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THE British Show Horse Association (BSHA) is to tighten its rules on judges’ connections to riders following controversy at this year’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

At its annual meeting, at the Jockey Club in Newmarket, on 16 November, BSHA director Adrienne Smyth said the society would be going through the rules concerning interests very closely.

Members’ concerns centred on the hack classes at HOYS, where Lucinda Sims stepped down as ride judge and was replaced by Lucy Killingbeck.

A horse owned by Mrs Killingbeck’s mother had previously been on the yard of Robert Walker, who won the hack championship on Carmen Gridley’s Silent Words.

Another judge, Jennifer Williams, who was to preside over the Cuddy supreme in-hand championship, was asked to stand down before the show by HOYS officials due to her connection with one of the entrants (news, 16 October).

The BSHA’s 2008 rules state exhibitors must withdraw from a class if the judge has an interest in an exhibit, which it defines as owning, training, keeping at livery, riding in competition or having or had a financial interest or gain from it.

Mrs Smyth said the board had determined that no rules were broken at HOYS.

“But we are going to draw the definition more tightly,” she said. “We’re going through it with a fine-tooth comb.”

Sandra Lawrence, who is president of the British Skewbald and Piebald Association, feels it would be easier if societies could come up with common rules on what constitutes an interest.

“In the case [of the BSHA rules], I think the word ‘knowingly’ needs to come into [the definition],” she said.

“For instance, if someone stands a stallion at public stud, they can’t always know that an animal in the ring four years later is by their stallion. We have to protect our judges as well.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (27 November, ’08)