It might have been three weeks ago, but I am still buzzing from Royal Windsor Horse Show. Many will be surprised to hear that it was my first visit.
A highlight was the hunter championship; watching these magnificent animals gallop along the main arena is quite something, and it was great that spectators cheered so enthusiastically.
However, I do have one gripe, which applies to showing as a whole. It is my job to ensure that I know what’s going on in each ring, but many passers-by struggle. For example, one woman sitting beside me turned to her neighbour and asked, “What is going on in the ring?” The answer? “I haven’t a clue.” They soon moved on.
Announcing each class at the beginning and end, including the winner, was a start.
However, if you missed the commentator’s introduction you were in the dark — and what, you have to ask, is the point in continuing to watch?
I’m fully aware that we can’t risk judging bias by saying too much over the tannoy.
I accept that, but just because that’s the way it has always been, doesn’t mean new ideas can’t be explored. Surely a good judge is engrossed in assessing what is going on in front of (or beneath) them, rather than listening to the commentator, who is there to entertain the crowd. And if their opinion can be so easily influenced, should they be judging at all?
Simply revealing what the judges are looking for, as at Dublin, and why they chose the winner, would help. The latter happens at Olympia and it is brilliant. Audience engagement is vital at major shows, particularly when there is an opportunity to attract new interest — but even the most dedicated showing fan wants to be informed.
I trialled H&H’s live coverage at Royal Windsor, a first for us in showing. The number of followers was promising and we are looking at the feasibility of running it at future shows.
The risks involved in ride judging have been prominent recently.
A napping horse with judge Sam Roberts in the saddle at Royal Windsor begged the question, could I ever do that? The answer is no. When my horse ignores my aids or spooks, I know a firm leg telling him to go forward won’t cause him to blow up. But every equine has boundaries.
It is worrying to think that accidents could jeopardise ride judging’s future. I take my hat off to those who do it, and wish Richard Mills a speedy recovery.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 4 June 2015