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by Lori Herbel


Wouldn’t it be nice if you went to a trial and knew what the judge was looking for? Many times exhibitors go to a trial and have no clue what’s important to that judge, that day. Of course they all judge by the rules and regulations in the orange book, but some have different opinions on how certain things should be done. Most handlers would love the opportunity to pick their judges brain before they trial so they know just where to add that little bit of extra effort. Maybe if a handler knew ahead of time that Mr. Bean absolutely loves it when a dog executes a perfect outrun, they could work on that before the trial. When the trial day comes and they nail that beautiful outrun, Mr. Bean is in a great mood to judge the rest of their run. Or how many times has a handler skipped working on their outrun to perfect that short drive in Intermediate, and when they get to the trial that day, their dog crosses-over. Well, isn’t a shame to say that under Mrs. Goatcheese, a cross-over is an automatic NQ. Now, it isn’t a guarantee that if a handler knows what a judge prefers that they’ll win High in Trial or ever get a better score. But it sure boosts their confidence to know exactly what they’re up against.

Thankfully, three judges from the herding world have agreed to answer a few questions and clue us all in what they like to see, how we can keep the program going, and just some basic trivia.

The three judges who donated their time and answered these questions are Jerry Rowe from Osborne, Kansas; Alan Koebke from Van Alstyne, Texas; and Steve Waltenburg from Phelan, California.

1. Where are some of your favorite places to judge?
Mr. Rowe: Most [places] are fun.
Mr. Koebke: Wichita, Kansas.
Mr. Waltenburg: I have enjoyed judging at locations out of my local area, as it’s given me the chance to meet new people and dogs, for example, XP Ranch in Putnam, Oklahoma, and Circle Ranch in Gardnerville, Nevada.

2. When did you start judging?
Mr. Rowe: 1963
Mr. Koebke: 2000
Mr. Waltenburg: AHBA-1999, AKC-2002, and USBCHA-2002

3. What are some common mistakes you see exhibitors make while working the course?
Mr. Rowe: Not watching the stock and boring holes in their dogs.
Mr. Koebke: Not understanding the rules.
Mr. Waltenburg: Not knowing how to go to the post properly with their dogs. Not stopping to help their dog when possible.

4. Would you agree that the herding community has made tremendous leaps and bounds since the beginning of the AKC program? Why or why not?
Mr. Rowe: Yes and no. We as trainers have started demanding Border Collie-like work on all breeds.
Mr. Koebke: Yes, the dogs and handlers are getting better so the new people getting in [the program] have to get better.
Mr. Waltenburg: Yes, as the competition became tougher, the training became more in depth. That said, I have seen a recent trend in what appears to be a lack of fundamentals being taught.

5. What are the most important factors you like to see when judging?
Mr. Rowe: Dogs showing natural instinct.
Mr. Koebke: A nice fluid, steady movement of the stock.
Mr. Waltenburg: I like to see a dog that can control its stock, yet be handled.

6. Do you have to switch to a different frame of mind when going from judging one course to another? How do you go about doing that?
Mr. Rowe: No, a fault is still a fault.
Mr. Koebke: Not really, the picture should still be the same.
Mr. Waltenburg: No, not from course to course, but from stock to stock, yes.

7. When would you rather an exhibitor ask you questions about their run? After their class or after the trial day is over?
Mr. Rowe: After the day is over.
Mr. Koebke: After the class, I’m getting old and [it’s] hard to remember.
Mr. Waltenburg: After their class.

8. What do you think the herding community can do to bring in new people and get younger people interested?
Mr. Rowe: Make the beginning trialing more fun, club hospitality to new and old trainers.
Mr. Koebke: We need to get into the 4-H and the FFA [programs] of schools.
Mr. Waltenburg: To bring in more people in general, have more clubs/groups and offer instinct tests. To bring in more young people, offer a juniors program.

9. Would you be willing to help with getting new people interested? Such as answering questions and educating about the sport?
Mr. Rowe: Yes
Mr. Koebke: Absolutely, without new people, the sport will die or become stagnant.
Mr. Waltenburg: Yes. My wife and I have long extended an open invitation to dog owners in our breed and others to visit, watch, and/or instinct test their dogs.

10. What is your number one piece of advice for exhibitors who trial under you?
Mr. Rowe: Relax, have fun, and be friends with your dog.
Mr. Koebke: Show a nice, easy flow.
Mr. Waltenburg: Don’t stop your run to ask me questions. Chances are your run will go as smoothly or more so, if you simply continue on.

I wish everyone good luck in their future herding endeavors and hope that this short round of questions has helped a few of you understand your judge and understand what he/she is looking for when you step into that arena.