I do not like to see judges treated disrespectfully, even when they have acted a tad irresponsibly — particularly on social media, which can then develop into something resembling a medieval witch hunt.
That old chestnut, “perception’’ — a word which doesn’t sit well with me — has reared its very ugly ahead again. The conspiracy theories that ensue have no place on the show circuit when judging is so subjective and the showing community so close-knit.
Disgruntled competitors are too quick to question judges’ integrity and this is one reason so many feel that showing has become less fun.
It’s a different matter entirely when it can be proven that rules have indeed been breached, and then the complaints procedure in place must be followed correctly.
Ironically, debates on social media can sometimes cloud the relevant issues, just as with fake news and biased press coverage in criminal cases.
As I entered the ring to judge the Ottergayle final at the National Pony Society summer championships his month, the steward announced that he had a cheque for me from a competitor outside the ring.
We all chuckled, imagining the possible headlines if someone misconstrued the situation — perception again! Although the timing could have been better, it was in fact overdue sponsorship for my pony show.
Next generation of judges
It’s the time of year when the young judges’ competitions are being held and other potential judges are showing interest in attending assessment days.
Allow the rule book and schedule to guide you. Above all, have the courage of your convictions and remember you are simply in the ring to give your honest opinion on the day, whether others agree or not.
Never consider how your placings will look from the ringside and play to the crowd or, worse, deliberately demote an animal owned by a friend to avoid “tittle tattle’’, which, in my opinion, is a greater crime than the reverse.
Back to the ringside
I was laid up for several weeks during the winter of 1974 after my brother Nigel’s point-to-pointer kicked out while we were hunting with the North Shropshire, fracturing my leg.
I read several Dick Francis crime thrillers back-to-back during my recovery and this gave me the idea to write a showing version entitled Ringside. It begins when a show pony judge is found murdered in the former stable block on Newark Showground.
However, the late Peter Wilson, who was judging these classes the following May, pleaded with me to put the project on hold until after that show.
By the time you read this, I will have attended a literary dinner at my local Michelin star restaurant, Northcote. The speaker was Felix Francis, Dick Francis’ youngest son, promoting his 13th and latest novel, Crisis.
Who knows, this may inspire me to continue with Ringside. And to bring the plot up to date, perhaps a competitor who has been vile about judges on social media may be the victim this time.
Ref Horse & Hound; 23 August 2018