Simon Reynolds: ‘Judging by marks is a poor substitute for knowledgeable discussion’

  • Successful show horse producer Simon Reynolds shares his thoughts on not losing perspective over the pinnacle that is showing’s very own Olympics – HOYS

    FOLLOWING on from fellow H&H columnist Stuart Hollings’ suggestion that showing has been under a bit of a cloud recently (5 August), I am inclined to agree. During Covid, we saw the showing community coming together, with competitors supporting each other and owners backing their producers, displaying loyalty and camaraderie. Everyone seemed grateful to be competing and it was lovely.

    Sadly, we have seen changes as the season has gone on, coincidental with the lure of the golden Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) tickets.

    Social media in particular seems to be the modern sounding board for these grievances. Competitors must remember that showing is a subjective sport. I am afraid, if you cannot take your result with good grace, which is based on somebody’s opinion, then perhaps it is time to take up another sport.

    We need to have faith in our appointed judges, and if there is a genuine complaint, then please follow the correct procedure with the society.

    It should not matter if The Queen of England walks into the arena, the judges should have the integrity and impartiality to assess the animals that are before them.

    If we do have some rogue judges, then it is the job of the governing society to weed them out, following a complaint. There is a rigorous complaints procedure in place that is tried and tested, whereby there are independently appointed stipendiary stewards to take an unresolved matter further than the board if necessary.

    I for one would have no problem with a stipendiary steward overlooking one of my judging appointments and giving my reasonings. Communication is everything.

    I believe two judges discussing the exhibits is the best way of finding the true winner and this method is more transparent than hiding behind a mark.

    I do not agree with Mr Holling’s suggestion that marks should be introduced in the horse classes. I have always been adamant that this would be detrimental.

    Let’s not stifle the way of going of show horses by constricting performance to a number. It is a poor substitute for knowledgeable discussion.

    Our judges should be communicating and agreeing on a definitive winner. Publishing marks without an explanation is about as much use as a chocolate thermometer.

    Thank goodness for the Olympics, which has hopefully not only inspired people but has been a welcome distraction from who is on the “HOYS bus”. Admittedly, it’s a phrase I’m unfamiliar with as I will be driving my lorry myself.

    We saw some incredible results from our Tokyo equestrian teams, and their level of dedication and training is so admirable. Many of the athletes said that the Covid break helped them to refocus, and they were able to train even harder.

    As always with the Olympics, there were incredible highs, mixed with utter disappointment. We saw some wonderful moments of sportsmanship, with athletes sharing medals, and helping each other over the finish line.

    A true champion comes back fighting. I hope this serves as inspiration for our competitors.

    Of course, HOYS is the pinnacle; it’s our Olympics. It’s one we all want to win, but you must be honest with yourself and your animal. If you are consistently not getting the results you crave, perhaps going back to the drawing board is more productive than judge-bashing on social media.

    A breath of fresh air was competing at Scott Dixon’s creation, the UK National Championships (6–8 August). The atmosphere was incredible
    and very much reminiscent of the old days of Ponies (UK), with spectacular evening performances. With no qualifications on offer, the pressure was off, and competitors thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Hats off to you, Scott.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 19 August

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