Simon Reynolds: Questioning ‘back scratching’ *H&H VIP*


    I was very heartened recently to hear of a letter published in H&H (10 May) regarding my judging at a recent show. It isn’t often that judges receive praise after an appointment, so it was greatly received.

    Judging can be a thankless task at times. You often feel you can only please one person — the winner. However, it seems that this lady was very grateful actually to receive some constructive feedback.

    When judging, I always try to make a comment to each competitor when time allows and I am certainly open to questions from the competitors and try to be as transparent as possible. This gives them a reason for their placing, although sadly some do not like to hear it, instead only wanting to believe their own opinion.

    As a rider and trainer, I believe we should never stop learning and improving. When I’m struggling with a horse or want fresh ideas on a schooling issue, I chat with fellow competitors and producers who I respect — I really do value their opinion.

    Opinions matter

    We have some wonderful judges who could give some excellent advice, but I know some are reluctant to do so for fear of repercussions. Surely, when we go under a judge we should accept their opinion, as that is why we pay to be judged by them. Of course, we don’t always have to agree with that opinion. All we can do in response is not to show that horse under that person again.

    There’s always another day and another viewpoint.

    When I judge, I have a simple philosophy — I choose the one I’d like to take home or get my cheque book out for. I’m not there to upset anybody and because I also compete, I realise how difficult it can be at times.

    There is sometimes criticism of competitors and producers who also judge, and I can see this as a problem if they have an agenda. But surely the positives regarding their knowledge and experience should be rewarded?

    If there is a certain judge who repeatedly has a specific person to win each time, no matter what they are sat on, or who rewards another judge
    judging a later competition, commonly known as “back scratching”, then we need to be asking questions. Perhaps the next time that person judges, they should be closely monitored for any suspicious behaviour.

    I don’t believe, though, that all judges who compete should be tarred with the same brush. I feel there are larger problems with inappropriate connections. However, judging need to be closely monitored to ensure fair play.

    Respecting judges

    It was wonderful to see the supreme judges at Royal Windsor were the esteemed Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin.

    I don’t think anybody could argue with the knowledge of these two individuals. Perhaps if we had as much respect for all our judges, we would have fewer problems.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 31 May 2018