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Be a scrimer...

Having spent most of his Dog Agility life first scribing, then scriming, scoring and enjoying bacon butties, Alan Waddington feels he is well placed to make a plea on behalf of the lonely long distance scrimer. For many of you out there in Agility-land, what happens to the scrimer is not high on the list of your dog agility priorities. Compared to learning new handling techniques and the highs and lows of success and failure, what happens to the person sitting in front of the timer, watching the judge, is unlikely to pop up on your radar. Alan Waddington would like you to spare a thought for the person who has selflessly given up their time to record your round.

The last couple of years has seen increasing reliance on communications technology in the administration of shows. For the scrimer, out have gone pencils, pencil sharpeners and wet bits of paper to write on. In many cases, there is no longer a scorer. Faults and times are recorded on a tablet and computer science does the rest. There are no people bringing tickets. The score tent, which was once the social hub of the agility ring, is now little more than a store cupboard. The scrimer, sitting out at the front, a good two metres from anyone else, seems like someone with a severe case of BO, who has been sent to Coventry by everyone else at the show.

I am not a Luddite
I understand the importance of the efficient running of an agility ring and the need to minimise the number of people required to keep things going. I also understand the importance of technology in enabling these advances. As a member of the accountancy profession, which was the last keeper of the quill pen, the use of tablets removes some of the emotional connections with the past.

On a positive note - and most importantly for the scrimer - the changes mean that there are fewer people around. There is less distraction which improves concentration and, hopefully, accuracy of recording the judge's decisions.

Even in the new role of social outcast, there are still highlights, like the dog that comes to tell you how well it has done. One black Mniature Poodle I know seems to like all scrimers and always comes to tell us how well he has done. At first, I thought it I was just the favoured one. It turns out that he thinks we are just treat machines. Either way, it is always good to see him.

There are also the handlers who want to engage you in conversation before the start of the round, usually about the subject of 'I donít think we will ever be ready.' There are also those, who at the end of the round and between gasping for breath, offer their thanks. It is appreciated, although I suspect it would be better for them to get some oxygen into their lungs.

One other advantage of having fewer people around seems to be that the important bond between judge and scrimer has become stronger. It is important that the judge can trust the scrimer to record decisions accurately and for the scrimer to understand clearly the idiosyncrasies of the judge's marking style.

Thanks for letting me have my say - and to the band of dedicated people who give up a day (or more) at a show to go into social isolation as a scrimer, let us just say a big thank you.

One final plea, please don't sneak into the ring tent and pinch all their sweets and biscuits. I know the sweets will be unwrapped and well-handled and the biscuits will only be bourbons and custard creams, but these small pleasures are important to us.

About the author...
Alan Waddington and his wife spend 
part of the year in Spain and the rest in the UK. This year they came back to the UK two weeks in time for the outdoor season! 

He qualified as a judge a few years back and was busy on the Northern Circuit until health issues meant he could not do a full day. He has been known to judge in Spain, however, where there is only a quarter of the dogs we would judge in the UK.

In the UK he does 'sitting down' jobs, usually scriming.

Photos kindly supplied by Agility Plaza

First published 10th April 2020


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