I have watched a great many showing classes from the ringside, and sometimes I think the judge has a very easy job, because the winners pick themselves.
We went to the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) back in 2003 to watch our Pony Club games team compete in the Prince Philip Cup. It was Sunday evening, so we got to see the pony supreme class unfold.
A stream of immaculate and very lovely ponies floated into the arena. I was the only showing mum in our party so somebody asked me: “Who do you think is going to win?” At that moment, the little Welsh pony Penwayn Ryan stormed into the ring with more swagger than the rest put together.
If the judges wanted sparkle, while the other competitors had applied a light dusting, his was slathered on with a trowel. He lit up the ring with his sheer joie de vivre. Even though all the contestants were fabulous, he “out-fabuloused” them all. “He is,” I replied. And he did.
But on plenty of occasions, the task is much harder. Last summer I stewarded in a well-populated class of miniature youngstock. Now I admit I know nothing about miniatures. To me they were all adorable, and all extremely fluffy. They looked for all the world like those pompoms you make in primary school with two circles of cardboard and a ball of wool.
While they all shared the basic requirements — the right number of limbs, for example — who knew what was going on underneath all the fluff. That day, I really didn’t envy the judge who had to sort them out.
For some reason I have been reminded of this when watching all the debates between the party leaders in the run up to general election day on 7 May. They are all impeccably turned out and showing off their best paces, but I am left wondering what’s really going on underneath all the bluster and the points scoring. For us as the judges, it’s a motley class to preside over. Happily we have already been told we don’t have to find a clear winner. Nevertheless, I don’t envy our job on 7 May.
There is of course one obvious thing that the horse world and the political world have in common — the brightly coloured rosettes. And just an observation — while in the horse world, red and blue often alternate as the colours used for first and second, none of the other colours — yellow, green, purple and the rest — are ever higher than third.