Oh dear

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In my earlier post this week i made a concious decision to be positive and stay away from any controversy from the weekend. Typically i  have changed my mind  - nobody gets to take a jibe at my husband in a public part of an agility website without me answering back - issues can always be resolved civilly and in an adult way, but going so public is just not on if you don't want an answer.
At the weekend D came in for alot of criticism over his courses - especially Grade 1 &2 - people complained they were too hard and were very voracious about their complaints. I accept that they were not your usual Grade 1&2 course, requiring some handling. However all the handling skills were basic turns, infact most of the course could have been done on one side if necessary. Dairin got his 10% clear in EVERY class he judged. Everyone who knows D, knows they will not get the 'norm', yet he continues to get judging requests and lots of them state they are asking him because he sets challenging courses.
We also had alot of people thank us for the courses but of course this is never heard or remembered by the masses who want the 'dirt'. So what do i feel the need to get of my chest...........
On the Sunday, one judge had a class won by a dog that had faults as none went clear - any complaints about the course? No. The same judge had another class that had no dogs go clear in the time, so was won with faults - any complaints this time? No. Why no complaints? Could it be that this judge has been on the circuit for years and everyone respects him too much to say something? Possibley (i also respect him, and love his courses - i don't think there was anything wrong the courses!). So should Dairin not be afforded the same respect?
Also on the Sunday another respected judge set a course that was such a blast that the amount of clear rounds was nearer to 60%! Any complaints? Yes by some people who were dismissed and ignored - why? because they were saying the course was too easy! No handling skill was needed - fastest (collie)wins.
Dairins first G1& 2 course was tricky - it wasn't a blast - it needed handling - those people who have steadier / consistent dogs loved it, they actually stood a chance! His second course for the same level was a blast and favoured the manic dogs - so he covered all types of dog in those grades - something to suit all.
One of the complaints was that how did a tricky course motivate grade 1 handlers? Some grade 1 handlers go to shows, see the usual blast of course and their hearts sink - they will never get their steadier dog round fast enough to get a place - another clear round - that is not motivational to them, why are we only considering the fast dogs? It is no different as you go up the grades - different courses suit different dogs - Dairin prefers tricky courses with Boo, I love a blast with Raq! Do we complain? No - we take the challenge that is given to us and attack it.
2 questions i would like to pose.
If handlers are so adamant that specific types of courses should be set for certain grades, then why are we not pressurising the KC to lay down guidelines as to what manouevres are allowed at each grade?
Secondly - if you walk a course and you can't do the simplest turns....why are you not questioning the standard of training you are receiving?! Should you be competing?.
If i have a dog that is retraining its contacts, i tell the handler not to do any agility runs at a show until its ready. So if your dog is not ready to be asked to turn - if you are concentrating on working ahead - then you shouldn't be in the ring.
I apologise if any of the judges mentioned feel i am attacking them - i am not - i enjoy your courses - i just used them as examples of course variation and the different levels of respect afforded to judges
Finally - Thank you to Cath Cable and Cornwall who supported Dairin on Saturday. Also to those of you who came up to him and said you'd enjoyed it. Cath you were a very kind show Secretary who looked after all your ring party's and managers - and even your judges wives and babies!
I hope i am like you in May.....

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  1. Sally Jones

    I just have the tiniest suspicion that I may be the Sunday judge mentioned in Toni's piece. If so, thanks for saying I'm 'respected' ;-) I have been judging in this sport for many years and my courses vary a great deal. I take all kinds of things into account when I design a course, not just the level of the competitors. At Cornwall I knew it was a second day at the same venue and if the ground was cut up tight turns would not have been safe or popular. I also knew from what folk had told me that a lot of people were doing it as their first ever show, hence the decision to use double poles. The no weaves decision was easy - there weren't any at the ring side (although of course the lovely Cornwall people offered to fetch some for me). The majority of my agility dogs over the years have been non collies and rescues at that. I have always loved the tricky courses and hated the blaster ones as some damn collie always beat me. It took 5.5 years before a very respected judge set up a [email protected][email protected] course that only four dogs got round - two of them were mine and I finally won out of Starters! On occasions I also set challenging courses for the lower grades that need a high level of handling. My courses always benefit from having a lead out - if your dog doesn't wait you are usually stuffed! I try my very hardest not to criticise other judges' courses as I appreciate the time and effort that goes in to the job (although occasionally a grumble passes my lips). I also always thank the judge on leaving the ring. Some of my pupils groan when they see yet another W or M shaped G1-2 course. BORING! If I ever set up one of those, take me out and shoot me! However, I never want to see dogs physically struggling on a course. My mantra has always been that I am happy to mess with handlers' heads but not with dogs' bodies. Keep up all the good work you judges, even the controversial ones. Just don't set courses for my dogs that you can't do unless you can outrun your dog - I can't! Sally xxxx

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  2. Mark Johnson

    After reading and talking to both Toni and D i feel that a responce from a competeter is needed. As many of you know im a relative newcomer to shows and the compeating side of agility, that said i have a fair experience of life and the hardwork and acheivement that D has put into agility. I have always found D to be extreamly fair in his judging and the courses that he sets out. of course his courses are different and sometime difficult, if they were all the same the sport would be boring. the only way to improve and get better in a sport is to test yourself and your ability, in our case our dog as well. i compleatly support D course setting and his judging abilty, and how dare anybody say otherwise publicly. if anybody has a problem there is a proper and right way of going aaout it. as i said, i dont have much agilty experience, so this statment may not mean much. but i just want Dairin to know that we support him 100%, and dont change anything.

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  3. Gail Skinner

    Agility Kennel Club Rules and Regulations. Regulation 12)No competitor shall impune the decision of the Judge or Judges. Impunity :Freedom from unpleasant consequences - exemption from punishment,harm or recrimination Like everything else this RULE can be interpreted different ways. But as a competitor in agility since 1992 I personally have viewed this as "the complete package" ie: Everything from the setting of the course right through to the Judging of it. The comments made by Toni above are perfectly true. You cannot please everyone ALL the time. Having said that as a Judge its not a course that I would have set,(mainly as I couldn't take the flack if people kicked off)but I do respect Dairins right to set it and being unpleasant about it publically is not the way to go,not is it to "infer" in comments made, that Sundays classes were SO much more suitable. WHAT does that say about the spirit of the sport we love. I ran two great agility dogs for a number of years one(Tippy) who was a Raq and one(Tod) who was 20% slower but was the apple of my eye. My idea of a "perfect" course was a course that when they were drawn in the same class if I handled Tod right he could BEAT Tippy EVEN if she went clear..only just...but because he had ALL the technical ability in the world but just less flat out speed. Regardless of my gripes and groans ringside(and there have been MANY) over the years I have never "had it out" with a Judge...nor will I but in nearly every case when it was a challenging course I either 1)Surprised myself and got round it 2)Drew it ..took it back to train it and learnt by it or sometimes (and often) 3)Took home a trophy !!! I would hate to think that agility in 2010 would cause people to reconsider taking up Judging because if I wasn't already a Judge the attitude of the competitors these days might cause me to be unwilling. With a RISING number of dogs and potentially a FALLING number of people willing to stand in the ring with them....where would we be then.

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