After assessing contenders in the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) young judges’ competition, I can tell you that the showing world has plenty to look forward to. Societies say it gets harder to find potential judges, but this scheme sets a gold standard for others to follow.
The beauty of it is the training and support on which it’s based. Any BSPS members can attend training sessions, although the competition is open to those between 14 and 24 years. I judged the individual section, entrants in which were aged 18-24, and hope they’ll all apply to judging panels when they’re old enough.
I was impressed not just by their knowledge, but also by their communication skills. When I asked them to justify the line-up of “guinea pig” horses and tell me which one they wanted to take home, and why, they did a great job.
Most societies run judges’ training days and conferences, but the BSPS scheme is exceptional. It worries me when I meet young riders who don’t understand the importance of conformation — we’re talking about a blueprint for soundness, not a beauty contest.
Sometimes, you hear people enthuse about a horse’s good length of rein and a sloping shoulder without understanding why good limbs must take priority. For me, conformation starts with a good hindleg, because that’s where a horse’s engine is.
No horse is perfect and judges’ opinions vary. I would never buy a young horse with a hock defect such as a curb or a thoroughpin, as it’s less likely to stay sound.
An extra level
Event rider Ian Stark was always one of my favourite Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain (SHB(GB)) ride judges, so I was interested to see that he will be riding finalists in the Burghley Young Event Horse championships (report, p63). It’s the first time a ride judge has been brought into this series and I think it’s a great idea.
This isn’t a showing class, despite what critics say — conformation and paces are important because good biomechanics make it more likely that a talented horse will stay sound. You can see a lot from the ground, but adding this extra level of judging will make it more interesting.
As ride judge, Ian will be able to decide whether a horse has the necessary power and whether it has the attitude he’d be looking for. It was a great loss when he stepped down as a showing judge, and I’m sure he’ll provide a masterclass at Burghley.
Livestreaming of equestrian events is growing (news, 25 August), which is fantastic if your broadband is up to it. Full marks to organisers of the Baileys Horse Feeds British Equestrian Federation (BEF) futurity evaluations, who used it to showcase stars of the future and benefited breeders, owners and riders.
I’d love to see showing in on the act. Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) will be livestreaming, so hopefully some championships will be included. I’d like to see the camera angle reflect the judges’ window on the ring, so riders understand what judges have to base their opinions on, and to hear judges’ comments afterwards. Move over, X-Factor!
Ref Horse & Hound; 8 September 2016