Farmcliff Jack Russell Terriers










 

 


JUDGING JACK RUSSELL RACING

 

By Bob Franklin

Jack Russell Racing is a popular event at JRT trials and is a big money maker for trial organizers.  However, racing is sometimes not all that well organized, is late getting started, frequently runs past noon time and all too often is not well judged resulting in mistakes in dog placements.  When any of these problems occur, they take much of the pleasure and excitement out of racing for the participants and can even cause loud words and complaints from dog handlers/owners and on occasion near fights have occurred.

Over the years, I have written numerous articles for “True Grit” about various aspects of JRT racing sharing suggestions and innovations by many racing enthusiasts around the country.  These articles have helped promote improvements in race-track construction and quality of equipment especially in regards to providing a safe environment on the race track for our dogs.  Such things as foam jumps (instead of hard wooden or pvc pipe jumps) and a foam, finish barrier (instead of a hay bale finish barrier) have reduced racing injuries to a bare minimum.  

 However, one aspect of successful racing that has not been well addressed are the skills and techniques of accurately and fairly judging JRT racing.  Judging racing is not something that can be done successfully by everyone although with guidance, there are many folks who can do an excellent job of judging racing.

 A major obstacle for getting the best racing judges is General Rule #9  which is printed in all Trial Flyers and states as follows:  “Terriers owned by judges may not be entered in any division in which they are judging but may enter the competition in any other division.”.  Since the most interested and qualified folks to be racing judges come to trials because they are racing their dogs and they do not want to give up the ability to race their dogs because they are judging racing.  Soooo, someone must give up racing his/her dogs or else racing judges must be found among the other trial attendee population who do not race dogs which may mean they really do not know a whole lot about racing or they do not have experience or serious interest to be able to judge racing effectively. 

 Once a judging candidate is found, he/she must have certain abilities to do a good judging job.  First, the person judging must have excellent eyesight and MUST NOT BE COLOR BLIND.  Since we use colored, clown collars to identify dogs, the judge must be able to quickly see and identify the colors on each dog’s collar as they come through the finish barrier and remember the order of their emergence long enough to record the results on their judge’s sheet.  It is important that the judge do their own recording.  Involving a second person to do the recording, introduces another possibility for error because of the transfer of information from one person to another.

 Secondly, the judge must have a strong enough personality to withstand and deal with complaints and sometimes taunts from dog handlers who may disagree with the judge’s decisions.  Of course, the judge’s decision is final, BUT a judge must also be flexible enough to listen to complaints and weigh their worth before just rejecting totally.  No one is perfect and a good judge must be able to recognize if he/she has made a legitimate mistake.

Thirdly, a judge must be an organizer and leader in that he/she must organize the catching crew in the best possible way to help minimize errors.  Six catchers are needed and these catchers should adults or near adults (usually at least 15 years of age) and they should be reasonably athletic to be able to catch and handle an excited JRT. 

  The most effective way to organize catchers is to assign a race placement to each of the catchers.  The two best and most experienced catchers are assigned 1st and 2nd places and they stand at the far back of the catch area.  The next two best catchers are assigned 3rd and 4th places and they stand a yard or so in front of the back catchers while the 5th and 6th place, least experienced or physically capable, catchers are nearer the front of the catch area.  The judge stands just behind the finish barrier and looks straight down at the finish to see the dogs as they emerge through the finish opening.  The judge, from the perspective of looking straight down at the back of the finish barrier, does his/her best to see the placement order  If it is a heat or semi-final, of course only three placements are needed, BUT for a class final, all six dogs must be placed in order of their finish.

 It is almost impossible to catch a fast moving dog coming through the finish area so each catcher must sort his color out of the pile of dogs trying to get at the lure.  Each catcher picks up the dog he has chosen and takes the colored collar off of that dog, but DOES NOT REMOVE THE DOG’S MUZZLE.  Usually it is wise for the catcher to continue holding the dog until the catchers and the judge agree on order of finish.  But, for especially difficult dogs to hold and if the catcher has the colored collar off the dog, the dog can be handed to the dog’s owner/handler.  When the catcher is holding the dog, the catcher should try not to “scruff” the dog by the skin on its neck because some dogs do not like that treatment and owners get irritated when they see “scruffing” being done.  Best method for holding a dog is to place hands around the dogs chest just behind the front legs with the dog facing away from the catcher and try to keep its hind feet off the ground.  Sometimes it is necessary for the catcher to actually kneel on the ground or bend over with the dog clamped between the catcher’s knees to help control the dog’s struggles.  Obviously some dogs are more difficult to hold than others but this is why catchers must be adults or near adults since young children are often not strong enough to hold a struggling dog.

 The judge records the order of finish as he saw it first of all (a later paragraph will discuss the judge’s finish recording sheet and how this recording is done).  Then the judge asks the 1st place catcher what color he has and when the response is heard, the judge checks the color he/she has recorded.  If they agree, the judge goes on to the 2nd place and so on until all the necessary placements have been recorded AND AGREED TO BETWEEN THE  JUDGE AND THE APPROPRIATE CATCHERS.  If there is a disagreement, right then and there is the time to sort it out between the judge and the catchers until agreement is reached.  The color blind situation may be a factor with catchers too and a good judge must quickly recognize if this as a problem and make necessary changes of the catcher order by assigning any color-blind or physically less capable people to 6th place.

Each colored collar should have an abbreviation of just one letter to represent that color.  For example, a good set of colors would be red, light pink, royal blue, light green, yellow and black.  These  would be abbreviated by R, P, B, G, Y and O (for black).  These placement abbreviations are recorded by the racing judge on a specially made chart that resembles a blank pedigree chart in reverse with little squares for each location on the chart.  The left hand column of squares represent heats (there can be as many as eight of these heats or total of 48 entries in that class which will handle any JRT racing with possible exception of  JRTCA Nationals which occasionally will have more than 48 dogs in a given class).  The left center column with four squares is for quarter finals (if quarter finals are required), the right center two squares are for semi-finals and the single square on the right is for the finals.  (See Exhibit I for example of such a racing results chart).  Before each race the results board person communicates to the racing judge what race is coming next, how many dogs are running and how many places need to be selected.  Almost always, each heat, quarter final or semi-final race brings back three dogs for the next level and of course the final is 6 dogs if there are six dogs in that final.  

 As soon as the judge has determined the order of placement in each race, he/she records the placement left to right in order (ie, P G O meaning pink won, green was 2nd and black was 3rd).  After each race the judge uses his hand held “walkie talkie” and contacts the person operating the results board.  The judge simply states, “P G O and signs off.   The racing results person records these results by writing numbers 1 2 and 3 for example in the column on the heat sheets provided for class placement (See Exhibit II for sample of a racing heat sheet).  As soon as the results have been recorded, the results board person uses his/her “walkie talkie” and states the same three letters back to the racing judge.  If the judge agrees, he/she speaks back saying “okay” or if there is a mistake in this exchange,  the correction is made right then and there.  The results board person then tells the judge what the next race will be, how many dogs are running and how many places are needed.  Each race is a repeat of the same procedure.

 The racing results board person actually has the most difficult job of all.  He/she has complete responsibility for the racing results recording.  Prior to racing beginning, this person is responsible for making corrections that always seem to occur with dogs in the wrong classes, dogs scratched, dogs left out, etc.  As each race is completed and the judge has been told about the next race, the racing board person then records the dogs that qualified (1st through 3rd) in the next quarter final races, semi final or final races.  This is done while the next race is being run so the board person is then ready to receive the results of the next race from the racing judge. 

 Movement of dogs from heats into the next level is very important.  ALWAYS separate the placements so the same dogs so they run against different dogs whenever possible.  In addition, make certain that all the first place dogs are separated so not all firsts are in the same quarter or semi-final and all 2nds are separated, etc.  This is a difficult concept to explain and understand, but the example of a heat sheet in Exhibit II has been done correctly and careful examination should help understanding of this process.  When the results board is kept in this manner any dog handler can peer over the shoulder of the results board person and determine easily when the next race will be for his/her dog.

There should also be a person equipped with a loud speaker of some sort who is calling the dog’s names for each race.  The best situation is a PA system with a wireless microphone so the person calling the dogs can peer over the shoulder of the results board person and read off the participants for the next race.  A hand held megaphone will also work, but the person calling the dogs must be careful not to aim the megaphone at someone standing nearby.  Also the megaphone cannot be heard from as far away as will be a PA system.  This person should be one race ahead of actual racing so as to keep the sequence of races going efficiently.  Using this system, a race should be run every 2 to 3 minutes with the primary slow-down usually being the kids who return the lure from the finish line back to the start box.  A plastic jar for collecting tips for the kids running the lure works wonders for keeping the kid’s enthusiasm up throughout the entire morning.

When a class is finished and the final results have been recorded, the racing board person then records the 1st place dog from each class onto the Run-off  Sheet.  An example of this sheet is shown as Exhibit III.   Only 1st place dogs qualify for the Championship runoffs and the combinations of classes in each of these runoffs are listed in the Trial Flyers.  Any handler whose dog wins a final, should make himself and his dog available for the appropriate run-offs.  Puppy runoffs are always run before the hurdles are changed from puppy size to adult size.  Then the adult, veteran and senior run-offs are immediately after all the regular racing classes are completed.  There are never more than 4 dogs in any given run-off but there could only be two if the same dogs win their respective classes.   For runoffs, the results board person should instruct the person opening the starting box to separate the dogs in the runoffs so they aren’t all bunched into the middle of the box so as to minimize “bumping” in the run-offs.

 

 

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