Monday, July 18, 2011

Courses, judging and thick skins

Quake-Monster is hypnotised by Bat Ears Delta

I enjoy judging, I really do.  BUT damn it is hard work...  okay to explain the South African situation...  judges DO NOT get paid, not even your travel expenses.  Sometimes you receive a thank you gift (I have been given the strangest things, ranging from towels to flash lights), but not always.  And every so often you do not even get refreshments.  Ring parties are mostly not organised before hand, so as a judge, unless you have a family you can blackmail or friends you can bribe, you have to beg, borrow and steal people to help you out at the table.  Sometimes handlers will help you build your course, other times you are left with one helper and yourself...

Now I don't really mind all of that actually... I like putting up my own courses and in fact would not have it any other way.  And I have always had nice handlers volunteer to score/time keep classes they are not running for me.  So I am not moaning, I am just pointing out that judging around here is hard work.  Added to that I put a lot of effort into my courses, it takes me hours to design them and tweak them and put up sections in my garden...  I also read through the rules every single time before I judge, even though I know most of them by heart, just to be sure.  So after a day of judging, I am pretty knackered.

Anyhow back to yesterday, my courses were technical but fast and I set my course times quite tight.  I DID have a few silent protests, people doing their own course rather than mine, but oh well, I have a thick skin I can take it...  I had a few 'not so silent' protests too, but I refer you back to the whole thick skin thing.  Now I appreciate feedback and input from my courses and judging, but on the day I am the judge and I will uphold the rules of our Kennel Union.  I know my rules and I am confident in my judging (although I have never had any complaints about this part at least).

So I started off with my Contact Agility 3 class:

There were some beautiful moments on this course, but a lot of struggles too.

I had a few missed pole entries and some HEAVY managing on that pole entry.  A few refusals due to handling on 5.  Very wide turns after 10.  A lot of handlers tried to go left after 12, but most of them failed, quite a few dogs cut the long jump and headed for the A-Frame, or put a foot in the long jump or banked some of the elements.  Decidedly the most struggles came between 15 and 16... as a trainer and a judge and a handler my opinion here is that no handler had an independent see-saw and everyone was left behind because they had to manage that.  I also saw a lot of missed contacts in general.  Unfortunately I did not get one clear round on this course out of the 17 dogs entered in this class (1 x Small, 4 x Medium and 12 x Large).

My old man, the first born, Echo, still insisting on wrestling the toy from the youngsters.

Next up was the Grade 2 contact agility, which consisted of a whopping 3 dogs (2 x small and 1 x large)... always a bit depressing to judge such small classes, but that might just be cause I want the WHOLE world to do agility.  The course was as follows:

Not much to comment on, as there were so few competitors...

My Grade 1 Contact Agility Course produced some clears, which made me very happy, as I like to sign cards :)

Just as a note, we are an FCI country and run agility according to FCI regulations, hence we have the same grading system as the FCI.  One of the most important factors for me designing courses in our small little country is to design grade appropriate courses in a nested fashion.  So often judges around here design courses for Grade 1 courses that are more difficult than the Grade 3 courses, first of all because they think that simply removing obstacles or shortening the course somehow makes it easier.  This is the biggest mis-conception in designing nested courses.  The second problem we have with course design, is 'lazy judges' that are not willing to move one single obstacle for grade changes... Now it takes me about 5min to change my courses between grades, even though as you can see I change obstacles and angles... yeah I must look slightly ridiculous since I sprint around the field doing it... which I feel I owe my competitors and it is my responsibility as a judge... haha and ofc I would also like to get home before dark.

Now a quick explanation for my UK and USA readers.  Here in South Africa, Non-Contact Agility (JWW or Jumping) is considered a separate discipline and also has a completely separate Championship Status.  On Sunday I was judging both, but for once decided not to do a nested Contact and Non-Contact course...  Kudos to nearly all the handlers that helped me clear the first course and set up my second, with S, C and J getting special mentions for their help.  I once again started off with my Grade 3 course, since it is easier for me as a judge to 'build down' vs. 'building up'.

In this class I managed to get two clear rounds from the 21 dogs entered (1 x small, 4 x medium and 16 x large).  Both clears were in the large, with the small and medium dogs picking up time faults.  Most problems were encountered between 6 and 7 and some handling faults into the weave poles.  Some handlers also lost their dogs after three to obstacle number 11.  I loved this course and it was exciting to judge, even though it was rather 'easy'.  The handling was a bit messy in general, but there were some very good moments.

Volt in full flight and smiling all the way

My Grade 2 course, was very easy for the grade and clear rounds were missed only by some unfortunate bars.

My heat and soul, the Spaz (aka Chaos)

My Grade 1 Non-Contact course, produced quite a few lovely clear rounds and I got to sign more cards, yippee for me!  The best one being a whopping round run at 5.14m/s at his second show, watch this space kind of thing.  Well done to all that made me catch my breath with some good moments on the day.  I think it is time that I started looking for some overseas judging appointments, seeing as how much I love judging and enjoy the challenge!

Another explanation is necessary, here in South Africa, we have a third discipline called Dog Jumping, which has been going since the early 80's (before agility went official or international). It started off only with large dogs, jumping insane heights (up to 85cm and spreads could be 70cm wide) and weave poles were set 45cm apart originally, but has evolved with agility. Basically there are two grades and three height categories.  The top grades have 14-15 obstacles, while the entry grades have 12 obstacles, they include hurdles,tire jumps OR 'hole-in-the-wall-jumps', the long jump, tunnels (both cloth and rigid), the table and weave poles.  There are a lot of minor differences which I will not bore you with.  But the major difference and what makes the sport exciting, is the fact that all the dogs that go clear in the first round, compete again, over a shortened course, in what we call a jump-off to determine the winner.  Not being able to compete on Sunday (our rules stipulate that any judge may NOT compete in any other discipline at the same show), I got to enjoy the excitement and video the whole deal... ofc I the obsessive compulsive side of me had to make a video about it... so here it is:

Please note that I had to include the kick-a$$ little JRT that was only competing at her second show!

Oh and the other big news is that me and Movie Maker could not settle our argument until I shortened my other AWC video, which means it is a bit out of sink with the music, but after hours and hours and hours and stuff being thrown and laptops being threatened I couldn't care, so here it is!

The Gorgeous Voltenstein

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