For the past 15 years New Zealand and Australian have run a successful judges exchange programme for regional and national judges to gain more experience and judging time at dressage shows across the Tasman Sea.
"The exchange of judges between Australia and NZ started as a private invite to two NZ judges to attend a State Championships in Queensland, Australia," said New Zealand 4*-judge Sue Hobson, who is also the appointed Judges' Officer. "Two judges were given the opportunity to travel outside NZ to gain more experience under the judges training programme that was in its early stages of development. I was one such judge who was invited to travel to Australia in the early days and personally found the experience very valuable and a huge learning curve in my judge training to become a List 1 judge for NZ."
The past decade the Judges Exchange Programme has gradually expanded to enable more judges to work betwee the two countries.
"I work with senior colleagues in Australia being Jane Ventura from Victoria, Sue Cunningham, NSW and Irene Bakels-Noreen, Queensland. Between the four of us we select judges from PSG and GP national status to take part in this Exchange," Hobson explained. "We have been in discussions this year that maybe we could open up the invites to allow our lower level judges to take part, ie up to Advanced level."
The initiative has now truly kicked off and judges' officer Hobson is pleased with the results.
"These exchanges are now getting very popular with many judges chomping on the bit to get selected. We now have an exchange with Queensland, New South Wales and, Victoria and we are now inviting national Australian judges to our regional shows in New Zealand," she said. "Obviously we have guidelines in place and in each area we have one key person organizing the exchange. It is very beneficial for both our countries."
Judges who participate in the exchange have to write a report on return from their judging experience.
"Our judges are expected to do a full report on their trip also a full report is provided on how they performed by the relevant OC of the event they judged at," said Hobson. "This works extremely well and we have had more than 30 judges take part in this exchange so far. We normally select from our senior judges who are close to promotion and we feel the extra experience will be hugely beneficial for them. With the number of States in Australia expanding now to include NSW we obviously have more opportunities for our judges so more can be chosen to travel. Normally in NZ we invite the Australian judges to our North and South Island Championships and also are larger Regional Shows where we have the most Advanced combinations attend. However, with such a keen interest with all our judges from both sides of the Tasman we have all thought it a great idea to open it up to more judges so it is hoped between the four of us we can select some lower level judges to these events and give them more exposure to new environments, new combinations to judge and to see how they work with new colleagues and work as part of a different team to what they have been used to."
The programme has been hailed as a major success by all participating judges.
"We all feel this is a win/win situation for our countries and the four of us work very well together – all extremely keen to open up more opportunities and experiences for our national judges," said Sue. "It allows us to have a more in-depth view of how our judges perform under new pressures and how they integrate into a new judges team. It opens up discussions on how we can assist them if needed for their future promotions if any issues arise during their trip away. We can work through such issues (if any) and assist our judges accordingly. To date we have had no negative reports from either side of the Tasman and our Exchange Programme works extremely well for our judges training programme."
New Zealand hosts only a few CDI's per year and many of its judges are obliged to travel to Australia to get sufficient judging time. The Judges Exchange Programme facilitates this
"This is also good for shadow judging and sit ins so as to not add extra workload to the CDI's which are major events to orchestrate," said Hobson. "Also pleasing is the many judges who offer to write for organisers. This is a huge assistance and many judges put their hands up to write at the Nationals this year."