A good start to the show year by Richard Curtis
With Crufts out of the way for another year the advanced competitors will start to turn their attention to gaining a Crufts semi-final qualifier ready for the 2013 semis. Traditionally the first qualifier has been at Westglen show in April. This club has always supported HTM very well and has a healthy band of helpers who are involved in the club and the sport.
On the first day the HTM classes for all levels were held. Although I didn’t attend on the first day it was not long before the results were being posted. In the HTM advanced qualifier it was a first win at this level for Jenny Deakin and her lovely tricoloured Border Collie Shepwood Morning Sunrise. Performing their Crufts 2012 HTM routine to the Fugue of the Tinhorns, Jenny and Tom impressed the judges to gain the win. In second place it was no surprise to see Heather Smith with her lovely Beardie Maddie, so both of these teams now have their ‘magic ticket’ to the semi-finals.
On the second day it was the turn of the freestyle classes. The first class of the day was the starters freestyle class which had 15 entries. It was towards the end of the class that the eventual winner was found in Jackie Roberts and her Border Collie Rosmak Marmite Solider. This team were performing to the Three Lions football anthem which was easy to deduce from the props of a corner flag and football. Jackie and Charlie used the various props well and now that they have won they will move up to the novice class.
Normally the advanced class is at the end of the day so it was a bit of shock for some advanced competitors to have to work next. Cathy Bates and her Working Sheepdog Runsol Ruby often come up with some interesting innovative routines. Cathy has seemed to have found the right type of routine for her little bitch who is a really fizzy little Collie. Performing to the Paso Doubles they had a Spanish theme with Cathy in her matador outfit and a cape in her hand. A lovely part of the routine was when the dog held a pair of horns in its mouth and then performed various moves which were very fitting for her playing the bull.
Not long after it was the turn of Heather Smith and her Beardie Moonlight Magic Dancer. Performing their Crufts routine to This Town Aint Big Enough For Both Of Us Maddie seemed to behave herself well as she can sometimes get a little over excited.
Following Heather was Kath Hardman with her crossbreed September Spice. Performing to the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack Spice did lots of jumps to eventually scoop second place. It was no surprise though that the actual winner was Sue Betteridge and her Border Collie Glenalpine Katie. Sue and Katie have had a great year already winning the Crufts freestyle final and have a lovely relationship. When Sue is working she is so quiet and calm which obviously transfers to the dog as Katie seems so relaxed. The judges were impressed enough to award this team 27.07.
After a short lunch break it was onto the first of the novice freestyle classes. When I do judges seminars you always tell prospective judges that you must be on the ball from the first dog as this could be your winner. Pamela Ruscoe ran second in the class and her crossbreed Kilkenys Sassy Girl performed to Flying The Flag by Scootch. This team gained a score of 21.37 which was never bettered by any of the other teams.
In the second part of the novice freestyle class it was again another early team that scooped the win. Running first in the class was Mary Ann Nestor with her Border Collie Bryning Vanquish. Performing to Soldier by Buffy ST Marie this team scored well to gain their first win.
The last class of the day was intermediate freestyle so as I was one of the judges I took my place at the judges’ table. When judging this class you always have to be aware that if you give a dog a high score then you are basically saying they are ready for advanced. Obviously there are some dogs that are only just out of novice which perhaps was the reason for the mixed standard in the class. Valerie Perkins is a handler who always seems to find some interesting music and themes for her routines. Her first dog in this class was a Italian Greyhound cross Leonardo Da Capriole who performed to I Taut I Saw A Pussy Cat. With Valerie acting as the cat there were some nice sequences during the routine which scored enough to gain second place. Valerie also gained sixth with her younger dog performing to Paddy McGinty’s Goat which caused many laughs during the routine.
The clear winner was Lucy Heath and her Border Collie Stillmoor Winter Sun who I only recently was writing about at Findon show. This red merle bitch is very high drive and can get a little vocal during the routine but they did a nice routine to Caro Emerald’s That Man which achieved the first place.
Within the rules for this sport there are some grey areas which are open to individual judge’s interpretations. When giving judges seminars I always say that new judges need to make up their own minds on some of these topics and be able to stand by them. There was a situation at the show where a handler was docked marks for a dog shaking an object when the music had finished. I believe the judges had interpreted this as the dog treating it as a toy but of course it was after the routine had finished.
Now judges are always told that they must watch the team from the moment they enter the ring and remain watching until they have left. I have to say I witness many judges with their heads down during and immediately after a team has finished. I know some judges want to make notes during a routine but this must not interfere with watching the routine. It is possible to scribble down some notes by just flicking your eyes down for one second but a judge should not be taking their eyes off of a team for as long as 20 seconds which I have witnessed at a show.
The shaking of the toy incident raises many questions, first, when is an object that the dog used in the routine considered a toy. This is a very grey area as a ‘toy’ could be anything from a flower stitched on the handler’s outfit to a hat or even a bangle on someone’s arm. So judges need to decide what behaviours they would expect to see from a dog that thinks the object it is using in the routine is a toy. I have seen some dogs run off to a stuffed animal at the end of a routine when the music has finished and have a good time with it, which I can see how that is interpreted as a toy. The question is when a dog shakes an object after the routine and music has finished, does this constitute the object being considered a toy? The answer to this is something for each individual judge to decide.
Westglen club should be congratulated for another super show which always has a relaxed atmosphere and is a good start to the show year.