Panel judging can be a contentious issue in draft horse circles. Correctly employed, there is no judging system viewed with greater favor. Incorrectly employed, there is no judging system exhibitors and spectators will view with greater contempt.
When interbreed champions are selected at a draft horse show, panel judging can be employed with excellent results. However, to achieve this, the following conditions must be met: 1-members of the judging panel should select one of their number to issue the necessary instructions to the ringmaster in a performance class; 2-each member of the judging panel must work alone; Once the class starts to enter the show ring, and 3-the judges should not communicate with one another until the ringmaster has collected each panel member’s placings at the conclusion of the class.
The ringmaster should position each judge on the panel in a different position in the show ring during a performance class. He should accompany all three judges as they inspect each hitch, once the turnouts are drawn into line center-ring. If there are several sections in an interbreed performance class, each section should be handled in the same manner. When the last section is excused from the show ring, the ringman should approach each of the three judges to ask if they would like one, two or three turnouts shown in the various sections, to perform in a re-work. It is typical for the judges to ask the ringmaster to summon one, two or three of the hitches centre-ring a second time. Hence, three, four or five, instead of all nine turnouts, will be seen centre-ring for a final drive-off.
In an interbreed halter class for Best of Show, the ringmaster can position the three judges so each one forms the apex of a triangle centre-ring. Once positioned, the ringmaster will summon each horse eligible from a line. The horses will travel from judge one to judge two, from judge two to judge three and from judge three back to judge one. This pattern allows each judge to watch each horse both going and coming. Given their positions in the show ring, no judge will be able to communicate with another. When each horse in the class has moved, then returned to their position in line, the ringman can invite the judges inspection. However, he will travel down the line with all three judges, to ensure there is no opportunity for collusion.
Before each interbreed championship class, halter or performance, the clerks should place each judge’s name in a hat. The name of one judge should be drawn. This judge will hold the hammer. His placings will be used to break a tied placing.
Judges should mark their cards one, two, three, four, etc., in both a halter and performance class. If turnout A or halter horse A was awarded two first and one second placings by the three judges, the clerks will award exhibit A a total of four points. If turnout B or halter horse B was awarded one first, one second and one fourth placing by the three judges, the clerks will give exhibit B a total of seven points. The entry with the least points is the class winner, the entry with the most points will place last.
Such a panel judging system precludes breed bias, collusion or one judge dominating his fellow judges, be this intentional or because of a forceful personality. If the three members of a judging panel are never allowed to communicate during the class, there will be no opportunity for a member of the judging panel to start second guessing his placings, which would corrupt the judging system.
At least this is how I see it.