I am writing you this Open Letter to ask you: “Where do you see our breed and the show scene in – say – five to ten years from now? And are you aware that it is YOU who determines the path?”
Are you aware that every time you give a score, you are casting a vote for the kind of horse we will have in the future? Every time you give a 20 for an extreme head, you are encouraging breeders to breed even more extreme heads. Every time you give an undifferentiated 15 for legs, you tell the breeders that legs don’t matter. Every time you give a score for movements, although the horse was whirling around and showed only one or two steps in a straight line, you are telling the handler that he gets away with it.
In the old days, judges were authorities, today, people are suspicious of them. This loss of credibility is one of the causes why the majority of breeders has quit showing. Even if it is only a few breeders who follow the fashion trend set by the judges, it is those few, who breed more and more extremes in order to please the judges, to get that high score and to win that one coveted trophy. And even if it is a minority of foals that are bred especially for the show ring, it is the show ring success that shapes the ideal of how an Arabian horse should look like. If you haven’t realized where this is leading to, have a look at dog or cat shows, where ever more bizarre and ever less functional animals are being bred, because these extremes are rewarded by the judges.
The biggest problem with the extremes, produced by the show scene, are not those individual horses affected. The biggest problem are the side-effects on the whole breed, which means that all the other horses, that don’t fit the template of a show horse, are losing their value. They are not bad horses by any means, but breeders will stop breeding them. So, these horses will disappear eventually, and so will their genes. We are narrowing the genepool of our breed with our eyes open!
Whenever I talk to a judge in private, he confirms to me, that the breed is getting more and more uniform and with it, the genepool is getting more and more narrow. So, I wonder, why – when it seems to be a known problem – nobody takes officially a stand against it? Why – when in the show ring – the same judge is rewarding the extreme heads, the long necks, the bad legs, the non-existing movements…? Part of the explanation might be, that no-one wants to swim against the current, and nobody wants to do the first step. “If you are alone, you are the scapegoat”.
So, please, judges, have courage! If you are against it, say it, do it!