Regular Horse & Hound showing reporter Tricia Johnson is aghast at the behaviour she has seen from some competitors at recent shows

I can’t help thinking what a pity it is that more and more people seem to be unable to accept a judge’s decision in the showring.

There is a very apt old saying: “If you can’t take a joke, don’t go showing”. While there will always be days when a competitor feels hard done by, there are others when a win isn’t perhaps totally deserved. It all comes out in the wash in the end.

But bad sportsmanship, lack of manners or insulting behaviour is inexcusable under any circumstances. I’ve seen instances of all three recently and it isn’t a pretty sight.

I watched a competitor’s connection trying to “psych” out a judge who had her animal only fourth in a ridden class; an exhibitor storm into the ring after a class to screech at the judge who had demoted her in-hand animal when she spotted a serious conformation fault; onlookers (fellow-competitors all) who clapped and cheered when an already- distraught rider was sent to the bottom of the line after her pony refused to behave.

And that’s before you mention the increasingly vitriolic comments posted on some internet sites against judges who are now routinely accused of being “crooked” when certain competitors do not get the results they think they deserve.

What signals does this send out to younger competitors? That intimidation is the way to go and there is no need to be gracious in defeat? Whatever happened to “the judge’s decision is final?”

By its very nature, flat showing results depend entirely on someone’s opinion – not whether all the fences are left standing, or if you have gone round in the fastest time. Therefore by entering a showing ring, you are accepting this as the status quo.

No matter how disappointed an exhibitor might be, in my view there is absolutely no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Anyway, what goes round has a habit of coming round so leaving the ethics aside, it certainly won’t do any good in the long run.

Tricia