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.

13 thoughts on “integrity”

  1. I would love to see the video of this professional! As someone who jump judges a lot in Area II I’m always curious about the grey area. I’ve never had issues with people complaining, but last year at Plantation the big water jump was a huge issue and falls, refusals and the like were happening left and right. It was pretty interesting to see how the ground jury dealt with the complaints, etc.


  2. I always want to follow the rules as well, but sometimes they aren’t black & white which leads to subjective decisions being made. Like your anecdote about the schooling show – in jumpers, you’re allowed to get trainer help. So the trainer clapping at the horse would not have been against the rules in the hunter/jumper world. I don’t know if it was a schooling event or what, but sometimes people aren’t trying to break the rules but just using the knowledge that they have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re totally right. When I was with my friends watching cross country at the rated event a few weeks ago I found them all clucking for my friend’s horse to go into the water when he was feeling a bit reluctant. They didn’t know that the encouragement would count as “outside assistance” so I rather sharply snapped at them to shut up. I only know about it because I’ve read that section of the rule book pretty thoroughly. Obviously none of them were trying to break the rules OR trying to get our friend eliminated, just going based on what they knew from schooling shows (and their instincts from home!).


  3. I like your approach. I’ve known people who flagrantly violated the amateur rules and I always wondered about it. I didn’t report them (not my circus, not my monkeys) nor did I vocalize my concerns to anyone else, but it definitely lowered my opinion of the people in question.

    I try to do my best to stay well inside the defined lines set for horses of my discipline. I don’t use seedy supplements or drug or gadgets or any number of things that hide in that fuzzy grey area. I like to assume everyone else does the same. 🙂


  4. I like following the rules (well, except when I think the rules are clearly stupid, ask me about the time I got roped into doing once of those real-life room escape things, ugh) and I think, for the most part, the rules are there to level the playing field.

    I got kind of heated last year at a schooling CT where I was doing a baby green test with Gina. The show’s prizelist CLEARLY stated there were NO time penalties for the baby green division; I assume this is because they didn’t want to penalize people who walked or trotted the whole thing. I cantered it at a good clip, because my horse felt good and confident, and I didn’t want to mess with success. I was surprised and pissed when I was told upon my completion that I was eliminated because I went too fast. I complained to the show manager and pointed out the no time penalties statement and showed her that according to my watch, I was going at ~350 mpm pace, which I wouldn’t consider unsafe. It was just a lot faster than everyone in my division who was walking/trotting! Show manager decided I didn’t need to be eliminated after all. I wasn’t trying to skirt the rules or find a loophole- I just wanted the show management to follow the rules they had (or rather, hadn’t, set)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s important to stand up for yourself when you’re following the rules set out by an organization! That’s why I pushed my contest of the refusal even when I was told that I’d come after the 30-minute complaint window. I was literally ON THE SHOW GROUNDS during that time, in my stabling area, near speakers, and I had heard not one mention of results being posted. How is it fair to have a 30 minute window for complaints if you competitors don’t even know WHEN the results have been posted? Show managers should be aware of the rules they set, as well as the flaws in their running/rulings for future shows to go smoothly.


  5. Eh i think at the schooling show, having sideline help is acceptable, because it is schooling. I think on the judges card it should count as a refusal but otherwise doesn’t bother me as much. I mainly get riled up rule wise day to day in the barn, like if we’re supposed to keep all our stuff in our trunk but people leave everything lying out everywhere… to the point they’ve taken over half the barn. Rustles my jimmies, rustles them good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A big part of my frustration was my own refusal at that fence, but by the same token most schooling events are run with the same rules as rated events.

      And on not following the rules at the barn… hoo many don’t even get me started! Talk about jimmy rustling! I’m not sure what’s worse — not following rules, or being forced to follow inane rules that don’t actually make any sense!


  6. love this post. integrity matters – also as it relates to our own satisfaction and enjoyment of the sport. your friend who, at 14, freely admitted to the penalty despite getting knocked out of the ribbons might very likely be deriving more personal satisfaction from the sport than the pro who flaunted errors on course that weren’t called.

    there IS a lot of gray area on xc tho. in my limited experience as a jump judge, my philosophy is safety first, and err on the side of the rider second. if it’s a toss up between backwards or sideways steps at the water, or whether they truly jumped from a standstill or it was a brief stutter step that maintained forward momentum, unless i could confidently look that rider in the eye and say ‘yes your error constitutes a refusal’ then it’s likely gonna be marked as ‘clear’ on my sheet

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I follow the rules. I like to follow them and I quickly lose respect for those who DGAF. However frustrating it can be when people win because they skirted (or broke!) the rules, at the end of the day I ask myself if I would still be proud of my blue ribbon if I won that day. And my answer is always no.


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