Be a Patrol Judge: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 20, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a patrol judge. Get a quick view of details about educational and licensure requirements as well as job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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A patrol judge ensures that horse races are run safely and fairly, and without rule violations. There are no formal education requirements for this career, however all patrol judges must hold a high school diploma and state licensure, pass a vision test and physical exam, and have their fingerprints analyzed by the FBI.

Essential Information

Patrol judges observe horse races at racetrack and keep an eye out for anything that may cause the race to be unfair, such as violations or safety threats. They inform stewards, who have the final say in whether any actions are taken regarding rule violations or race results, of any notable occurrences. A high school diploma and state licensure is usually required to work as a patrol judge. These workers also need to submit to a vision test, a physical exam and fingerprinting.

Required Education A high school diploma and state licensure
Job Duties Must watch live horse races, note rule violations and report findings regarding unfit horses, unsuitable equipment or unsafe track activity that could affect the race
Other Requirements Optical examination, an FBI fingerprint card, licensing fee, a physical examination and letters of reference
Average Salary Can vary due to location, experience and employer

Patrol Judge Job Description

During horse races, patrol judges are typically assigned spots to observe the race, except in harness races, where a patrol judge usually rides in the starter car and watches the entire race from the moving vehicle. They help the stewards or judges ensure that each race is fair and runs smoothly. In addition to observing live races, stewards may sometimes request that patrol judges review recorded races to confirm their observations.

Patrol Judge Duties

While observing horse races, patrol judges must note any suspicion of rule violations, lame or unfit horses, improper racing equipment, complaints or anything else that may unjustly affect the outcome of the race. They must also note anything unusual, including suspicious behavior from horses, jockeys or drivers. They then report their observations to the stewards, who decide if any action should be taken. Patrol judges are sometimes required to attend hearings and give testimonials under oath.

Patrol Judge Requirements

Patrol judges are not required to have education credentials beyond a high school diploma; however, they are usually required to obtain licensure and requirements vary by state. Patrol judges may also be required to undergo an optical examination to prove that they have color vision as well as 20-20 corrected vision. A physical examination and FBI fingerprint card may also be a prerequisite for employment. Patrol judges must submit a license application along with a fee to their state licensing agency.

Those who work in harness racing may earn licensure from the United States Trotting Association (USTA) by passing an examination ( The USTA sends licensure applicants study materials so that they may prepare for the exam. In addition to taking the examination, patrol judges submit an application, along with letters of reference and a fee. Applicants are asked to describe their experience working as an official in horse racing or other sports, as well as any experience racing or training horses.

A patrol judge must pay strong attention to detail, as they are expected to spot rule violations during a horse race, and to consider illegal equipment and the physical states of horses and riders. In some circumstances, they may have to provide a testimonial under oath at a hearing. Licensure for this career is required, as are a high school diploma and proof of 20-20 corrected vision.

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