Friday, October 17, 2014

Judging AHBA Recently...

I had a really great time judging an AHBA trial a couple of weekends ago. There were two courses offered, the HTD and the HRD.

HTD is a small "border collie" course, i.e. it is like a pro-novice course except that the level III handlers must also perform a ribbon pull (instead of a shed, although a shed can be used in this class) after the pen. Some black-headed Dorper sheep were used for this class and they were a challenge to keep within the boundaries of the course area. If handled correctly, however, they were very workable. It took proper dog work to make it happen and no mishaps.  In the level III class, however, on this course, I felt a bit like the Grim Reaper. There were very few to no qualifiers...ugh. The ribbon pull and the pen were the downfall of the level III folks: flanks and stops... oh my.

HRD is the ranch course with a series of exercises that resemble real-life "chores".  Some more broke sheep were used for this course, and the success level and the scores were higher. But it was not easy and those who did it well and scored higher, had to work at it.

The Vacaville facility is a joy to work in because it is impeccably maintained and the number of volunteers normally exceeds the number of jobs available to be done. What a concept! The people who train there have a club atmosphere and they cheer for each other as if on a team. It is so nice to see. They had a cake for one of their folks who had won an award at the national level, from their breed club (it is a breed not really known for working livestock). Everyone cheered for this gentleman's achievement.

I do enjoy judging, in small doses. One day, smaller trials, are the best for me. It requires a lot of focus and stamina and sometimes it is hard to maintain both at a consistent level, all day. I want to do a good job and I try really hard. It pains me when I have to call someone off the course or take major points off because of neglectful handler choices.

Normally it is not the dogs in these situations, who lose the points; it is the handlers. Several people had really nice dogs, and they reminded me of myself about a dozen years ago when I was in their same boots.  I talked to some of these folks after the trial, and told them that they had really nice dogs. Everyone is on their own journey.  This activity has such a huge learning curve. The more I learn, the more I feel that I am really still at the bottom of the mountain, just starting up the trail.

One really practical thing that the more novice people needed to work on, was in keeping an eye on their dogs and the other eye on their sheep. They tended to go for one or the other but couldn't handle keeping both in their perspective at the same time, which led to their downfall at places on the HRD course where they needed to open or close a gate, or perform a gate sort, etc.  Their dogs were (understandably) just trying to cover.

Overall though I had a really nice day and enjoyed the company of the several volunteers who clerked and timed for me. They were an enthusiastic bunch who wanted to help out, and to learn. I'm sure everyone is very appreciative of such a nice facility where folks can go to AHBA trials and further their learning experience.

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