Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Judges

So many topics have crossed my mind at just the worst time for me to sit at the computer and write a post. Thank you for the award...I will pick it up and post here soon, I've just been busy and away for a bit. I'll get caught up. Anyway....
So I'm sitting at a hunter show and was told that another judge would be joining me as this show was 'double pointed' (I guess it was a make up for a bad weather day when the show had been cancelled). After a few hours of the beginner classes of various names, everything was going along fine. A few comments between us and we seemed to get along fine with the same regards for the performances in front of us. Then it was on to the greener horses and a bit more experienced riders and ponies. Still, our scoring seemed fairly on point together.
And then came the medal rounds. These were 2 phase medals for ponies and junior riders, junior riders on horses and amateur adults riding whatever they felt comfortable riding. Now this was not the ASPCA Maclay and the riders were, for the most part paired well with a suitable mount, save for a few that should have either rethought their ability or their mounts' ability to perform rollbacks and trot fences. Some had obvious major faults  which makes it easier to pin in a class of 8. You don't have to be so nit picky about form and function if they ride a long approach as if they had been asked to 'gallop home' through the timers on a jump course!
So when it came to pinning this little class of 8 I had already given numerical scores. It was just a matter of calling in my results which I did. Then I noticed all the fiddling and tallying going on next to me. This other judge seemed to be adding up numbers and making notes and writing a novel. I didn't really understand as they were using a similar shorthand to mine up to this class. The other judge had not really been using numerical scoring for rounds but then it wasn't required and the classes were fairly small. Not hard to figure out your placings anyway. Still, they scribbled, fiddled, tallied....checked and checked another. Okay, I'm starting to think I must have missed something and looked back at my own card. No, nothing hard about this. A rollback ridden out wide as though it were just another long approach hunter fence....a halt to trot fence ridden as though it was merely a hesitation to a downward transition and then, pushing way too much with her seat so as to canter her mount a stride in front of the fence, late or no lead changes....easy stuff. Noticeably easy for anyone to score. Okay! Finally, the other judge has written the order of pinnings for the class and is calling them in.
WHAT THE HELL DID I MISS???? Did they just put my winner in sixth place and my sixth place as the winner? Did I call my placings in backwards, did I write them down backwards? I scrambled again looking at my card and my scores and my shorthand ticks, scrawls and hieroglyphics.....the other judged placed the EXACT OPPOSITE OF ME!! I was shaken for a moment because I hate making the mistake of pinning backwards or calling in a number and they announce it and you have to take it back (or war will break out amongst the 'rail yellars') and then someone in the ring is either humiliated or feels like they did better than anyway I just went at it assuming it was me who had made a mistake. No, I could not find a problem at all with my pinnings, even after checking back numbers and the horse color (which I always note beside the back number just in case 2 numbers get confused or something ...i.e. fat paint pony or bay with pink shirt rider, something that makes them different from the other thousand bays...). So I'm thinking how in the world do I broach this subject without asking the other judge if they were blind or could I pick them up some glasses or perhaps a strong shot of whiskey? Well, lucky for me, they started announcing my placings first. Then the other judges' placings were announced.  And then even though this mad scoring and my crazy dash to recheck and check, had all taken place in the course of maybe five minutes, the placings were now 'out there' and I was about to find out either from the other judge or oh no! No!!! War was breaking out all around the ring. They were lighting torches and storm clouds gathered. Flashes of lightening and loud grumbles of thunder were seen and heard gathering around the gate personnel and ribbon bearer! Suddenly the porta potty looked inviting so I ran. I did NOT want to know what I missed anymore I just wanted to be invisible and hopefully no one would push the porta potty over!! The 'blue smell' was overwhelming but the scary hoards of horse show moms and trainers were even more ominous looking after those placings were called. I still didn't know if it was my head or my counterparts, that they wanted. Slowly, after breathing through the very proper mongrammed cardigan I was donning for the day, I could take the smell no longer. I had to face this monster or that one, head on!! I peeked out the door.....the judges' stand was engulfed with people. People on horses had ridden up to it; show personnel were there; even the little girl who was the ribbon bearer (or passer outter if you may) was there but I couldn't see the other judge. I noticed a flash of metal in the mob. It was my clipboard...I recognized the stickers on it. Well, just gotta go over there now and try to scramble my way through this. Let's see....I could say the sun was blinding me, my glasses fogged up, my proper straw hat had too big of a brim, if that all failed I'll fain stupidity and start rambling incoherently. I know how these scenarios go and they never end well for at least one involved party. I didn't want to be that party and I still couldn't figure it all out.
Approaching the judges' stand, the other judge calls out my name to come over and I shot a glare from my eyes that would have put Satan on his knees for mercy!!! Judges' do not rat out the whereabouts of another judge when a raging mob of judge haters breaks out to question an entire pinning! (Remember that...) I slowly walked to the gallows of the judges' box. I felt the icy stares and the armor piercing finger pointing....what did I miss already!!!???? What is it I did?????? Climbing those three stairs to my fate was excrutiating. I plopped down in the really uncomfortable high directors' chair. But then, the clouds parted, rays of warm sun started pouring down on me like one of those movies where Moses parts the ocean! IT WASN'T ME THEY WANTED TO HANG!!!! Yes!!!! It was the other judges' blood they wanted, not mine!!!! Whew!
Okay, now I could do no wrong. But what did the other judge do???? Well I almost didn't care because at that point you would have thought I had just flown down from the heavens and was a golden ray of light in this dark mob.
The secretary asked for my card. I gladly pulled it from the box attached to my clipboard and turned it over saying that I could explain any of the writing on it to whomever needed an interpretation. Cool and calm I asked if there was a problem? The other judge asked to speak to me privately and I said well, what is wrong?  (with a hint of cool innocence ). The other JUDGE asked me to interpret my card. What? It was only eight rounds over fences and a simple one direction trot and canter on the rail with some variances (sitting, posting, no stirrup work, yada, yada, yada, the usual stuff). I could relay almost every riders' performance from memory and I'm not a young person! So I did. I referred to my notes a bit and explained each round as though I was teaching a clinic.
The other judge then spoke. She said she did not know what I was looking at but that is not at all, what she had seen. So I asked  her to interpret her placings. She refused to go through the whole line up saying that whatever I was looking at when I judged the rounds was not correct. She accused me of placing the winner who, in her opinion did not get one single spot to a fence correct and cut her corners off too sharply. Huh? My winner? My winner?
Okay, I could go on like this for hours explaining what happened in 'novel' fashion but it's getting dark and I need to get out to the long story longer.....
The other judge placed her riders by simply checking off whether or not they got a good spot to the fence. Or to simplify that ... the optimum take off distance in front of a fence in relation to the rounding over the fence and having an equal spot upon landing on the other side. Her logic was that if they could do that, then they must have ridden everything else correctly or they would not have found that 'spot'.
Okay, I'll admit it, I make note of a chip or long spot if I believe it was the fault of the rider and yes, it usually is but I also know that someone is NOT cutting corners when riding through an element called a ROLLBACK!! Yes. She did not know about rollbacks. She assumed the person riding to the second fence of the rollback while using the entire ring was more correct by riding it as a long approach. And if that isn't bad enough she also claimed that her placings were completely changed after the flat work. Huh? I rarely change or make drastic changes after the fence course to the flat. You may gain a little bit or lose a little bit in the flat work but you would have to be hanging off the tail or fall off completely to really have the flat make a huge difference in your score. Why is that? Because the course work is more complicated. The one who rides the course the best may not be your best 'no stirrup posting trotter' but they are most likely going to be in the top of the flat class.
What an experience! It was not the first time I have double judged and of course when you are learning you sit with all kinds of judges with all kinds of personalities, likes and dislikes but if you look back at them after the show, you usually have the idea of where they were 'pinning' from and getting their scores (even if you really didn't care for the view on politics or the fact that they would not speak a single word to you all day but we'll leave that to another post).
Anyway, I left that day feeling like a golden true blue judge. I was right and they were so very very wrong!! I actually found myself to be a bit obnoxious on the drive home that day. I knew it would not be long before I would judge again, and all things wonderful about me would be humbled once again!
The moral of this story? You just don't know what some judges' are looking for and even if they tell you, you might still not understand it.

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I am just one judge with one judge's opinion. Almost all of the classes I judge are based on the rules of USEF & AQHA. Judging a horse show is very subjective to the interpretation of the rules. Please keep this in mind when commenting.