I like to judge occasionally; you really learn so much about training and course design. I am probably a bit over the top in that I always set up my courses in my garden before-hand so that I can see how it runs. At least this way I am 100% sure about my course. It is one thing to put a course on paper and another to see it run in real life. My goal in setting this course was to set up something different from the usual straight up and down courses that Grade 1/2 usually gets. Especially in Large, many of the handlers are stuck in Grade 1/2 for years if they do not have fast border collies. It must get boring running up and down in straight lines especially when you know you dog can do so much more complicated stuff. I also wanted to set up something that someone who could not run fast could handle; the course flowed from one thing to another in curves rather than straight lines. Yet it did require some control and good obstacle performance.
Well......I got to the show early to work on my course. Yes it was raining as usual! I think it has rained (and rained and rained) EVERYTIME I have judged! Hopefully this will put off anyone else asking me to judge in the future. HAHA!
It was a bit upsetting to be greeted first thing by a club member by being asked to change my course. I sent my course to the club in advance so that they could set it up the night before and my mistake was sending them the course with the numbers on it. This gave them the opportunity to evaluate MY course and decide that it was too difficult for the level. I was confident in my course; so I politely said "No it is staying as it is" but this really messed up my confidence! The complaining continued by some of the ring party and then by one or two of the competitors walking the course.
Anyway off we went and the first 20 dogs ran. Now I was just praying that I would get clears! Well... Almost all were clear! The course ran exactly as I knew it would; there was no nagging, no need to slow the dog down and no handlers struggling to keep up with their dogs. I was really pleased with the level of the dog and handlers. The main issues were the normal missed contacts or dropped bars. I really appreciated the people who came up to me and said how much they liked the course and that they were really pleased to have run it clear. My winner was a Belgian Terv and 4th place(I think) was a lovely powerful Labrador. I had some super GSDs run also and one or two of them placed. Maybe I set ABC courses? :-) The club placed to 23rd place (there was 200+ dogs in Grade 1)and all the places were clear and well in course time. 23rd place was a older lady with a golden retriever and she thanked me for setting a good ABC course. hehe I really like judging Large Grade 1/2 and watching the non-border collies run. Does that make me anti-border collie? Not really, it is just such a nice change! Viva Variety!
This is the course pretty much as it was. The tunnel was more curved than shown and pointed at the right jump. I had very generous spacing; there was almost 5-6m between jump #2 and the see-saw and probably about 10 metres between Jump #3 and the off-course tunnel. Those were the most common off-course mistakes but only if the dog did not respond AT ALL to body language or verbals. The weave pole entrance was easily managed and you could either push the dog to straighten them out or micromanage the entry if they needed help or, if you had good entrances, just send them. Some dogs faffed (is that how you spell Faff?) about here but only lost time. The ending sequence from the dog walk to the tunnel was actually easier than most handlers realized and the dog naturally took that tunnel with out much help.
I saw some strange handling techniques! The one that really confused me were the handlers that held up their opposite arms for everything. Basically they led the dog around indicating obstacles with the arm furthest away from the dog. This was a clear handling technique as a few of them did this; so it must be a certain trainer or club that teaches it. It was NOT the typical throw your outside arm up (wrong arm) in desperation; this was a deliberate running around with that arm up and shoulders turned into every obstacle. The other interesting handling that made me giggle was the "me me me" technique. Obviously I initially thought the dog's name was Mimi; but realized this was not the case after a few dogs came in called Mimi. It seems this is the command for the dog to check into the handler. I call it the "All About Me" technique. I may adopt this system for my own soon if people keep stealing my "Finger Pointy" system.
So that is my judging for the year done and dusted. It may take me awhile to recover and agree to judge again! And I promise I will not complain about any courses again (well we know that is not really true but I will try!) I will just try and remember that Variety is the spice of life!