Stuart Hollings: A judge’s behaviour should be exemplary *H&H VIP*

Opinion

When I joined the judges’ panel at the tender age of 21 — many moons ago — I was given two gems of advice: enjoy your judging but remember the role carries an enormous responsibility; and do not forget that you are also an ambassador of showing, which means your behaviour must be exemplary at all times.

It should be viewed as an honour when you receive an invitation to judge. Once you have accepted — unless there are exceptional circumstances — do not let the show down, particularly at the last minute.

Worse still, do not jump ship if a better offer comes your way and that even includes a chance to judge at prestigious shows such as the Royal International or Horse of the Year Shows.

After listening to several tales of woe from show secretaries this season, I’m convinced that some of today’s judges don’t see this commitment in the same light, which is totally unacceptable. Do they realise how difficult it can be for a show secretary to find a replacement judges at a late stage, without incurring huge costs?

Double bookings

There is a move afoot to stop judges from being allowed to officiate in classes similar to those in which they compete, but I am against this. I have always maintained that the best judges are those who are involved in the sport and can probably sort a class in half the time compared to someone — with the odd exception — who sees stock only from one judging experience to the next.

However, when judges abandon an appointment so that they can compete at another show, this sort of behaviour just lends weight to the non-involvement lobby.

The strict regulations across the board regarding the number of qualifying shows which a judge can officiate at in a season have become so complicated. Consequently, my advice to fellow judges is to write down in a diary before the season starts what each relevant society states, to prevent double booking, something which seems to be more commonplace these days.

A true novice?

It was something of an eye-opener when judging at the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) winter championships this Easter. In the novice working hunter pony finals quite a number of the ponies forward were aged over 12, with some being up to 18 years of age. Are these evergreen novices or have they come from other disciplines?

And why do some riders jump as though they’re going for the land speed record — particularly in nursery stakes classes — and what has happened to type in this class?

Unlike the adult classes, the only time the two judges actually sort working hunter ponies as a group is in the championship, which is also the first time the ponies compete in company.

This was the underlying reason why two second-placed ponies took novice championship honours in the evening performance, and not just because a championship is deemed a separate class.

I was delighted our champion was a seven-year-old (who was gelded at five) and the reserve was the youngest entered in the intermediate division, aged six — both were true novices.

Ref Horse & Hound; 13 June 2019