Julie Templeton, a leading pony producer, British Horse Society/British Show Pony Society accredited elite trainer and BSPS judge, discusses judging at Bolesworth International and an unfortunate situation that arose at the Royal International
PRIOR to this year’s Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) in late July I had the privilege of judging at Bolesworth International. I officiated the “straight through” qualifying classes and championship for the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Heritage supreme ridden mountain and moorland final to be held at Liverpool International in the new year.
The venue was stunning and the competitors seemed honoured to be able to ride in the main international arena, which I am sure is an experience they will all remember for a long time. Myself and my co-judge met prior to starting and had a discussion over how we were going to judge the classes given that the BSPS had given us the option of not using the marks system.
We both decided that after the go-round we would pull in and then use the mark sheet as an aide-memoire. We then met up and had a discussion over each of the exhibits and subsequently decided our placings. We then had a final walk-round to make sure we were absolutely certain of the correct order.
This worked really well, and while the mark sheets would have given different results, having a conversation and discussion about the exhibits’ way of going and conformation ensured we got exactly the results we wanted in every class.
Hence, I was a little disappointed that at the RIHS – where there were no marks at all in any of the sections – some judges looked a little lost in some of the classes.
It was well publicised that there would be no marks at any of the RIHS qualifiers and at the final itself so I would have presumed that the judges would have considered how they were going to approach judging at such a prestigious event.
However, I did take the time to watch the riding horses and was thoroughly impressed by how efficiently the judges managed the classes. They were clearly singing from the same hymn sheet, and were very decisive in their pull-in. Throughout the class they came together on several occasions to discuss certain exhibits.
Their final line-up was a credit to them; it showcased horses that had genuinely gone well but also paid testament to them following a type, right down to the last rosette. It was a masterclass in how to judge without marks. I only wish that some of the other classes had been judged so professionally.
There was an unfortunate incident in the 138cm show pony final which involved one of the children on our team. The jockey had never ridden at the RIHS before and so she was absolutely delighted when she was pulled top after the go-round. She then gave a super show and was called forward as the winner.
Unfortunately, probably due to a combination of the child’s disbelief and the crowd cheering, her pony was slightly agitated and on a few occasions took several steps back, prompting the rider to circle her. The judge walked over to the pair and explained that as the pony wouldn’t stand still, she would have to go to the back line and the second-placed combination would win.
As anyone can imagine, she was absolutely devastated and embarrassed as she had to do the walk of shame to the back line.
I have been in the business long enough to know that these things do happen and I have seen many ponies not being given the rosette in the line-up for misbehaviour.
However, luckily, several people had videoed the results, and when I watched it back it was apparent that the pony had not been a danger to the jockey, any other competitors or the judging and stewarding team. If someone had given the rider a bit of guidance, the situation could have been avoided.
However, credit to the show organisers, who were almost straight on the phone to help sort things out and Lizzie Bunn herself called the connections directly and arranged for the jockey to have a memento of her own, just to remember what might have been and most importantly to encourage her to try again next year. Thanks to the RIHS for managing a very difficult situation with speed and diplomacy.
Showing is in gradual decline and we need to encourage as many people as possible to come into the sport, but also stay here once involved. Hopefully, lessons will have been learnt from this situation; we need to encourage children at every opportunity.
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 12 August
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