I like to think of myself as someone who has a lot of integrity. Sure, in the past, I’ve done some silly, childish things that didn’t necessarily smack of morals, but kids are not exactly known for making good choices. I’ve also been trained throughout my life to respect authority and the decisions they make. Even though I might personally disagree with someone’s decision, I know very well that people in authoritative positions tend to have a lot more experience than I do and that superior experience is what they based their decision upon.

I also get pretty riled up by people not following the rules, especially when it affects me. I’ve never gone so far as to complain to a technical delegate about another competitor breaking the rules, but I’ve seen some pretty borderline, or even outright “illegal”, things happen at horse shows and that has always lowered my opinion of the individual competing when they just ignore it or let it slide. A few years ago, a professional in my class at a schooling show had his horse stop dead at a fence with flowers in front of it – one that was actually catching many horses off guard. Someone on the sidelines at that fence then clapped and the horse popped over the fence from where she stood. It wasn’t the refusal that galled me, but the help. I’d picked up a stop at that fence too, and maybe if my trainer had been on the sidelines clapping or yelling at my horse, I would have gone too.

IMG_2781Definitely a stop

Worse – and now I’m just complaining – was a video post I saw from a professional who professed proudly that his young horse had gone clean on XC his first time out. After watching the video it was quite clear to me that the horse had stopped twice on course, once at each water. And not only had the horse stopped, he had walked backwards at both water entrances, thus ensuring that the stops constituted a refusal. I understand that from the jump judges’ angle they may not have seen the backward steps the way you could see them in the video. But what was with this young trainer that he was exclaiming this to be a clear run and then posting a video where the horse clearly had not gone clear? Rant over.

rulesgraphicI spent far too much time making this info graphic.  Left of the yellow line you broke the rules, right of the yellow line you didn’t.  Above the black line you got penalized as if you broke the rules, below the black line you didn’t get penalized as if you broke the rules.  Sometimes you break the rules and don’t get penalized.  Sometimes you didn’t break the rules and do get penalized.  Sometimes I should just work on my thesis instead of my blog.

I don’t have much respect for people who complain their way out of penalties they did get, either. In my mind, the rules are quite clear, but I acknowledge that gray area exists. Sometimes you’re in the gray area and the ruling falls in your favor. Sometimes it doesn’t. I believe that it all evens out in the end, and over time the number of times things go in your favor will probably equal the number of times they don’t. If it seems like you’re always getting penalized for rules you think you didn’t break, well, maybe you should go back and read the rules.

Basically, I feel like you should know the rules and stand behind your ride. Even if the end result isn’t really what you wanted.

Thus, it was a very interesting experience for me to go and lodge a complaint a few weekends ago (at the WSS event) about being given a refusal in cross country. The ride was not a perfectly smooth one and there were a few spots where we lurched over the fences from very nearly a standstill. If I had been given a refusal at one of those fences, I may well have taken it and accepted that what the jump judge saw as slightly different from my experience. Calls like that happen in other sports all the time.

Not all those who wander are lost. Some are just scared of jump judges and video cameras by fences.

But the refusal that I did get was, in my mind, very clearly not a refusal. I have jump judged before, at Woodside’s May event where they run BN through Advanced, and am interested in becoming a technical delegate in the future, so the rules of jump judging are important to me. I also have a horse that can behave a bit like a cracked out squirrel, so knowing the rules regarding run outs and refusals is important to me so that I can ride to avoid such penalties.

Another thing that wasn’t on my side was the timing. I came in to the office about two minutes after the official “end” of the period when complaints could be lodged. I didn’t know this, but as I’d been on the show grounds where my horse was stabled for the entire 30 minutes and had never heard an announcement that scores were posted I felt that at least that should be remedied for next time. And fortunately, the ground jury was kind enough to hear me out.

I got lucky. Even though the jump judge and I disagreed on what had happened, the head of the ground jury had seen my wayward adventure and decided that it wasn’t clear enough to call a refusal. So the show staff wiped it from my record and I ended with a clean cross country ride. But it could easily have gone another way. It could easily have turned out such that the head of the ground jury hadn’t seen my ride, or even that the head of the ground jury agreed with the jump judge and my refusal stood.

11667400_943642205658653_1188966562006450135_nWe’re facing away from the fence. Pretty sure I deserved a refusal here.

One of the best things I saw a few years ago was a kid I ride with tell the ground jury at a rated event that she did have a refusal on cross country, when she was given a clear ride. The 20 penalties took her well out of contention for the ribbons, yet this fourteen-year-old did this without a hint of guile or even a second thought. I hope that my integrity is as good as hers if the time comes for it.

Regardless of how the refusal panned out, I would like to think I would have accepted the decision of the ground jury and tried to learn from the incident. But it’s clearly gotten me thinking; about integrity in general as well as my own integrity.  And thinking enough to write a rambling only half-sensical blog post about it.  For now, I will satisfy myself with being very familiar with the rule book, so I know whether my own ride sits in the gray zone and how to avoid them.