Behind the scenes – with Jumping Judge Kevin Taranto
We can’t have competitions without them, but they often go unrecognised. It takes a special person to be a Jumping judge, with the ability to focus, make decisions quickly and firmly whilst possessing diplomacy, tact and common sense. We are lucky to have a number of quality judges in Australia and one of these is of course the great personality – Kevin Taranto. We were delighted to catch up with Kevin and find out more about his history in the sport and becoming a judge.
What was your involvement in Jumping prior to becoming a judge? I became involved in Jumping when my children all took up the sport. My role was transport logistics. I had done a little social riding as a teenager, but was not really a horse fan. As a parent and truck driver I would take the family to pony club and agricultural shows around the state.
What is the story behind you becoming a judge? I was pretty bored when I was at an event so I used to help out by picking up rails, helping change courses, gate marshall and the like. Anne Garner suggested I look at judging, I think because I was a pretty tough gate marshall. One weekend I was at the Young Rider squad and they ran a judging clinic so I went along again because I was a little bored and the rest is history.
What is the highest level at which you have judged? In Australia I have judged everything from pony club through to the Australian Jumping Championships for six years and President of the ground jury at the last two Australian Championships. I have been involved in most of the World Cup Qualifiers over the past few years and Melbourne Royal for about eight years. I have judged the FEI Jumping Challenge Series in Taiwan and New Zealand and the British Young Horse Championships in England.
What aspects of judging do you like the most? I enjoy the commeradary with my fellow officials, pencillors, commentators and event organisers. It is really important that we all work well together and as a team for a successful event. I try and bring a little enjoyment into the judging box because we have seriously long and stressful days at times. I really enjoy mentoring other judges, I find if they are willing to progress through the ranks, I am more than happy to help them out with my knowledge I have picked up over the years.
L to R: Michael Hease, Kevin Taranto, Michael Archer and Megan Scrivener at Waratah Showjumping in 2019. Photo: Australian Jumping
Do you have any pet peeves while working as a judge? The thing I don’t necessarily like about judging are the early starts. I can be a little too social at times and a couple of extra hours in bed wouldn’t hurt some days. At times riders coming into the judging box during a class can be annoying, but you just deal with it.
What is the funniest or most memorable thing that has happened while you have been in the judging box? Some of the most memorable moments in the judges box is generally after the day’s competition has finished and various people pop in for a visit. I actually built my own judging box that I take to most events, and for some reason it tends to be the place to unwind at days end. I recall one night we pulled the blinds down and just having a quite drink when David Sheppard thought it was raining, he grabbed the umbrella and put it up inside the box but went too far and it was inverted. We actually then realised it was only the sprinklers had come on.
Do you have any advice for any new judges or those thinking about taking up judging? The advice for new judges is to treat people the way you want to be treated. Like them or not every rider is treated equally in the arena. I think it is really important to set the standard, if you want the riders to act and dress professionally you do the same and don’t be afraid to talk to a rider if they are not doing the right thing.
If you could make one change to the sport to make it better, what would it be? If I could change one thing in the sport it would be professionalism, I am sick of hearing riders and owners carry on about we need to be more professional and then not turn up on time, without jackets or not notifying anyone that they are not turning up at all.
Tell us something about yourself that is not widely known. There is probably not much people don’t know about me, I am a pretty open book. But I am single (if anyone is looking ) and I have four adult children and four grandkids. Also, with being in lockdown in Melbourne for what seems like forever, I desperately need a haircut.
We look forward to the day when the country can come together again and we can see Kevin’s smiling face arena-side.