Simon Reynolds: Just let the judges do their job *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The 2018 showing season is coming to an end and, in the horse ranks, the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) was one of the main talking points with the new “no pull-in” system. I thought it was difficult for the audience to follow and, although it was claimed that it “kept things exciting”, I do believe the go-round should be rewarded.

If we are to continue using the marking system, of which everyone knows I’m not a fan, the no pull-in could make everything even more haphazard. How do you compare your best horse to your worst when they could be standing next to each other?

The go-round is so important. A horse needs to be able to perform in a group, maintaining his manners. The judge should be looking for that stand-out performer from the moment it enters the ring. Not to be able to pull that horse in, then ride it and directly compare it with the next best examples in the class, for me just completely contradicts the art of showing, which is sadly being lost.

It’s unfair representation

The marks are not reflecting performances either, yet competitors still go and examine the figures. This is to no avail as it is just a meaningless number. All that mark can tell you is if the judge wanted your horse or not.

For example, we had a horse at HOYS this year that received 25 out of 50 for ride, which is half marks. Yet from the outside, he appeared to go foot-perfectly. Luckily, I realise how the system works and you just can’t take offence at a mark like this. All we gained from this mark is that he wasn’t required for placings and that is fair enough, although the mark didn’t reflect his performance.

I’ve said this before, but the old system of using marks as a judge’s guide to give a rough order seems the only sensible way. To publish marks only causes controversy and bad feeling. This was highlighted when mistakes were made this year in the placings. Even with the mistakes, the judges didn’t notice because, let’s be honest, the sad fact when using marks and two judges is that the judges have no idea who has won or what the order should be. Why can’t we just let the judges do their job, as they do all season, without a marking system, and pick an outright winner?

Immense pressure

Another cause for concern is the lack of time for the supreme judging at HOYS. It made for uncomfortable viewing to see horses rushed through, and sometimes the judges were only able to watch a quarter of their show. The judges must have felt under huge pressure and it was a shame for the competitors and connections.

HOYS is a real spectacle and we are lucky to compete at such a prestigious show, but perhaps a few things need looking at. HOYS is unique because it is able to try out new ideas and values feedback from the competitors, so hopefully the HOYS experience can be even better.

Ref Horse & Hound; 6 December 2018