One of the major differences between horse and pony classes is that pony judges assess the performance visually, as opposed to riding the animals presented to them. That can make a huge difference, especially if a pony performance judge doesn’t have riding experience.
I appreciate that assessing way of going is covered in judging assessments. However, as everyone who rides knows, riders have a much better idea of what other riders are trying to hide. It’s usually far harder to gain a good performance mark from a judge who is or has been an experienced rider than from one who can see the picture but doesn’t have the same appreciation of how it’s being created.
For a start, riders know the tricks! Let’s be honest, we all know that if you need to press the accelerator or brake a bit harder, you pick your spot in the ring and use the outside aids in the hope that you don’t catch a judge’s attention for the wrong reasons.
Raise the standards
Showmanship is part of the art of showing. But performance judges who have done it literally through the seat of their jodhs will have a far greater understanding of the difference between a pony who goes properly and one who simply ticks along achieving the correct canter leads but not, for example, working from behind or making good transitions. And from my experience they also use a much larger range of marks.
This, to me, begs a big question. Should all organisations operate two judges’ panels, rather than one? Would it be fairer — and raise standards of performance among riders — to have one panel for conformation judges and one for performance?
Applicants could obviously apply for one or both, but I’d like to see performance judges able to demonstrate not only that they have riding experience in any given discipline, but that they can differentiate between a superficially pretty picture and the “real deal”.
Societies sometimes find it hard to recruit judges and I know this would create extra administrative work, but it would raise standards and go a fair way to help kibosh regular ringside grumblings, which is surely what we all want.
Stopping the spread
The number of equine flu cases keeps rising. So why can’t shows get their act together and have a standard policy on checking vaccination certificates?
To help avoid further spread it is imperative for checks to be carried out by qualified individuals, before animals are unloaded. At South of England, competitors were advised that passport checks would be carried out in the collecting ring. By that time, the virus could already be spreading across the showground.
And what about shows where they don’t actually ensure that the passport presented for checking matches up with the animal entered? Or the case I heard of recently, where a pony was wrongly turned away because the passport checker looked at its tetanus status rather than whether it had the correct flu protection?
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 July 2019