Stuart Hollings: Keeping us in suspense *H&H VIP*

  • On 23 November 2015, the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) issued a press release saying that its judges for the 2016 Cuddy supreme in-hand final would not be released until show day.

    From then on, it became a hot topic in the showing community — triggering much speculation and conjuring up many conspiracy theories worthy of a political drama. The reason for the secrecy was apparently due to security measures, because a member of the Royal Family was judging — and that was just one tale doing the rounds!

    A representative on behalf of Grandstand Media explained: “The release of the judges’ names in this way added to the element of surprise and excitement.”

    Given the complexity of qualifying for this competition in comparison to other showing classes, it seemed a brave move on the part of the organisers. They left themselves wide open to the possibility that an exhibitor could have been prevented from entering the ring at the very last minute if a connection with the mystery judges was revealed.

    Many competitors only discovered the identity of those judges when purchasing a catalogue in the morning. Some were still oblivious when waiting in the collecting ring.

    A few weeks ago however, judges for next year’s Cuddy final were unveiled — they are Pat Stirling from Scotland and Beverley Daffurn, who successfully competed in showing as a child.

    ‘Cynical attitudes’

    Criticism and abuse of showing judges on social media has hit the headlines again (news, 27 October), despite the actions of governing societies. A friend who is an international dog judge told me that the same scenario is found in dog showing too.

    He said we are seeing a new kind of exhibitor — more contentious and cynical — who is always ready to find a reason why a dog has won and less prepared to accept that the judge simply liked it the best.

    Such attitudes leave a sour taste and he thinks this is one of the main reasons that entries are falling in showing.

    Gather the facts

    It was inevitable that one day the overweight rider issue would raise its ugly head in showing, given that adults are allowed to compete on ponies.

    I agree with fellow columnist Julie Templeton (comment, 15 September) that we cannot rush into formulating rules until we have all the facts to hand.

    The proposed rider/horse percentages vary — does this include tack as with the hunter/cob weight definitions? Do judges actually need specific rules on deducting marks, when many already factor in whether a combination is in harmony, both in appearance and way of going?

    In the meantime, hopefully we will witness fewer unsightly examples of heavy riders exercising mini ponies in collecting rings.

    For the love of it

    My favourite quote of 2016… On the same weekend as Andy Murray won Wimbledon again and Lewis Hamilton secured another grand prix title, both earning millions, Charles Le Moignan took the hunter championship at a well known show, winning £30 — and after a 3am start.

    “Working with horses is definitely a way of life”, he concluded.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 December 2016