I just got home from the Road Trial and wanted to make sure I sent out my very heart felt thanks to the DCA Road Trial committee for allowing me to have the opportunity to judge this wonderful event. What fun to watch Dals doing what they were bred to do. To watch the novice dog drop into perfect hock position while the rider was just trying to stay on the horse brought tears to my eyes.
With the addition of a Champion Road Dog title now available, several Dal owners brought out their dogs to pursue those required legs. The level of performance was mind boggling. I started to wonder if I could give out perfect scores. Finding places to deduct even minor points was hard. There were several riders who gave a soft, single command and their dog (or dogs) never moved from perfect position while plowing though grass and mud. To see single commands given and watch the dogs immediately sit or down in the mud was amazing. Because of such deep water and mud and wet grass the speed exercise was a mess. Huge congrats to those exhibitors who got their mounts to canter and a few into a good hand gallop with the dogs running joyfully along side, with mud being flung up in all directions.
The trail conditions were challenging and the layout modified even the night before to avoid the swamps that kept appearing in the landscape. The final loops meant competitors often met each other and there could easily have been 3 or 4 teams any of the fields at the same time. From what I could observe, those wonderful Dals kept in near perfect position and under absolute control for the entire 12.5 miles. The courtesy shown by every exhibitor to their fellow riders was a sterling example of what good sportmanship is about. Yielding to the oncoming rider and making sure the dogs were under perfect control. What great examples of solid temperaments by all the dogs out there.
The veterinarian's final comments were that they were all in suburb condition, and it was virtually a dead heat as to who was in the best condition, even including our veteran exhibitor.
The two novice exhibitors were had previously passed their Coaching Certificates and decided that obtaining the Road Dog title might just be an achievable goal. One could see the natural affinity those dogs had to be with the horses and riders, and both riders worked through their nerves to let the dogs do what the dogs do best - be true coaching dogs..
The coaching certificate dog that passed did a very creditable job and maybe that rider will plan to continue on towards a Road Dog title.
Of course, this trial would not have been this successful without the wonderful work by Cindy Ingalls Gootee, Lynn Luikart and the best steward anyone could ask for, Dave Galloway. Dave ran the entrance gate to keep things running on time, ran hundreds of errands I would send him on and smiled the whole time. His horse knowledge and experience paid off when he stepped in to hold horses for some the inexperienced and nervous riders during the stay exercises. I'm sure those exhibitors were sure happy to be able to watch their dogs without the added worry of trying to control horses that would rather have been at the stable with their buddies.
And a special thanks to Peggy Strupp. I cannot express how glad I was to have her there. A person can read the rules hundreds of times and still have questions on certain points. And then this sport has such changing variables that not every situation could possible be covered. I would have been lost without her guidance. The rules have evolved from where they were in the early 1990's and the future is in her very capable hands.
Then, again, a huge thanks to Camp Kern and their staff, most particularly the head wrangler Natalie. Her expertise in matching horses and riders was amazing. When necessary she swapped horses without hesitation or complaint. I think she got about 3 hours sleep Wednesday night. She was at the barn when we left at 9 pm and there when the first exhibitor showed up at 6 am. And I saw her in the saddle and on the course during the entire trial. She responded quicly to every request, from chasing off the raccoon to getingt the judge a horse with the patience to stand still for hours and watch the other horses come and go. I would most highly recommend this stable for any future Road Trials.
Now, to try to do a write up for the Spotter. Wish I could have stayed for the rest of the National. Best of luck to all the exhibitors.