s 2012 Horse Judging Team traveled to the American Paint Horse Association’s judging contest in Fort Worth, Texas where they finished 2nd team in Reasons and 5th team overall. They attended the All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio and the Quarter Horse World Show in Oklahoma City where they finished 5th overall at both contests and 1st in Halter at the World Show. The Cal Poly Horse Judging Team for 2013 finished their first contest in Texas with a 2nd place, and with several top ten individuals. They finished third overall at the All American Quarter Horse Congress this past fall.

Getting More Schools Involved

While Cal Poly has held their own in competition with the Midwest – Pete has been actively involved in trying to resurrect the presence of Horse Judging Teams in California.   While he’s not hopeful that it will take off anytime soon, there is potential from other schools with strong equine programs such as Fresno State and Chico State.

“The more the better, I would like to see a bigger thing out here, because that would allow for more opportunities for more people to do things together, potentially setting up a smaller circuit.”

The NRCHA as well as the NCHA have expressed an interest in developing a contest this side of the Rockies.  However, travel expenses and the time the students are asked to be away from their universities have been the main contributors to the lack of enthusiasm from the Midwest on competing in the West.

The travel also has a limiting effect on how much progress the team can make from year to year.  While other schools are able to bring a junior team along for experience before they compete at the senior level, that isn’t an option for Cal Poly when it costs roughly $6,000 to get the team to the competitions.

In order to operate the way Mr. Agalos would like, it would take much more than the support currently being allocated from the IRA (Instructionally Related Fund) at Cal Poly.

“These girls are capable of winning the whole deal, just lacking that experience when going to the big contest of having been there before, that’s where we get zapped. That’s a big plus. That alone would allow us to be head and shoulders better.”

According to these young women, having a coach that understands you makes all the difference. Pete’s ability to present information in a variety of ways that best suit each individual student’s learning style allows him to be the greatest asset to this team. It’s one thing to be an authority on a subject, and quite another to be able to effectively communicate that knowledge for others to understand.  Mr. Agalos manages to excel in both regards.

Coach Pete Agalos

He received a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and a Master’s degree in Agricultural Science from Cal Poly.  In 2004 he began teaching Equine Courses as part of the Animal Science department at Cal Poly.  Prior to that, he spent the 11 years as an agricultural teacher at Arroyo Grande High School.  During which time he coached 11 Future Farmers of America state championship horse judging teams, seven FFA national championship teams and one Quarter Horse Congress championship team.

On the side Mr. Agalos owns and operates Agalos Cutting and Performance Horses as well as being a member of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association (PCCHA), the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), the American Horse Judging Team Coaches Association, the National Reining Cow Horse Association (NRCHA),  and the California Agricultural Teacher’s Association.

The Horse Judging Team requires a significant commitment from the students who choose to pursue this area of the Equine Industry.  This coupled with the challenging academic schedule they maintain at Cal Poly makes it undoubtedly clear that upon graduation – these women are going to enrich the Equine Industry in whichever avenue they choose to participate.

“These girls are pretty exceptional.”  – Pete Agalos

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