There has been a mixed reaction from the showing community as the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) judging panel is confirmed.
HOYS organisers Grandstand Media unveiled a “new approach” to the 2024 judge announcement process, as the show celebrates its 75th year. A range of judges from across the world have been invited, and although the 15 judges who comprise “the main contingent” have been named, who is judging each section will not be revealed until the morning of each final. There will be some additional judges confirmed nearer the time.
A Grandstand Media spokesman said they are “always considering ways to adapt and modernise, with a focus on equal opportunity within the sport”. The spokesman added that if any competitors believe they have a conflict of interest with a judge, evidence should be emailed to the show secretary.
“As a historic event, Grandstand Media is conscious of the heritage and traditions of HOYS, but also feel it is necessary to be continually looking at the future to ensure integrity within the judging process,” said the spokesman.
Some are in favour of the shake-up – but others have raised concerns.
Producer and judge Vicky Smith told H&H she believes people should be “more open to change”.
“It’s different, but it’s the 75th anniversary. For me it’s just an honour if we get the chance to compete there, we should embrace that and not worry too much about the outcome. People seem to be getting upset about something they’ve not qualified for yet,” she said.
“I’ve judged at the South African HOYS, and I was made to feel so welcome and they were grateful I was there, so I hope everybody’s the same here.”
Native pony producer Aimee Devane is not in favour.
“I don’t see how that’s any fairer than knowing who it is all year. It’s taking away our choice to go under someone that we may not necessarily choose to be judged by,” she told H&H, adding that she is concerned that if a conflict of interest is disclosed about a native pony judge on the list, a judge without specialist native pony experience could end up judging those classes.
“I’m not criticising the foreign judges, and they might have some native experience, but do they have experience of our rare breeds?”
Amateur producer Hayley Erner told H&H she could see positives and negatives.
“My initial reaction was a bit of a shock. I’m used to knowing who the judge is and preparing my horse for what the judge will like, as different judges like different things,” she said.
“Looking at it from the other side, everything that is there has qualified to be there, so if it’s really the true package, it’s going to have the correct conformation so that’s the ‘type’ box ticked, and then the ideal show horse should have the right temperament to adjust to the rider, so I applaud Grandstand for doing something a bit different.”
H&H has contacted Grandstand Media for comment.
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