Rebecca Penny: It makes judges more mindful *H&H subscribers*

Opinion

Having recently attended the Northern Counties Ponies Association (NCPA) Pony of the Year show, I was particularly impressed with the format used to judge the golden ticket supreme.

Competitors had to have qualified at select shows over the summer organised by the NCPA’s 10 branches. They were then split into four sections according to type and went into a preliminary judging that adopted a regular class format.

The top three from each section continued to a second phase where four new judges were appointed. Each combination was given a mark out of 10 using an ice-skating mark system, where marks are displayed at the end of each performance. This made the championship far more spectator-friendly — and the eventual champion had to impress five judges to bag the £500 cash prize.

I think there would be great scope for this system to be used more widely, as there are benefits for exhibitors and spectators.

I’ve always been a great advocate of the skating mark system, for two reasons. Firstly, you tend to get a more accurate reflection of the performance given on the day, perhaps due to judges being more mindful when they have to hold up a mark for all to see. Secondly, the system allows and encourages riders to push the boundaries a little and they tend to deviate away from a “safe” performance and step it up a notch.

Unacceptable mistakes

With Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) just around the corner, many of us are busy stressing over our horses’ or ponies’ coats, making last-minute preparations and ensuring we are fit enough to endure all the walking involved on the big day. However, I’m disappointed to have seen several incidents this season where incorrect marks or administrative errors have resulted in a more than acceptable number of combinations having sought-after HOYS tickets taken away from them.

I appreciate that anyone can make a mistake and that the qualification isn’t technically awarded until verified by post, but I would like to think that in this day and age, we would have a far more robust system to ensure that these mistakes can’t happen.

I struggle to see how in cases where a pony has won by a considerable margin, these errors can go unnoticed during the presentations. This reinforces the sentiments of Stuart Hollings who rightly stated in his recent column that communication between two judges in the ring is vital.

If judges were to communicate better it would not only reduce the risk of these mistakes being made, but would go a long way to spare the heartache for all involved when such a situation arises. If both judges have marked a horse or pony down as the winner then surely if it was to be called out in second or third place due to an error then it could be rectified before the rosettes are even awarded.

Finally, good luck to all those heading to HOYS. It’s an achievement to get there and anything else is a bonus.

Ref Horse & Hound; 26 September 2019