Nov 4, 2015

What Would George Do (WWGD)?

By Kim Ablon Whitney

Dear Mr. Morris,

I'm certain you don't remember this, but many years ago I wrote to ask if I could learner  judge with you.  I was just starting out as a judge at the time.  I had my New England Horsemen's Council judge's card, which I got at the earliest age possible, 18.  I could not yet apply for my USEF 'r' until I was 21.  

I noticed that you were listed in the prize list to judge at the Myopia Hunt Course Labor Day show.  Back then, there were no hunter derbies and Myopia was one of the only shows that used some of its natural obstacles in regular classes.  The show wasn't USEF-rated but it always got good attendance for the beautiful setting and the chance for courageous riders to show over more interesting courses.

I couldn't believe my luck--you were judging at a show so close to me!  I gathered up all my own courage and wrote you a letter (this was back before email).  I outlined my experience competing in the equitation and cited my NEHC license and asked if I might be able to sit with you at Myopia.

Did I expect to hear back?  No.  But then it happened.  I remember the phone ringing in my house (landline, no cell phones yet either).  I picked up.  "Hello?"

Next came your trademark slow and creaky voice.  "Kim, this is George Morris.  I received your letter."

I nearly fell over.  At best I had envisioned you possibly jotting me a quick note to tell me no and sending it in the mail.  I never imagined you'd call.

You said you would love to have me sit with you but unfortunately your plans had changed and you weren't judging the show anymore.  Wendy Chapot was filling in for you and you suggested I ask her.  

I thanked you profusely and hung up, still in awe, my hands shaking.  In the end, I did call Wendy and I had a great, educational day sitting with her.

I never got to learner judge with you.  But I still learned from you.  I learned that no matter how important you become, you are never too important to be polite and responsive to someone.

Too often today, contacting someone becomes a tireless game of chase.  Phone calls go unanswered and so do emails.  I know of learner judges who contact judges or management and often get no response.  

I also know of judges who simply won't take learner judges (I'm not just talking about saying no to unqualified learner judges or to having a learner at a high stress show, such as a WCHR show).  

I suppose when you are a senior judge, you have earned the right to say no to learner judges, but you, Mr. Morris, were pretty senior and you a) would have let me sit with you and b) took the time to call to tell me you weren't able to judge that day.

Why?  My guess is because you dedicate yourself to teaching others better horsemanship--whether that be through riding, auditing, reading, or judging.  And because you simply were raised with manners.

When faced with situations of how to respond to people or how to treat them, I wish more judges, trainers, and riders would ask, WWGD? 

Kim Ablon Whitney is a 'R' judge in hunters, equitation & jumpers.  She is also the author of the Show Circuit series.