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Being a ride judge is risky as well as rewarding. Everyone sends sympathy to Xanthe Barker Wild, who was badly injured in a fall at Aintree.

At Royal Norfolk, Kevin Lee and Richard Mills also suffered falls, though both decided to carry on. Horses are not machines — I took a novice horse out of the
ring at Norfolk because he misbehaved — but these accidents emphasise societies’ and competitors’ duties of care.

Any horse can have a blip, but judges are not there to school them. Their role is simply to assess a ride and competitors should not cross their fingers and carry on if they have doubts about their animal.

Judges must assess horses calmly and sympathetically, giving them time to adjust to a new rider. Competitors must ensure that a horse will behave while a judge mounts and dismounts and will accept an unknown rider.

If you have any doubt that a horse will behave, ride it in company and around showgrounds until it accepts new experiences calmly. If it’s sensitive to mount/dismount, or is likely to react badly to certain stimuli, solve the problem before you expect a judge to take up the reins.

We’ll never remove all risks, which ride judges accept, but gambling on a horse’s behaviour is unacceptable. Riders must realise the knock-on effects from a fall: ride judges have professional and personal commitments and may suffer serious consequences.  It’s down to the judge. I’ve heard that some riders think it’s amusing when a judge comes off, or that it’s automatically the judge’s fault. It isn’t.

A rider fall results in elimination. A judge who falls makes the call on whether to continue or retire — which is as it should be — and most carry on if possible so that classes can continue.

Dublin has a “floating” ride judge who can be called on if necessary. That would only work here if the judge had relevant authority; for instance, a British Show Horse Association ride judge couldn’t substitute for, say, a Coloured Horse And Pony Society or British Show Pony Society one unless he or she was on the other society’s panel, too.

Judges who feel horses have behaved dangerously should report them to the appropriate societies, which can then investigate and monitor these animals. No one enjoys handing out the showing equivalent of an ASBO, but it’s the way to protect us all.

Competitors should also remember that the showing world is small and word
soon gets round when horses repeatedly behave badly. It’s very sad when
you have a lovely horse who won’t settle to the job. That happened to me once and I never regret deciding not to show that horse. Instead I found him another job from where, fortunately, he went on to excel.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 July 2016