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Top judges have branded as “disrespectful” a decision by Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain (SHB(GB)) not to recommend them as ride judges for four-year-old and novice show hunters in this summer’s classes.

Judging panel lists printed in the SHB(GB) 2008 handbook include recommended names to judge these classes.

Well-known judges not recommended include John Conifey, Shelley Perham and College Valley/North Northumberland joint-master Ian McKie.

John Conifey described the decision as “disrespectful”, and said he is rallying fellow judges to bring the issue up at the SHB(GB) AGM on 21 April.

“I got a letter from SHB(GB) stating that my application [to be a ride judge this year] had not received the support of the council,” he said. “So I wrote to ask for an explanation. I have yet to receive a reply.”

Also omitted is Lucy Killingbeck, who has been judging for 22 years.

“I am surprised and disappointed that I have not been recommended for novices and four-year-olds after all this time,” she said.

But SHB(GB) general secretary Catherine Burdock emphasised that shows can still select ride judges for novice and four-year-old classes from the handbook.

Ms Burdock said a “recommended” list was produced at the request of shows who were finding it difficult to get judges to officiate in four-year-old and novice show hunter classes and were considering no longer running these classes.

And Ian McKie, himself not on the recommended list, cautioned against allowing the issue to get out of control.

“Clearly there is an issue between organisers, competitors and judges,” he said. “One can understand that some panel judges may feel slighted, but they have to be honest with themselves.

“I’m not saying that the principle [of a recommended list of judges] is wrong,” he said. “But if we are not careful such issues could be divisive.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (13 March ’08)