A mid-season rule change by the Coloured Horse and Pony Society (CHAPS) allowing a horse or pony to be shown under a judge who has been involved with it in the past has provoked a row in the showing world.

The 100-plus CHAPS judges may now own, produce, loan, lease or compete an animal, then judge it in the show ring, as long as a year has elapsed since the contact. They may also have had an exhibit at livery and had a financial interest in it, its owner, rider or handler.

Respected producer, judge and Horse & Hound columnist Katie Moore, who is not a member of CHAPS, says: “This could make it very unfair for the other competitors. Showing is such a difficult world and we’ve got to make it as straight as possible.”

Show producer Lynn Russell, who is a member but not a CHAPS judge, says: “The rule may have been changed with the best of intentions, but it’s a farce: there’s no other society with a rule like this.

“If I were a CHAPS judge, I could sell horses in 2004 and judge them in 2005. If I put a cob I had sold at the top of a class, how would the other competitors feel? ”

CHAPS head of judges Malcolm Hillier explains why the rule change was introduced: “This was brought up by the membership at the AGM, where there was a strong discussion both ways with regards to conflict of interests. You have to rely on the integrity of the person doing the judging.

“If it’s so obvious, the judge himself loses integrity rather than the society — members aren’t backwards in coming forwards with regards to complaints about judges, so we shall know what’s going on.”

  • Read the full story in today’s Horse & Hound (26 August 04