To find the answer, you need to understand that although each judge starts with the same basic set of values, each judge may prioritize them differently. For me, in a hunter class at a big A show, I want to see a horse of a certain quality, going in a smooth rhythmical way, and jumping in good form. Almost all judges would agree with this, of course, but very few horse shows provide six beautiful horses, each jumping from perfect distances and moving beautifully. This is where the prioritizing comes in. In my opinion, the hunter class is, above all, a jumping contest: jumping ability and technique must be emphasized. Also, a horse can be a slightly high mover and still have a good, rhythmic canter. The canter is, after all, the most important gait, as you canter all your courses. It’s important to remember that quality is in the eye of the beholder; a horse might be attractive but not beautiful. Perhaps the head is plain, but there is a well-fitting bridle that has been minimized.
(Turnout, of course, is very important any time you show your horse. A horse should come to the ring looking its best: clean and in good weight, braided neatly and with clean, well fitting tack. The same goes for the rider, obviously, but I’m getting ahead of myself... I’ll discuss turnout in a future post.)
You can imagine, then, that there are many places that one judge can differ from another judge. Two different (and very competent) judges can judge the same class of ten horses and come up with two different sets of results. As long as the differences are minor (for example, one judge’s third is the other’s second or first) this is fine, and to be expected — judges’ preferences will create these differences. I think anyone who is interested enough should sit down in a quiet place on the rail and, pen in hand, judge a few classes. This is a great way to get the feel of what is really happening, and what the judge is looking for. If your top six horses are the same as the judges, even if they’re in a different order, you have probably done well. I have never met a judge who has not said that judging has made them a better exhibitor; looking at horses through a judge's eyes will help your horsemanship in many ways.