Opinion

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Are we now reaching a crisis point regarding unacceptable behaviour on the showing circuit? Despite showing societies taking appropriate measures to combat social media attacks on judges and fellow competitors, these seemingly continue to flourish.

This negativity towards judging made headlines on several occasions in 2017.

It is so detrimental to the future of our sport and does little to encourage new owners and volunteers, or generate sponsorship.

I was equally disappointed to hear about a recently published survey that raised the question: “Should judges show and compete in the same section in the same year?”

This immediately questions the integrity of those I believe are the best judges on various panels. Many competitors actually enjoy experts such as Jayne Ross, Katie Jerram-Hunnable and Allister Hood judging their horses — especially when seeing them ridden. Such “house cleaning” campaigns are more harmful than good. And what sort of message do they convey to the showing membership?

The showing fraternity is so closely knit — it’s all too easy to join up the dots when Judge A puts up Judge B and vice versa. But this doesn’t automatically spell out cheating. My fellow columnist Julie Templeton hit the nail on the head (7 September) when she suggested that judges get it right 80-90% of the time, in what is after all a subjective discipline. Realistically, should we be content with this judging statistic and continue to enjoy all that is great about showing?

Exciting prospects

On a cheerier note, I’ve seen some exciting novices on the circuit this term whose full potential I have no doubt will be realised — primarily due to not being overshown. The skill in showing is knowing when to stay at home.

The cream of the crop are two amiable five-year-olds: Ali Talbot’s Young Lochinvar and Simon Charlesworth’s ride, Doorley’s Prince. I spotted the former heading the novice line-up at White Rose County back in May, on his seasonal debut. Amazingly, he went on to capture the hack of the year accolade only five outings later, vanquishing the 2016 champion Elusive.

Similarly, Doorley’s Prince claimed the Horse of the Year Show crown on only his fourth ridden coloured appearance. Amateur ambassador Ali is a partner in a global law firm and no stranger to the podium at Birmingham. Having finished reserve to Royal Trooper in 2003 with her small hack victor Colbeach Starlight Express, they went one better the following year to land the title — thwarting Royal Trooper’s bid for a third consecutive championship.

Judging misdemeanours

During my judging trip to South Africa at the beginning of the year, I was accompanied by two young people in the ring, called “Shadows”. One did in fact live up to that name as I nearly tripped over her a few times.

I think this is preferable to the “Probationer” title we use in the UK. Someone joked it could suggest that our rookie judges — being on probation — have already committed a misdemeanour before their judging career has even begun.

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 December 2017