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On reflection

Roy Wilce & GillRoy Wilce was judge of the Crufts Team qualifier and the Mini Agility class at Severnside on 29 August 1992. While waiting for Chris to finish judging in another ring, there was plenty of time to reflect on the day's events. Here are a few of his thoughts shared for the benefit of competitors, potential judges and show managers alike.

Terry RadleyThoughts on... whistle starts
Not my usual style to start after the judge's whistle, it feels formal and officious, but it did seem appropriate for electronic timing. However, I did find it was much more positive and quicker than a load of head nodding. It certainly helped to focus the attention of handlers and ring party alike. Unfortunately, some handlers discovered that their dogs start on the whistle and not on the handler's command and were left wondering where the dog had gone!

Thoughts on... electronic timing
I have mixed feelings on this one. It is difficult to place the beam stands so they are close enough to the finish that the dog cannot miss it, but far enough away that long jumping dogs do not jump the beam completely, also wide enough for the dog to comfortably run through, but narrow enough for the handler to miss them. In the team class at least a dozen dogs went through the beam without stopping the time display.

I found my back-up timer Helen Dorman was essential. Apart from timing, she was also able to chivy handlers and tote their leads like no electronic timer I know. Several handlers were disadvantaged when the dogs passed the outside of the line and had to be brought back to stop the clock. A few crossed the beam themselves and were faulted, I think I might use a white tape or whitewash the ground lien for the finish in future for both the handlers benefit and mine.

Most people saw the logic of not running through the finish before the dog but I feel the criticism that electronic timing creates another obstacle may be true in many cases.

Nevertheless, electronic timing is bound to be more accurate when it does work. The electronic display is great for audience participation. Another advantage was for my scribe, Mandy Cooke, who was able to record the dog's time without having to confer with the timer. I am sure this played a part in the fast judging rate for this class, but of course, it could not have been achieved without the assistance and co-operation of the competitors and ring party. Maybe there is some mileage in putting the timing beam op top of the last jump. Whilst I am sure it would solve a few problems, no doubt it will create more. Let's give it a try.

Ruby weavingThoughts on... equipment
When is a see-saw not a see-saw? When it won't see-saw. Have you noticed that when a see-saw does to return, it still looks correct? occasionally this one would stick in the mud. After hour hours I was getting really paranoid about this. When it was wrong, I did not notice. When it was right, it looked wrong!

The table is often criticised for being hard to count consistently and for slowing a class down. My compromise was to start the count form the moment the dog was on the table and not insist on a down. After all, a table features in nearly every final and top handlers and teams should be able to cope with it. At least in team events, any counting inconsistency is evened out, not compounded. The big disadvantage of a table is that it will show up a judge who has let his concentration wander. 'Huh, 3-1-Go' doe snot inspire confidence.

Weaves with dogs whizzing through candy striped poles with alternate striped poles will send you cross-eyed after five hours if you let them. Dogwalks are a pain to judge. A dog only to run it once, the judge must run it for most dogs and has to out-run them from a standing start. It is not impossible if positioned correctly but it is very tiring. Judges be warned, some of the fastest dog walkers are not collies!

Christine Brown judging at Watford ShowThoughts on... eliminations
Eliminated handlers will always get course time in my classes, especially if they are large. The classes not the handlers! It gives me a chance to put my brain in neutral for a few seconds. This can be as important as a coffee break if you have an efficient ring party which keep the dogs coming.

In the team event, there were about 30 eliminations.  Let's assume they were all eliminated on average at mid-point on the course. They would have stopped, loved or cussed the dog. Depending on their attitude, they would probably pass a few comments with the judge or their teammates and would walk back to the finish. The dogs, being unsupervised, will probably knock a jump over on the way. At best I would have saved 10 second per dog. That's five minutes on the day.  Big deal! As it was only one person who had been eliminated did not look likely to finish within course time. They were asked to leave, which they did with good grace. However, the time saved was immediately wasted when the timing display did not rest.

PiperThoughts on... Mini Handlers
They were confronted with the same course as the Crufts Team but with a pause box instead of a table. Mini handlers will tell you their dogs cannot jump a 12" wide parallel (the closest the wing legs would allow) are are quick to point out that the long jump at 2' 8" was 2" more that the regulation that came into force the previous month.

Thoughts on... Mini Dogs
They will tell you they can jump 15" hurdles with monotonous regularity and can clear the 3' 6" A-frame contact with no problem. I feel tha the dogs are capable of much more than the handlers will give them credit for. If it was not for the A-frame and weaves there would be nothing much left to judge.

Thoughts on... Why do I do it?
No, I have not given that much thought yet.


The Facts

Crufts Team
Teams entered:
72 No. ran: 65
Course distance:
approx. 170 yards
No. obstacles:
18 including a table
Course time:
55 seconds
Judge's circuit:
45 yards, total 6.5 miles
Actual judging rate:
52 dogs per hour

Winners: Ash Cryers
Team members:
K. Smith, S. Bennett, K. Warner, L. Keen
191.76 seconds

Mini Agility
Course time:
60 seconds
S. Manning
Arfer Collie
48 seconds



Reprinted with kind permission of Roy Wilce & John Gilbert from Agility Voice (October 1992.)


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