Paddock Judge Career Profile
The paddock judge supervises horses in the paddock and saddling areas, ensuring that horses are outfitted with approved racing equipment in a timely manner.
Paddock judges oversee all activities in the paddock and saddling areas, making sure the horses arrive in the paddock on time to begin the saddling process. They observe the trainers and assistants as they prepare their horses. They check all items of a horse’s equipment (including blinkers, shoes, and bandages) to ensure that they are wearing the correct items as approved by the racing stewards.
They must also enforce the rule that no equipment changes can be made without the authorization of the stewards.
Another responsibility of the paddock judge is to supervise all individuals admitted to the paddock area, checking to be sure that they have proper authorization and that they behave appropriately at all times. They also supervise the activities of the horse identifier and any farriers (blacksmiths) that are admitted to performing shoe adjustments.
The paddock judge makes the famous call of “riders up” to let the trainers know that it is time to help their jockeys mount. They also ensure that horses leave the saddling area at the correct time and in the proper order for the post parade.
An additional duty of the paddock judge is keeping a list of horses that become unruly during their time in the paddock or saddling enclosure. These animals must participate in schooling sessions in the paddock before they will be allowed to enter subsequent races.
The paddock judge supervises these schooling sessions where a groom leads the horse around the paddock to desensitize them to the usual sights and sounds. Schooling may be conducted in the morning before the first race or for short periods between afternoon races.
Paddock judges may work in flat racing, steeplechase racing, stock horse racing, and harness racing.
There are also paddock judge positions in greyhound dog racing. Paddock judges may also readily transition into a variety of other roles at the track.
Education & Training
No specific educational background is necessary for this position, but most paddock judges have extensive experience in the horse racing industry and excellent communication skills. They must be familiar with all types of racing equipment, be able to interact with horse racing personnel, and know all relevant rules of racing.
Paddock judges must be licensed in the state where they perform their duties. Licensing involves a standard application and a nominal fee (usually $10 to $30 per year) that varies by state.
The earnings of a paddock judge can vary widely based on many factors such as the number of days and hours worked per race meeting, the length of the race meeting as a whole, the size and location of the track, the judge’s experience, and the prevailing pay rates in the area. Experienced paddock judges can expect to earn top dollar, while less experienced judges will usually have to work their way up to earn the higher salaries.
Some paddock judges rotate between two or more tracks each year to maintain a full schedule working exclusively in the paddock judge role.
Others choose to work an entirely different job on days when there is no live racing or during breaks in the race meet schedule.
The number of jobs available for paddock judges should remain fairly stable for the foreseeable future, as the total number of tracks in operation is not expected to show significant growth or decline. Some turnover is to be expected as some paddock judges reach retirement age or advance to other related horse racing industry roles (such as racing steward or racing secretary). Individuals with significant equine industry experience and excellent communication skills will enjoy the best prospects in the field.