Pammy Hutton: Gasping at judging discrepancies *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I share the anxiety expressed in H&H’s excellent Badminton report and opinions (11 May) about the dressage judging.

    Having commentated for Radio Badminton, I concentrated on each test as hard as the judges. And a recent optician’s appointment revealed I have the best long-range vision they’d seen for ages in someone my age.

    I don’t care what angle it’s seen from, a late-behind change is just that. With experience, it’s perfectly possible to see it even from directly behind. Yet this fault was given sixes and sevens by one judge — and fours when it was correct.

    Another concern is that all the judges could see the scores as they happened. Now I am not saying this caused anything to be altered, but no judge should have to contend with seeing others’ marks as they judge.

    Badminton competitors deserve good judging. And so do spectators who, on occasion, gasped as they identified discrepancies. So how long before we have top grand prix judges, or at least one, in place at this important event?

    On a lighter note, it was great to have the wonderful comedian Rory Bremner liven things up with his commentary. OK, it went a bit off topic once or twice, but dull and boring it was not. If equestrian sports are to retain Olympic status, they must be popular and, dare I say it, entertaining.

    Exams and stroppy stewards

    So the BHS has renamed its examinations as “assessment days”. Having had a peak at the proposed changes, the new assessments do appear more friendly and practical. But surely — whether an A level or a BHSAI — an exam is an exam?

    As British Dressage’s (BD) new class categories settle in, some appear to be competing at one step lower than before. Area Festivals are no longer for the true amateur, I’m told.

    So perhaps the unaffiliated boom will happen?

    Working-in arenas are also too daunting for some “smaller” people who fear being mown down by big horses, often ridden by “big” names.

    For one such, who’s now given up competing with BD, the steward was the final straw. Not for her matchy-matchy ear coverings, boots and bandages; all she’d done was accidentally left her tail bandage on. “Stop and take it off!” boomed the official. Since she was riding a small, quiet mare and had no groom, this rider politely responded: “I’m so sorry, could you possibly…” to be told, “Oh, no, I can’t possibly touch it.”

    OK, health and safety experts, put your pens down… In spirit at least, let’s work together and give the less experienced some leeway. It’s the bottom of the pyramid that keeps the top in business.

    Jumping at the chance

    As a long-time advocate of jumping exercises for dressage horses and work on the flat for jumpers, I was pleased to lend a horse to Geoff Billington during a demonstration.

    After he’d pulled my leg longer than for many a day, Geoff declared my horse “jumped rather well for a dressage horse”. Secretly, I knew that already…

    At just eight, he’s qualified for the regionals at prix st georges and inter I. He can be naughty, but some jumping really settles him and he’s so much more supple and “through” after a good pop too.

    It turned out that Geoff and I shared so many teachings. Rhythm and balance, keeping things simple. Bring on more days like this so all my dressage horses can join in.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 25 May 2017