Opinion

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Huge effort goes into planning and organising the four-day BSPS summer championships — and that’s not to mention the many volunteers and judges who give their time and expertise.

I was disheartened to hear, once again, of a few disgruntled competitors who felt that it was acceptable to criticise the judging of their class openly because they didn’t agree with the result. Or they were disappointed that their son or daughter hadn’t won.

The “wrong leg issue” caused discussion again. When I judge, I look for an animal which ticks all the boxes: type, conformation, movement and presence. A pony going on the wrong leg is a minor mistake.

It’s a training/riding issue which can be sorted easily, not a misbehaviour, as in rearing, napping or bucking. Therefore, I would happily place a beautiful animal who goes on the wrong leg over a mediocre exhibit who does nothing wrong. Competitors should try and see this from the judges’ perspective: after all, judges are there to choose the best animal to win.

We must accept it

I use a simple equation to broadly explain results to my clients. I believe we are judged fairly 80% of the time; 10% of the time we are downright lucky (and isn’t it funny that you rarely hear people at the side of the ring complaining that they were lucky on that occasion) and the other 10% of the time we don’t agree with the judging.

These percentages have stayed this way for as long as I’ve been showing and, if it continues that way, then I’m happy to carry on and accept whatever results come my way.

My advice to complainers is that when they enter the ring, they must understand that our sport is subjective. Nobody forces you to compete, hence you should accept the result regardless. If you still feel there is an issue, perhaps showjumping would be a more black-and-white sport to pursue.

Slightly bemused

Everyone seems to flock to see the marks at the completion of a class, which bemuses me. If you are third, then that means you had the third-highest mark and the judge liked two ponies better. The actual mark is irrelevant, as some judges use a huge range and others mark closely.

Your mark can change on different days and in different company. When I go pony shopping, I never rate prospective purchases out of 50. Equally, when I’m training young judges, I want them to describe what they see and have a dialogue about the conformation and way of going. The last thing I want them to do is give me a number.

We should encourage our youngsters to stand ringside and attempt to judge the exhibits from outside the ring. This will stand them in good stead for competing and, hopefully, will mean that instead of criticising the judges’ decision, they will understand how they reached it and perhaps agree with them. Well, 80% of the time!

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 September 2017