Monday, August 31, 2009

Fun with judges' discretion

I ran Lucy in a USDAA trial in Colfax, NC, on Friday and Saturday. It was hosted with a brand-new club (Carolina Piedmont Agility) at a brand-new site (well, the site's been there for a while--it's a horse arena, but it's new to agility) and it really couldn't have been nicer. I'll definitely be going back.

I only entered Lucy in 4 classes on Friday and three on Saturday because now that she's old, I need to lighten up. We did pretty well--a Snooker Super Q and a Pairs Q (netting us our PIII relay title) on Friday, and another Super Q and a Standard Q on Saturday. I so wish I had gotten Saturday's Standard run on video, because it was exactly the kind of run that keeps me doing agility. I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there, and Lucy corresponded. Alas, you'll just have to take my word that occasionally I'm a really good handler!

Our Saturday Snooker run was another story. (It was caught on video by a friend, but I don't have it to post. Not sure if I want to, either.) I had made a simple plan, but then executed it badly, and at one point, after completing the 2-part number six obstacle in the opening, Lucy then back-jumped 6b (or, I should say, my bad handling caused her to back jump). I assumed I was toast and started heading to the finish line, but I wasn't hearing a whistle ... why no whistle? Then Lucy, smart little dog who apparently has learned the "if you don't hear a whistle just keep going" rule, decided to jump a red, which happened to be the red I had planned to go to after the number six anyway. I heard the judge call "One!" Holy moley, I thought, I'm still alive here! So I just proceeded with the rest of my plan, pushing for speed because I'd wasted time thinking I was cooked. The rest of the course was gorgeous! We finished before the buzzer with 42 points (which, because no one else in the running got enough points to even qualify, gained us a Super Q). But why didn't we get whistled off after that number 6?

I asked a few people and no one seemed to really know, so I buttonholed my friend Derrell Stover, who's a judge in addition to being one of the most awesome handlers I've ever seen. He told me there are two schools of thought about how to judge what we did, and our Judge (Allison Bryant) apparently subscribes to the Cheri Wittenberg philosophy, which is: we had successfully completed that obstacle combo, and we then faulted it before attempting another red and therefore we were not pointed for it but could continue to accumulate points. However, he said that if it happened again under a judge who subscribed to the Tom Kula school of thought it could be considered an off-course and we could be whistled off. For some reason I find these issues of discretion fascinating ... it sort of adds to the excitement of Snooker, really. Or maybe that's just me being geeky.

At any rate, the lesson, which I should have already learned by now (and Lucy seems to know!) is if I don't hear a whistle just keep going, even if I know I screwed up. As it was, lucky little Lucy saved my butt, but I'm supposed to be the one thinking out there.

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