Ann Storey is a stalwart of the rat fancy and also the president (as well as being an NMC judge). She recently posted this on the NFRS forum and the post received 81 responses (which I am unable to share). I thought the post had relevance for us as rat fanciers, if not all fan- cies, and Ann kindly gave permission for me to submit it to the NMC News.
I get a number of mumbles (can’t call them complaints because they are rarely written) every year about stewards and their behaviour. It’s always been the same. I keep copies of all the letters I’ve been sent and I had loads going back years. Some are anonymous.
Technically, stewards should only talk to the judge if the judge asks them something. They should certainly never give an opinion on the exhibits either to the judge or to other people, unless the judge asks them. Some judges encourage stewards and sitters in, to comment, personally I allow them to ask questions after I’ve finished the class or the section, but I tell them that at the beginning.
Now I have seen judges who treat every show as a teaching experience, which is fine if you have the time, but there’s a fine line between allowing stewards to ask questions and having them voice their opinions. This last point is the one that causes most of the complaints, even sometimes from the judges themselves. Now as judge you should politely tell a steward who starts in crossing that line to shut up. As a steward, your opinion is not required. If you want to talk about the rat concerned then the judge MAY be happy to talk to you about it afterward, but they don’t have to.
You need to think how it looks. If the owner is looking on and they see a steward giving their 2 penn’orth to the judge, especially if it APPEARS that the judge may be acting on what they said, then they are quite likely not to be happy. It’s my experience that a lot of these comments are negative and I have known people to big up their own exhibits and talk down the others. I have also known a steward sneak their rat back on the table after I had thrown it off. In fact, they were notorious for it.
Judges quite often know if the rat belongs to the steward BTW. In the rabbit fancy it’s called ‘jockeying’. Often problems occur with rarer varieties, where the judge themselves may not be sure of themselves and a round robin discussion sometimes happens. This is wrong, judging is not a committee decision.