The three members of the ground jury at a three-day event will often pass unnoticed by most, save for comments about dressage judging or other crucial decisions and judgements they may have to make during the competition. They are unpaid, save for expenses, but, like other FEI officials, undertake rigorous training to ensure they preside over a fair competition, have their ‘eye’ in and are up-to-speed with rules.
Andrew Bennie, president of the ground jury at the Chedington Bicton Park 5* Horse Trials, is one of very few to have both ridden and judged at Olympic level, as well as coaching to Paralympic level.
He trained as an electrician in his native New Zealand, but has been based in Britain for many years, competing regularly at five-star and championship level and winning team bronze at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Andrew has judged at every CCI5* in the world except Adelaide, plus the Rio Olympics, Tryon World Equestrian Games and will be presiding over the forthcoming European Championships in Avenches, Switzerland. He stopped competing internationally in 2007 but says: “Sometimes, I think I would still like to be doing it – if I had the right horse, I like to think that I would still be brave enough.”
Jane Tolley, the British judge, comes from a racing background, worked for British Airways and then, with her late husband, David, ran an eventing yard, owning such top horses as Merillion and Hinnegar, ridden by Andrew Nicholson and Matt Ryan. She has judged all over the world, from Eastern Europe to India, as well as at Badminton and Burghley, and is a regular national judge of dressage.
“I love seeing the horses through from when they trot up on the Wednesday afternoon through to the very end on Sunday afternoon – it’s absolutely fascinating, and wonderful to see horses improve and grow from season to season.”
Seppo Laine runs a stud and cattle farm in Finland, running national equestrian competitions. He competed up to 4* level for many years, has worked for the Finnish federation and started judging in 1999.
“We get to see the best in the world, both horses and riders, and meet some lovely people — eventing is like a big family,” he says. “I am always interested in how riders work and train their horses and to see the result of their hard work.”
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