New plans to protect show judges

  • Showing societies are to tackle a growing problem of judges being thrown in the ring.

    Simon Somers broke ribs last summer at the Bath and West Show, then dislocated his shoulder in a fall from a hunter he was judging at a show over the August bank holiday.

    Another judge, Ian Smeeth, had a fall at the Royal, Allen Mickleburgh rode a horse that “reared spectacularly” at the Derbyshire Festival of Showing and Lucy Killingbeck told H&H she has had more horses “trying to dump” her this year than in her entire career as a judge.

    Earlier this year, the British Show Horse Association (BSHA) set up an accident reporting system, through which its board will investigate such incidents.

    Simon Somers told H&H: “I’ve hit the ground many times. I wouldn’t mind if I’d been cantering around and a balloon had popped, but I just took two steps on a lightweight hunter and it said ‘get off’.”

    Afterwards, Mr Somers learned the horse had thrown its rider while warming up for the class.

    “In New Zealand, America and Australia, there is no ride judging, and unless people take responsibility for their horses in the ring, it’ll be the same here,” he pointed out.

    Self-employed Mr Somers has been unable to work since his injury, and added: “People forget that we give up our time for free.”

    Adrianne Smyth, director of the BSHA, a judge and the driving force behind the new Showing Council (news, 24 May), agreed that there is a “huge problem” with horses decanting judges.

    “Today’s exhibitors don’t realise the standard of training required for the showring. One is habitually told when mounting a horse: ‘She’s never been ridden by another person before’ or ‘He was only backed a few months ago’,” she said.

    “It’s not good enough. They should be presented as a good riding horse for anyone to ride.”

    Read this news story in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (27 September, ’07)

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