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Meet the Judges! (Part 1)

Learn about the judges at the upcoming 2012 Cynosport World Games. By Deborah Davidson-Harpur


Name: Mark Wirant
Hometown: Westmoreland, New Hampshire
Years active in agility: 22
Occupation: Dentist

 
Deborah Davidson Harpur: What breeds of dogs do you currently have and do they compete in agility?

Mark Wirant: Currently we have six dogs in the house; three of them are "mine." Killick is a Jack Russell Terrier and he is retired. Scooter is a Border Collie mix and we are currently languishing in Advanced. My newest dog is Bob. He is a Border Collie and is just 5 months old.

How did you get involved in the sport of agility?

My veterinarian recommended that I check agility out as an additional activity with my dog. The local club, CATS, was training in the warehouse space next door and when I saw what the dogs were  able to do, I was hooked immediately.
 
Have you ever participated in the Cynosport games as a competitor?

I competed back before the event was officially called Cynosport in '97 and '98. In '97 made the finals and placed 7th with my Labrador Retriever Winston in the 30" division.

Do you find that your experience at the event gives you any special insight into judging the event?

From experience, I know how much stress we put on ourselves to do well at this event.

Have you judged for the Cynosport Games in the past?

I judged in 1999, 2000 and 2007.

What classes are you judging at this year's Games?

Not sure; I designed a Steeplechase and two Grand Prix courses.

Are you doing anything in particular to prepare for judging this year's Games?

I added a few additional judging assignments to make sure I was in good form.

Do you find that designing courses for Cynosport is different than designing courses for a trial for a local or regional event?

Yes, I want my courses to be some of my best designs so I work on them for quite a while. I won't try something different to see how it runs. Also, since the courses are often used in multiple rings,  someone else could be judging the courses as well as myself and I want to make sure that there are few compromises for judging positions and want to have short and easy judging paths. I might be  willing to move to see a certain challange on a course but another judge may not be as mobile.

How would you describe your style of course design?

I try to keep things free flowing and keep the dog moving at speed so timing is critical.

If you could invent a new game to be played at Cynosport, what would it be and how would it be played?

We have had canine barrel racing at our trials as a fund raiser once or twice and it became very competitive. We used the equine barrel racing rules, which are suprisingly simple. People made multiple donations in order to keep attempting to better their time. The "barrels" were cut down cardboard sonotubes used for concrete footings.

What advice can you share with competitors who hope to come through with a clean run on one of your courses?

I could never offer any advice for any of my courses. Agility courses to me are puzzles that have to be solved using your knowledge of your dog, your handling style, and training skills. A good course presents challenges with many different options for handling and figuring out the best way is up to each handler.
 
Photo courtesy of Sharon Wirant.

Name: Martin Gadsby, but most people call me Marty
Hometown: Windsor, Ontario, directly south of Detroit, Michigan
Years active in agility: 18 years
Occupation: Agriculture Research, Canadian Clonal Genebank

Deborah: What breeds of dogs do you currently have and do they compete in agility?

Martin Gadsby: One Malinois, two Shelties and one Jack Russell Terrier, and all compete in agility

How did you get involved in the sport of agility?

Heard about it, took a class, and was hooked.

Have you ever participated in the Cynosport games as a competitor?

No.

Have you judged for the Cynosport Games in the past?

Yes, 2007-2009 in Scottsdale.

Are you doing anything in particular to prepare for judging this year's Games?

Not really.

Do you find that designing courses for Cynosport is different than designing courses for a trial for a local or regional event?

Not really.

How would you describe your style of course design?

I don't know if I have a particular "style" of design but I love to see speed and watch how competitors handle it.

If you could invent a new game to be played at Cynosport, what would it be and how would it be played?

I think the games are perfect the way they are, unless we could add some kind of drinking game. [Smiles.]

What advice can you share with competitors who hope to come through with a clean run on one of your courses?

Relax, have fun, and run like nobody is watching.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Brownschidle.

Name: Frank Holik
Hometown: Glendale Heights, Illinois
Years active in agility: It's been about 20 years now since I first got involved in agility.
Occupation: Construction Superintendent.

Deborah Davidson Harpur: What breeds of dogs do you currently have and do they compete in agility?

Frank Holik: I have an eight-year-old Swedish Vallhund that is retired and a two-year-old rescue German Shepherd mix that people are pushing me to start training in agility. One day soon, I hope.

Have you judged for the Cynosport Games in the past?

I had judged the event three years in a row, with the first being what many have called the "Mud Fest" in Dallas which I think was 2005. I then judged the first two years Cynosport was held in Scottsdale. I have been to many of the "Nationals" prior to 2005, but Scottsdale will always be my favorite.

Are you doing anything in particular to prepare for judging this year's Games?

A lot of sit ups and jumping jacks. Actually, it's as much a mental thing as it will be physical. Some would say I have the mental thing covered! There will be a lot of dogs, which makes for a very long day on your feet but a judge still has to keep their concentration, whether it be judging the contacts consistently or calling out numbers all day in one of the games classes.  So I'm not really sure there is much needed in the way of preparation. We all know the rules and we will go out there and do our job the best we can. We just hope we can survive!

Do you find that designing courses for Cynosport is different than designing courses for a trial for a local or regional event?

Most definitely. There are many factors that go into designing a course for a Cynosport event.  You want to be sure that the courses are as new and challenging as possible, yet still making them fair and balanced for all competitors. While time management and ring efficiency come into play at local and regional events, it will more so at Cynosport. Then when it comes to the team events, you try to make sure you don't design a course that is too easy or too difficult so that it may skew the results of the standings one way or another.

How would you describe your style of course design?
 
I'm not sure I have a particular "style," but I like to think my courses are a fair test of a dogs abilities at any given level containing "subtle" challenges. Some competitors have said "interesting" and I take that as a compliment.

If you could invent a new game to be played at Cynosport, what would it be and how would it be played?

I've had a few ideas for games throughout the years but nothing that I think would be Cynosport-worthy.

What advice can you share with competitors who hope to come through with a clean run on one of your courses?

Everyone at this event is here because they earned the right to be here and that just doesn't happen by accident. These teams are here because they worked hard and trained hard and I expect everyone will be running with a high level of intensity. Everyone will be hoping for a clean run as they know they will be competing against some of the best dog/handler teams in the world. So I guess my biggest piece of advice would be for everyone to use the "tools" they have been working on in the past months leading up to this event and just trust their dogs. Don't overcomplicate a situation. Most of all, I hope everyone has fun and the chance to leave the event with something positive.
 
Photo by Ellen Levy Finch

Check back on Monday to meet the rest of the 2012 Cynosport World Games judges!

Deborah Davidson Harpur has been competing in agility since 1998. She currently handles 16 dogs of various breeds including Rat Terriers, All Americans, French Bull Dogs, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a Shetland Sheepdog, a Border Collie and more. She enjoys competing in USDAA agility and is the proud mom of USDAA roving reporter Rickie Roo. Her dogs are all proud canine ambassadors for the Active Care line of dog food by Breeder's Choice and for ilovedogs.com, tj.la, and ilovedogsdiamonds.com. You can learn more about Deborah and her dogs at pm2dogagility.com.

 

 

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