I have competed in dressage and am familiar with the rulebook and the scoring rubrics. I have also attended "l" dressage judging clinics, and have listened to "R" judges teach prospective judges how to score movements, and there were often 2 full points difference in the score. (One person's 4 being another's 6.) So while dressage judging is codified, it is still subjective, way more subjective than say, a jumper or a western cow or speed event.
I am not saying that dressage and hunters and judged similiarly, they are not.
There are elements in both disciplines that are objective, and elements in both disciplines that are not.
I am emphatically refuting this statement -
Anything "hunter" is judged completely subjectively. At least in dressage there is a standard for each movement and the judges are trained to that standard.
No such thing exists in hunterland.
There absolutely is a standard, and judges are absolutely trained to it. To say otherwise is simply ignorance, pure and simple, with a little discipline prejudice thrown in.
Every hunter judge understands and agrees what good form over a fence looks like, and what poor or unsafe form looks like. And there are *many* books on form over fences, not just the Anna Jane White-Mullen. All judges score getting 6 or 8 strides in a 7 stride line the same; though in a smaller show with less competition, the horse that adds a stride but does it safely and consistently may pin.
Subjectivity does come in when you're actually judging a class and you have to decide how to pin rounds scored close together but with different flaws - do you rate safe but uneven knees above or below drifting or slapping out? The better the competition, the less of that type of subjectivity is necessary. This is no different than lower level dressage judging, where you must decide how to score a horse that's obedient, and whose transitions happen at the letters but that never relaxes its back against the horse that moves correctly but breaks gait or has a disobedience.
If you attend a hunter classic or a derby, you'll note the format is to have 3 judges at different points in the arena and for them to post a numerical score immediately after the round. There are usually occassional discrepancies in scoring because of location - one judge sees an error the the others didn't, but there's usually no more than a 5 point variance out of 100 in the scoring, even less in top competition.
How do you think that is acheived, except by having a standard and having the judges trained to it? Do you think the judges all meet beforehand and collude and conspire on what the marks should be? Or that a horse can hang a leg, miss a distance or blow a change and still pin if the judges like him enough?