At this point 50% of you are agreeing with me, and the other 50% do not. For the latter group, keep reading and let me illustrate my position. Under the current format, a $500,000 thoroughbred who jumps a 9 out of 10 and has a near flawless round but lightly taps a jump that comes down will finish behind a $5,000 morgan/quarter horse cross that chips in to 4 fences and adds a step down every line. Before you mention the rail, try this example; a million dollar warmblood ridden by Kelley Farmer who jumps a 10 but has a minor slip that a judge mistakenly classifies as a trot step through a turn in wet conditions will lose to a 14.3hh Anglo-Arab who jumps a 5, rubs every jump, and leaves out a stride in a line. These are extreme examples, that is the point, but they are also the way hunters are currently judged. I could mention many more examples, but my point is made; the current parameters for judging hunter rounds is unacceptable.
Here’s some ideas on how to fix the issue. The mystery and secrecy of scoring hunters is the problem, so I want see all of that disappear. As I mentioned in the Derby blog, announcing the score is essential. There is NO viable argument for not doing so, and something the Derbies have gotten right. Transparency is the most important key to making the sport watchable and understandable to viewers.
Right now the quality of the horse, expertise of the ride, and the mistakes are all blended into one score. There needs to be an artistic score and a technical score. In the spirit of simplicity and understanding, making each of these scores out of 50 is logical. I’m sure there are a hundred different opinions on if one of these should be more heavily weighted than the other. I will stick to the 50/50, as I have always advocated that show jumping is a team sport and both horse and rider are equally important. I know that currently judges have different opinions on which is more important, lets take that objectivity away and create more consistent scoring. This to the benefit of all, including reducing criticism of the judging.
Judges have different values for errors, such as a late lead change, a rub, a short distance. Under the technical score, lets put numbers to the errors.
- Light rub -1
- Hard rub -2
- Rail -4
- Mildly short or long distance -1
- Short or long distance -2
- Very short or long distance -4
- Dangerous distance -8
- Leg hang -8
- Late lead change -2
- Missed lead change -5
- Lead swap on approach -2