But from my friends who are and from experience, of course it is not judge the same way.
Every level is judge by its level of difficulty.
Rated vs non rated are judged differently because of the expectations of the quality of horse/riders and the knowledge/level of the judges.
I don't think it has nothing to do with having lower or higher standard.
At the lower levels, I've found that judges were more forgiving in the beginning of the season than by the end. I don't see this as 'encouraging' or 'free' points just to make the riders happy but that the expectations are greater by the end as the riders had the whole season to become better and learn from his show season.