Sadly I had to abandon my appointment for Agility Nuts due to losing Kodi that day. If the decision had been made the evening before part of me would have felt it was better to get on with it. However at Tunbridge his son Rocky did a beautiful clear in my class. I didn't see it clearly though as my eyes were full of tears. Luckily nobody noticed and I disappeared for a quick 'comfort' break straight after.
So my first official judging appointment was at Tunbridge Wells for the Novice Olympia Qualifier. Note to new judges best not offer to be a reserve until you have judged a few classes as you never know what you might get and you may only be asked a couple of days before.
Luckily for me I had a free diary and my own equipment so was able to spend a few hours designing and setting up my course and a husband who was happy to run his and mine dogs round it for me to practice judging it.
My approach is to write a brief of what I want from the course. For a novice olympia qualifier I looked at giving straight lines (1-3, 4-6 and 7-9). I wanted a dog that enjoyed flowing and could also turn nicely. It was important to me to give choices so handlers could turn the dog how they saw fit and no matter what handling style.
Good running contacts are lovely to see so I had a straight on after the contacts for young dogs as an encouragement. There is plenty of time later to work on turns.
Here is the resulting course
Strangely many dogs refused 3 regardless of their contact method.
Another place for unexpected faults was the jump after the seesaw. Physically the dog had to manage its contact and then take off for the jump and then drop for the tunnel. The spacings were ample. It appeared to be either handlers rushing off giving the tunnel command off the seesaw that caused the dog to be wrong footed on the jump or sadly some dogs not being quite fit enough to take on the challenge or not enough understanding of the release command on the seesaw and panicking.
I loved watching 10 - 14 as there were many options of how to handle it. There were a lot of very good runs and I can not remember which way the winner did this.
It was surprising how many dogs/handlers went wide or struggled with 16 -19.
Well done to the winner Emma Nicolson with Tailswood Twice as Nice who completed the course in 30.317. The course length was approx 112 but I forgot to write in on my paperwork and it is not on the results sheet.
As the class was split the top 3 qualify so well done to Julie Dowle and Dreamorox Dare to Dream and Aileen Watson with Micky The Rocketeer.
I was more confident than I thought I would be and really enjoyed it. I was however exhausted.
The ring party were great and helped set up my next course. It did need a bit of tweaking but people waiting to walk and lunch calling meant I didn't rewalk it.
This was a mistake.
The course was by no means awful but it was not as nice as I wanted it to be for Grade 1-2. With my mind caught up with understanding the poor make up of the course I found it hard to concentrate once an error was made. My other mistake was to be lenient with refusals and not calling a refusal unless the dog actually went past the obstacle. The final learning point was I had no system for recording how many refusals there had been and sometimes I continued to mark after the dog was eliminated.
Here is how the course might have looked
Well done to the winners -
Grade 1 Lauren Ellis with Homelyne Blue Jazz in a time of 37.062
Grade 2 Gillian Bignall Milyon Quest of Valgray in a time of 33.292
Thanks to my scribe Sharon Marsh and my ring party led by Simon Chandler.
Now to learn from my mistakes.
After chatting to a few judges Kay Faiers told me of her system to keep a track of faults, eliminations and even clears. It is simple and I practiced using it a Thames my next appointment. The system is arms folded in front of my body to indicate to my scribe that I am ready. If a fault is incurred then my arms will become uncrossed as I signal the fault. If my arms are still across my body at the end of the run I can clap as it is a clear round :)
If the fault is a refusal I bend a finger, three fingers bend - elimination. I did nearly become unstuck with this with raising my hand to show a fault with some bent fingers could have appeared rude. I didn't make that mistake again.
Once I eliminated I crossed my hands behind my back to stop me indicating any further faults and no clap at the end.
Just faults would mean my hands were just at my side.
It was great so thank you Kaye I will continue to use that confident that it keeps me more focussed and aware of what is the marking status of the dog in the ring. It was lovely to clap confidently that the dog had gone clear too.
As I was only judging one class at Thames and it was Graded 6/7 I have not had a chance to address the course change issue but I do know to be aware of it.
I had a good time to set up and practice the course in parts with some of my students and on my monthly visit to North Derbyshire as I knew none of them were travelling down to Newbury. And Mark of course.
I originally had the cloth tunnel in but replaced it with the long jump. I do not like the cloth tunnel but also believe that the less my dog comes across it the less likely he is to understand it so it should appear in other courses than champ. I want to believe there is a good place in a course for them. However with the latest KC liaison meeting including a change to the design and the fact the weather can be very wet at Thames on the Sunday (Saturday night is not known to be a dry one either but that is another matter) I decided not to use it.
My brief for myself was to produce a fast flowing course with choices that could be handled close or at a distance displaying a good understanding of the dogs lines and a good relationship.
I certainly saw some flowing runs where dog and handler knew where they were going at every turn.
One thing that surprised me was that 19 to 20 was a bounce stride if a good turn was achieved on 18. Several dogs that had been eliminated elsewhere on the course demonstrated that it was a bounce and Steve Richardson's dog (or rather the lovely Vicky's dog run by Steve). It may be that for the grade 7's there was no need to win so they inadvertently slowed at the end or maybe with other things to work on bounce striding is not. Generally a bounce stride can save 1/3 of a second. Steve won the grade 6.
Thank you all that commented on my courses and I am made up that someone has said they want to set up and time some of it to see the quicker way.
I am judging again at DV in August and am looking forward to it.
Thanks very much again to my scribe Sharon Marsh, my ring manager Jane Price and the ring party some of which were from my old club UpAndOver.
I have been asked to judge again by both Tunbridge Wells and Thames which is a major confidence giver. They were great to judge for and know how to look after their judges but Mark is going to do them next year so that means I am available for a couple of other shows ;)