Simon Reynolds, who is best known for producing cobs for the show ring, shares his thought on how we can make showing fairer and more transparent
As always, the end of the showing season was a whirlwind of championship shows for us, swiftly followed by the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).
I was fortunate enough to enjoy a relaxing end-of-season family holiday, where I managed to switch off and reflect on what has been a very successful year. More importantly, I was able to not think about coats, timetables and 1.30am alarm calls!
We have also waved some of the horses off to pastures new, and I really look forward to seeing what they can achieve in their new homes.
There’s a saying that horses are a great leveller; if you were fortunate to have a good run at HOYS, then you are soon brought back to earth while starting young horses on cold winter days!
“Judging is a privilege”
Some of the ride judges at HOYS received great praise from competitors and the public. Of note were ladies’ side-saddle and riding horse judge, Michelle Underwood, who negotiated some tricky rides with great skill and gave each horse such a positive experience, as did Charles le Moignan, who belied his 71 years to give a masterclass in ride judging in the cob of the year finals.
It’s no mean feat to ride so many strange horses in such a pressurised environment with critical eyes watching from every angle. They are to be congratulated.
Judging is sometimes a thankless task, where free time is given, and you have to have a thick skin. However, judging is a privilege and something to be done with good will and not to be profited from. While no judge should be out of pocket for travel expenses, I believe in a spending cap on things such as hotel expenses, perhaps to not exceed the budget of a Travelodge with a basic meal.
I also think that we should be seeking more feedback from both the competitors and the judges from shows. Perhaps feedback forms, where people can note down the positive and negative aspects of their day.
A successful day’s showing is a two-way street of respect and fair behaviour between competitors and officials. It’s only with feedback that shows and societies can move forward to enhance, improve and progress the sport.
The horse world is a small community. Within reason and within the rules, no matter who walks in that ring, the judging should be fair and without bias. If there is a problem with an individual competitor or judge, then societies should endeavour to implement appropriate sanctions.
“It’s sad to lose characters”
Some are now looking forward to the new finals to be held at the London International, an exciting new venture if they survive the celebratory onslaught of awards evenings and society and hunt balls in the lead-up. It’s lovely to end the season with such events, reminding us showing is supposed to be fun, even if it is at the expense of your bank balance!
At the recent British Show Horse Association AGM, retiring president Sue Rawding recounted an amusing tale when her late husband, John Rawding, was ride judging. As he was being legged up onto competitor David Tatlow’s mount, David placed a wet sponge on the saddle!
Could you imagine antics like that today? I, for one, am sad to lose such characters. It’s easy to get too obsessed with the showing game and it’s worth remembering that often the best days are not all about that red rosette, but sharing good fun with friends and enjoying the horses.
Good luck to all those attending London, and I wish you all a merry Christmas.
● What do you think about introducing feedback forms to showing? Write to us at email@example.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your thoughts published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 30 November, 2023
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