Stuart Hollings: Stop scrimping on judges *H&H VIP*

  • How does your half-term showing report read? Are you producing consistent results to maintain impressive form or must you try harder? Mine highlights the trend for lone judges and an overdue return to the Royal Highland Show.

    We have become accustomed to seeing two judges in the ring, especially in the pony classes since the marks system was introduced. However, more shows seem to be making do with a single judge this season in an effort to save on costs — especially if large entries are not anticipated. It’s quite surprising how many judges prefer to make decisions by themselves.

    Likewise, some competitors would rather see a clear-cut opinion than a compromise result, which can often happen with more judges.

    It can be quite risky to invite a single judge when entries are still open on the day, as one can never determine the turnout. With shows that have a closing date, at least an extra judge can be recruited should the entries increase dramatically.

    I felt sorry for one judge who endured a gruelling day in May when she rode and stripped hunters and working hunters in nine classes — seven of which were Royal International Horse Show qualifiers. Another concern was that her rings moved at a snail’s pace despite the gallant efforts of her stewards, jeopardising the whole timetable — and all to save a few quid!

    Given the popularity of the ridden M&M [mountain and moorland] classes in comparison to their plaited counterparts, I predict that more secretaries will have to consider moving in the other direction by appointing four native judges — two for small breeds and two for the large — particularly at Horse of the Year (HOYS) qualifiers. Even with this arrangement I’m told that the championship at Lincoln Show didn’t finish until after 7pm.

    Making it special

    It was good to be back at the Royal Highland Show after an 18-year break — I made my judging debut there sorting the riding horses in the new all-weather ring, which I hear cost £500,000. I’d forgotten how unique the main ring is from a viewing perspective when watching two huge novice hunter classes — a total of 43 in the catalogue — from both the grandstand and the balcony of the members’ building.

    Unlike most shows, which leave the non-weight hunter class winners out in the cold, this one knows how to make the hunter championships special, and more county events should consider something similar.

    The novice and open champions and reserves come together with the first/second from the small and worker classes to decide the top hunter under saddle. Then the top two from that gathering meet with the in-hand champion and reserve to determine the supreme hunter title — collecting the awesome Forbes of Callendar trophy, which my brother Nigel won in 1983.

    The only HOYS qualifier missing is that for open show ponies. The show returned this with all the qualifiers in 1998, in protest to the newly introduced levies. If you view the list of past winners on the trophy, you’ll understand my plea for its reinstatement.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 9 July 2015