Scott Fitton was born in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area where he grew up competing as a junior and amateur rider. He later turned his passion for horses into a profession. For nearly 20 years, Scott has served as a licensed official for the USEF. Currently Scott calls Wellington, Florida, home. Do you have questions for the Sidelines “Ask the Judge” column? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think of the hunter clothing that features bling?
Great question. Bling has been a discussion point for the judges for the past few years in the hunter ring. I understand that USHJA even created a committee of riders to discuss how the rules read and proposed rule changes to make it clear what’s acceptable in the show ring. I think that change is always good in fashion but I’m not sure a fashion change is needed in the hunter rings. I’m much more a traditionalist when it comes to show ring attire.
What do you think of a person who tries to jump again after refusing out?
I completely understand the frustration of the situation. When a horse is going well and then refuses out, the rider wants to end on a good note. Taking another jump at this point is training, and training needs to be done outside the ring. The rules regarding a horse refusing out are put into place for a reason and we follow them for the safety of our riders and the welfare of our horses and ponies.
What do you think of collars popping open on course?
There has been quite a bit of controversy over this just during the past few weeks before I answered this question. There have been some major players eliminated because of a popping collar in the ring. There’s nothing you can do once on course. I personally find these collars to be of simply poor design and could pop open at any time. If a rider chooses to wear them, know that the judge could be offended by it and could penalize them, or worse, they could be eliminated from the class.
Do you think a skip change is better than an actual trot?
This is a hard question to answer because this really comes down to the class you’re judging, the quality of rounds you’re watching and the level of your riders. If the class being judged is full of professional riders and all the rounds are good, then yes; if we’re talking about a class of children’s hunter pony riders and there’s a wide spectrum of quality rounds, then maybe no.
Do you score harder on a round where the trainer is taking much too long so as to make all the other exhibitors wait?
It’s really hard not to score harder after you’ve waited a long time between trips. But as a judge, you have to block it out. These individuals are showing everyone that my time and the other competitors’ time has little or no value. Of course there are circumstances that we all understand; at a show with only a few professional riders, of course there will be delays and that’s understandable, but when the weekend comes and the rings are filled, it’s the rider’s responsibility to get to their ring on time.