Strictly Come Showing

I am loving Strictly Come Dancing – the elegance, the sparkles, the music. It’s harmless entertainment on a Saturday night. The only stress is –  Who to support? Jay McGuiness or Jeremy Vine?

Three weeks ago, Jay did the most incredible Pulp Fiction themed dance scoring the first 9s of the series (definitely worth youtubing if you haven’t seen it). Jeremy however scored 4s and 5s with an awkward, stilted routine. There is no argument that Jay is fundamentally better. I love Jeremy and he is certainly entertaining but he is no dancer.

So, to my surprise, the next week Jay and Jeremy received very similar marks. Jeremy was not very good (as expected) and Jay was incredible (as expected). But Jay made a few little mistakes that were harshly penalised, bringing his marks down. Which got me thinking about marking –  how should errors in performances be penalised?

Scenario 1 – The Wrong Leg. A scarily regular occurrence in the show ring. I often hear the words “I should have won but I wrong legged it.” This is fundamentally a rider issue so arguably should not be marked down as harsh as misbehaviour of the horse. I would also consider the class – it would be more foregiveable from a first ridden than a hunter.

Scenario 2 – The Spook. Be it a terrifying flapping flag, a rogue balloon or that blade of grass that looks slightly different to the others…it happens. The circumstances and degree of spook would need to be considered as well as the level of the class – a small spook may be forgiveable of a 4 year old novice but not an 8 year old open.

Scenario 3 – The Lead Rein Cantering. An error that must be harshly marked down as it is not what a lead rein pony should do. Penny Hollings says “It has to be heavily penalised but to be fair you also have to mark the rest of the show.” The pony could only be placed above more serious misdemeanours e.g. Bucking, rearing. It comes down to manners of the pony and safety of the young jockey.

Scenario 4 – The Trip. Having a sure footed horse is important – particularly hunters and M&Ms. However, a trip is not a jockey or horse error if the ground is bad. It seems harsh to penalise a genuine trip but then again if another competitor was foot perfect, it’s only fair…

Scenario 5 – The Fence Down. There is a set penalty for a fence down but in a working hunter should the style mark also be affected? I have seen beautiful rounds with an unlucky fence down and incredibly messy clear rounds. A good hunter should be bold but careful so a fence down should be penalised – is the 10 mark deduction enough? A nice horse can make up 10 marks on occasion but is that a good thing?Ideally the winner should be clear but again it’s not that simple.

It is so easy to criticise from the ringside but when you are in the ring, as a judge and all the pressure is on you to mark “correctly”, it is a much harder situation. So much goes into a decision but at the end of the day you want to be proud of your winner and happy to defend/stand by your decision. What’s better – talent with mistakes or no talent and accurate? I would prefer to have the better horse with a minor mistake to win but equally have been cross when I’ve been beaten by someone who made an error… Should there be set penalties for common errors or is discretion needed? You want the best horse to win but if the best horse doesn’t behave on the day then it simply shouldn’t – but it’s not always that simple. Thoughts?

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