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Royal Highland Show judging role for north-east experts

By David Porter

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The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) has announced the judges for next year’s Royal Highland Show including several well known names in the north-east and Moray.

The show will take place in June 2024.
The show will take place in June 2024.

Supported by Royal Bank of Scotland, the Royal Highland Show will take place at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, on June 20-23.

Hailing from around the UK and beyond, the judges will take on the challenge of placing Scotland’s biggest and best display of livestock.

Overall Young Handler

The choice of judges for the Dalchirla Trophy for Overall Young Handler rotates to a different section every year, and this year the task falls upon father and daughter duo Robin Orr and Caroline Morton.

Together they run a flock of pedigree texels and a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle which have both had many showing successes. Caroline has competed in the light horse section at the Royal Highland Show many times, including taking the Champion Working Hunter, Show Hunter Pony and Part Bred Arab titles home – meanwhile, Robin has won beef, sheep and dairy pairs young farmers competitions.

Beef Section

One of the most hotly contested classes, the Interbreed Team Competition & Overall Beef Interbreed Championship will be judged by Peter Watson. Having been involved with both the Charolais and Saler breeds for many years, Peter was the winner of Scotch Beef Farm of the Year in 2015.

The Native Interbreed Team Championship will be overseen by Daniel Wyllie, who will use his over 50 years of judging experience to place the top spot.

Regular in the Royal Highland Show rings Stephanie Dick will judge the Young Handlers class next year. Having showed Limousins, Aberdeen Angus, British Blue and Commercial Cattle, as well as Blue Texels, she has judged in the Czech Republic last year and regularly commentates for the sheep young handlers at the Show.

With over 40 years of judging experience at many prestigious shows including the Royal Welsh, Balmoral, Great Yorkshire and shows in Northern Ireland, Ireland and France, the British Charolais section is in safe hands with Neil Barclay.

The top spots for Belted Galloway will be overseen by Caroline Montgomery, who farms pedigree Holsteins, Ayrshires, White and Belted Galloways and Lleyn Sheep with her husband and children. She has exported cattle around the world to Germany and Ireland.

Colin McClymont is well placed to judge the Salers, having farmed one of the first Saler herds in Britain. He has also bred the champion pen of Saler Commercial Heifers at the Castle Douglas sale for six consecutive years and brought out the Champion Saler bull at Stirling in 2016.

Dairy Section

David Hastings will oversee the Overall Dairy Interbreed in 2024. With over 50 years of judging experience, he has been involved with the Ayrshire, Friesian and Holstein breeds and is the only herd manager to have won the Holstein UK Lifetime Achievement Award.

Iwan Thomas will be inspecting the Ayrshires, having previously judged the National Ayrshire Show, National Guernsey Show and various County Shows. Iwan has been involved in the Holstein, Ayrshire and Jersey breeds directly but has also prepared and shown Guernsey’s, Brown Swiss and Dairy Shorthorn.

David Booth will be running his expert eye over the Holsteins. With over 20 years of judging experience, David won Northern Farm of the Year in 2021 and the Holstein UK Master Breeder award in 2019, to name just a couple of significant wins.

Determining the winner of the Dairy Shorthorns will be Robert Kite, who has 12 years of judging experience including the All American Dairy Show, Royal Welsh, Great Yorkshire & TullamoreShow in Ireland. He has travelled to both America and Australia to represent the breed and is Chairman of the Dairy Shorthorn Sires Committee and on the council board.

With 25 years of judging experience in all nations of the UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia, Jane Steel will oversee the British Red & White, Jersey & Any Other Breed class. Working as a livestock photographer, Jane has travelled all over the world to photograph the best cows and has her own small herd of Holsteins under the “Lomond” prefix.

Sheep Section

Former RHASS Chairman James F. Warnock will take charge of the Overall Sheep Interbreed for 2024. With over 50 years of judging experience at all the Royal Shows in the UK and county shows from Cornwall to Orkney, he has also judged in France, Switzerland and Sweden. He has been involved with the Texel breed since 1974 when it was imported to the UK and was breed Chairman in 1995/96. James is a familiar face in the Royal Highland Show sheep lines, having been Chief Steward of the sheep section for many years before becoming RHASS Chairman.

Clark Lamont will tap out the winners of the Overall Sheep Pairs Interbreed. Clark has over 50 years of judging experience across over 100 local and national shows and has previously judged both Bluefaced Leicester and Charollais at the Royal Highland Show, as well as winning the Bluefaced Leicester section five times.

Kirsty Morton will name the champions of the Sheep Young Handlers. Having been involved with Beltex, Bluefaced Leicester and Commercial sheep showing, Kirsty took champion and reserve champion commercial at the 2022 Royal Highland Show.

Nicola Fletcher will look after the Jacob section. Over the last 15 years, she has judged at the Royal Cornwall, Royal Welsh, Balmoral and many smaller shows throughout the UK and Ireland. Having bred Jacobs for over 30 years, importing rams and ewes to Ireland to improve the breed there, she is currently the secretary of the Jacob Sheep Society and is a Professor at the Dublin Veterinary School.

Melfyn Williams is well-placed for judging the North Country Cheviot class, having been the NCC society national president from 2020-2022 and been a Welsh Council Representative three times. He has shown for 40 years and won numerous Breed and Interbreed Championships, including being the first breeder to win an Interbreed title at the Royal Welsh in 1997 with a group of 3.

New for 2024 in the sheep section is the Kerry Hill breed. With growing numbers of exhibitors showing the breed, it is expected to be a strong competition which will be ably judged by Will Evans, a very experienced judge within the breed.

Goat Section

Dairy Goats, Kids, Milking and boer Goats will be judged this year by Tim Baker. Tim has kept goats for over 40 years, having purchased his first when he was only eight years old. He has been involved in both breeding and showing a number of breeds to a high level throughout the UK.

Heavy Horse Section

The Clydesdales In Hand (Males) will be judged by James Tennant. Judging for over 30 years and having a lifetime involvement in the Clydesdale breed, he has won several Male Championships at the Royal Highland Show, alongside taking part in Heavy Horse Turnout classes.

The top Clydesdale Females will be chosen by Graffin Hanna. As the third generation of his family involved in Clydesdales, Graffin’s Royal Highland Show highlight was winning the Queens Cup in 2016 with Macfin Diamond Queen, a feat notably repeated by the Hanna family in 2023 with a Queen’s Cup win for Macfin Delta Dawn.

The winners of the Ridden Clydesdales (Ride) will be decided by John Cookson, who alongside his wife and daughter, produce their own horses for the show ring, with interests in Hunters, Show Hunter and Mountain & Moorland Ponies. The Conformation will be judged by Peter Keron.

Highland Ponies In Hand (Males) will be overseen by Gilean Docherty, who has competed both in hand and ridden with Highland ponies for over forty years. With over 20 years of judging under her belt, including recently at the Highland Pony Breed Show and Blair Castle, she breeds Highland ponies under the Tashieburn prefix.

Jane McNaught will judge the Highland Pony In Hand (Females). Having competed Highland ponies for many years, with highlights including competing at Olympia, Jane has also had successes as an owner with ponies qualifying for the Horse of the Year Show and winning the Royal Highland Show Ridden Highland Pony Champion twice.

The Shetland Ponies In Hand will be assessed by Wendy Toomer-Harlow. Wendy breeds Shetland Ponies under the Eversley prefix and also has an interest in Shire Horses – winning the inaugural Heavy Horse Driven Championship at the 2023 Horse of the Year Show.

Julian Walters will pick out the top spots for Miniature Shetland Ponies In Hand. Breeding both Miniature and Standard Shetlands, Julian has attained the accolade of Shetland Pony Stud Book Society Breeder of the Year several times and has qualified a Shetland Pony for the Price Supreme in Hand final at Horse of the Year Show four times.

Winning the Sanderson Trophy for overall Scottish native horse or pony is the pinnacle of every heavy horse exhibitor at the Royal Highland Show. In 2024 Hugh Duncan will pick the champion deserving of this prestigious accolade. Hugh has over 25 years of judging experience and has been involved with both Highland and Shetland ponies for many years.

Charles Beardmore will be tasked with judging the Heavy Horse Turnouts. Charles worked with Thwaites Brewery for 54 years, the last 15 years as Head Coachman before retiring. During that time, he competed at most major shows with the Thwaites Brewery turnout and took eight National titles at the Shire Horse Show.

Light Horse Section

Judging the Overall Mountain & Moorland Ponies In Hand will be Elizabeth Briant, who has judged at HOYS, Olympia, the Royal International Horse Show and at shows in Australia. One of her main achievements was producing two Olympia champions, alongside having produced ponies for the late Queen Elizabeth for over 20 years – including her riding pony, Emma.

The St Johns Wells Trophy for best two In-Hand Ponies by the same sire will be awarded by Jill Graham. Having bred and exhibited Dales and Exmoor ponies for over 40 years, Jill was a member of the Dales Pony Society Council for 35 years, then General Secretary for three years before retiring as Life Vice President. This is in addition to being awarded the Wall Family Trophy for exceptional services to the Dales Pony Society in 2022.

Gillian Beattie will take the reins for the Coloured Horses & Ponies In Hand section. Gillian has won many champion titles of her own including three times at the Royal Highland Show, and also runs her own riding school.

Former international event rider Nick Collins will judge the Hunter Under Saddle Weights and Smalls Ride. With 12 years of judging experience, Nick has judged across many prestigious shows including the Royal Windsor Horse Show, Royal Norfolk Show, HOYS, Royal International Horse Show and Royal Bath & West.

Jo Jefferson will be lending her extensive expertise to judging the Side Saddle class. With over 40 years of judging experience, Jo has been a member of the Side Saddle Association since its creation in 1974 and has judged around the world including in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. She was champion side saddle rider of the year and has also been featured in several films riding side saddle, including Brideshead Revisited and A Handful of Dust.

The Retraining of Racehorses class Ride section will be judged by Rebecca Abba, who has over 20 years of experience judging at HOYS, the Royal Highland Show and many county shows. A regular on the showing circuit, with winners across many major shows, she now focuses on successfully competing her children’s ponies.

RHASS Head of Show, David Tennant commented: “We are delighted to invite such a varied roster of judges to lend us their expertise at the 2024 Royal Highland Show. Having honed their skills at shows across the UK and around the world, they truly are the best of the best and we are honoured to be welcoming them next year.

“Things are already shaping up for a brilliant Show next year and the team can’t wait to see our competitors and judges in action.”

Livestock entries will open in early April when the schedule of competitions will also be released.

For further information and to purchase tickets please visit .

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