So, we’ve had the blog a while now, started a few stories on the page, lots more in my head, but pressing the publish button has eluded me. Lack of time, fear of failure, who knows.
But something happened last weekend that got me riled up enough to consider hitting the keyboard and finally here I am!
Sportsmanship, according to Wikipedia “Sportsmanship is an aspiration or ethos that a sport or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors.
Most, if not all, equine competitions rely on volunteers. Volunteers to pick up fallen poles, to run the score sheets, check results, open and close ring fences for entry and exit and, in the case of cross country events – to jump judge.
Jump judging can be fun, you can also learn a lot from watching how the riders interact with their horses and ponies in open country over solid obstacles of every size and shape.
We are very lucky locally to have an amazing facility, Thornton Lodge, with entry level jumps and competitions and bigger jumps and competitions for the more experienced. Jump judges are usually given responsibility for three or four fences and they mark each competitor at their fence, or fences. Volunteering there gives us the opportunity to pay back a little for all the times someone has volunteered to jump judge for us.
Before each event the volunteer judges are given a safety briefing about the rules, a flag and a whistle, and often a walkie-talkie. So one Sunday after our briefing we set off across a very muddy field, in the rain, and were in place at our fences in plenty of time.
We watched the first class, an entry level event often entered by first timers and those teaching their horses the ropes. Next class was slightly bigger and we had a few refusals to mark, and unfortunately some eliminations. One of these was a great looking combination who came cantering confidently into our sight over fence three, some tyres. Then, unfortunately, this riders day started to go badly wrong! Instead of heading right along the hedge line she carried straight on and popped equally confidently over the fence in front of us – fence five!
Missing out a fence is unfortunately immediate elimination and her card was marked accordingly “E” at fence four, with the comment “fence missed” and at the end of the event handed into the collector. Later the director of events came for some more score sheets and questioned us about the rider as she had complained about our judging. We remembered it well, had actually been quite surprised at the error, the only rider to miss a fence out, and the elimination stood.
The rest of the day passed, rainy and cold, a couple of young riders to pick up, put back on, assure they were doing really well, and send them on their way. They were in both cases eliminated, but at this level there is nothing to be gained by sending them back, let them carry on, if only for fun and experience.
Back at base at the end of the day talk was of a great day, one unfortunate fall had required the ambulance, but otherwise all was well. Except that is for the rider who missed fence 4. She apparently had been furious, the main focus of her anger not wanting an (untrue in her opinion) elimination against her name on the internet. Ah well, that’s judging for you, at least she had the courtesy to deal with her disappointment at the time.
Not so another unfortunate competitor, eliminated at one of the later fences by another judge. Oh no, she felt unable to complain face to face and instead took to her keyboard once she got home.
Now, I used to quite like Facebook, in my opinion its a good way to follow the lives of your friends, get reminders when their birthdays are and generally envy their multiple holidays and frequent dinners out. Sometimes I have even been known to follow a rant or two, but ………
……… what I don’t like is this new breed of keyboard warrior. Have a bad day, we all too, sport is often disappointing with rare moments of excellence. Deal with it on the day, face to face with the organisers of the event and then ………. move on. Don’t take to the internet and blame everyone else for your bad day, especially local small businesses who are doing their best to exist, continue and provide a facility for you to enjoy your sport.
As they say “The Judges Decision is Final”
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