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One Judge's Personal Tale

I first got involved with horses almost 50 years ago in my mid twenties.  I had had a successful career in Athletics in my teens, but appeared unable to sustain it in my twenties.  A few years later, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  Anyway, my wife Christine, had a lifelong ambition to own a horse and as riding involves a lot less bodily impact than many other sports, it sort of seemed a logical fit for me as well.  It also seemed to be good fit for our gradually increasing family and has continued so until this day.

I was never an overly brave or successful rider in show jumping or eventing.  My highlight was completing a novice 3DE at Pukekohe with steeplechase and roads and tracks.  I also enjoyed Hunting with Christine and our four children.  Christine and I still ride a few hunts each year, albeit at a less frantic pace than in our younger days.  We were even lucky enough to enjoy a few hunts this COVID year after lockdown.

Our children continued to compete in eventing and showjumping on the national stage.  Information on rules and regulations in the sport was much harder to find then than now, and I found it frustrating dealing with officials who often seemed to rule on an inconsistent basis.  As a result, I ended up becoming one of them, first as a TB and cross-country judge in eventing and subsequently as a judge, course builder and TD in showjumping, and have ended up as a Level 3 (Official National) judge.

I enjoy judging and as a result I end up judging a couple of times a month at our wonderful local facility Woodhill Sands in north-west Auckland.  I also judge at Whangarei, Pukekohe and at local pony club events.  Judging is very much a team activity with the course designer, fellow judges, writer, timekeeper (if you are lucky), as well as the organising committee, stewards, gate stewards and ring crew.  Working together is essential, otherwise a long day can end up being much longer.

The rules of showjumping change over time and it is important to keep current with the changes.  In recent years, the emphasis has been on the welfare of the horse and more recently on the rider, especially with regards to concussion.  It is still important to remember that sport is about the rider and horse and that the major role of a judge is to ensure that an event is a fair competition between the course designer and ther iders and also between riders according to the rules.  I like to think that I have largely been able to uphold those values.


David Bullock

November 2020