I am normally a fan of Simon Reynolds’ column – saying it how it is, not scared to be a bit controversial, bringing up current topics. But this week, discussing the marks system in showing and I have to object.I agree with him when it comes to “the same old rumblings” – it does seem to be a continual debate, seemingly as endless as the EU referendum. But I disagree that marks are a bad idea.
Simon says (excuse the pun!) “Putting marks on paper leaves judges open to scrutiny” – Yes it does. When you stand in a ring willing to judge a class of horses, your opinion will be questioned, disagreed with and possibly criticised. But you stand by your decision and people can scrutinize as they wish. I don’t see how putting 19 out of 40 on a piece of paper is any more open to scrutiny than calling a horse in fourth?
He also remarks “poor stewards recording and adding them up” – surely a steward having to use a calculator isn’t enough of a reason not to have marks!?
The wonderful David Ingle was the first person to make me actually think twice about using marks – he said he preferred no marks because then judges had to communicate and justify their decisions with a second judge. Very valid point. But then maybe we add further communication but don’t remove marks. I would happily say I gave a horse 32 because of X, Y, Z…. This would surely even actually be better? Rather than “I really like that one” but “I am not so sure about that one”.
Simon also refers to the communication issue. As a “younger” judge I sometimes find it hard particularly when a very senior judge disagrees with me. My opinion is not necessarily less valuable but maybe I am just not so forthright in my communication and so my opinion is less considered? At least if I write down a mark it is there and has affect.
Simon’s comment about not pulling in after a go round I find truly fascinating, saying it “often alerts me that they are either lost or waiting to see who comes in to groom.” Really !? That is a scary reality. But to be honest I would be more worried by judges that “choose the one that looked like a winner” – surely that sounds more like the face fitting!?
There is then the marking standard question – getting 6 out of 10 at one show and then 9 out of 10 at another show, even with the same judge. When you have a class of good horses do you have to underscore some and overscore others so you don’t have lots on joint marks? Or do you set a benchmark and then go up and down from there – meaning competitors need to look at the class as a whole rather than just their individual mark alone.
Dressage uses marks and it works. I love the suspense of waiting to see if they score higher – Charlotte Dujardin winning by a fraction of a percentage… I would love to hear a conversation between Charlotte and Carl Hester if they didn’t have marks. “That section of your test was medium good”, “I won and I think I was way ahead of the Dutch horse because the judge said they really liked my test and only liked their test.”
Marks are sometimes the only real feedback competitors get. In BSPS working hunter pony classes, I used to really value the marks. If I went under a judge and got a poor style mark for jumping and the higher scorers were more forward rounds, I would know what I needed to do next time.
Simon criticises the system saying “the winner will be the horse both judges don’t mind, but who could have been one judge’s third place.” But aren’t we looking for the overall best? Isn’t that exactly right?
Corrupt judges will be corrupt whether there are marks or no marks. That is not the issue. But suggesting that showing would be better without the “restriction and rigidity of marks” I have to disagree with.
I would love to hear your thoughts……