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An Intro Experience

Longtime competitor Monique Plinck shares her experiences at NOMAD's Intro Only trial.

Sunday, February 16th, this agility old schooler accompanied a student and friend, Casey Coughlin, to her very first USDAA trial at Wildwood Farm in Waterbury Center, Vermont. I also enjoyed the experience with my 15-month-old Papillon, who is not yet eligible to compete in regular classes.

Lisa Barrett from NOMAD (Northern Magic Agility Dogs) says this this was the club's second year of offering four Intro trials during the winter. "Our next one is Sunday, March 9, in Waterbury Center, Vermont. These trials give both new and seasoned competitors a chance to trial under relaxed, supportive conditions. Handlers can choose to train in the ring with a toy, or run for a Q and a rosette. The dogs get practice at being measured, and they learn to cope with the trial atmosphere at a very small, comfortable trial," says Barrett.

Running an Intro trial is not complicated, according to Barrett. She says, "This is the second winter that NOMAD has scheduled four half-day Intro trials. Intro trials are fairly simple for the sponsoring club. NOMAD holds our Intro Trials at the indoor horse area a where the club practices during the winter. Our equipment is already there, so it's fairly easy to hold these trials. We offer all four Intro classes: Standard, Gamblers, Snooker and Jumpers. We have only 14 parking spaces, so we ask everyone to carpool and we limit our entries to 80 runs. We were delighted to have Monique Plinck drive all the way from Connecticut for our little half-day trial."

Kit Erskine has been the judge at all of NOMAD's Intro Only trials this winter. He designs great courses and creates a friendly, supportive atmosphere. You can see the courses he designed here.

This Intro Only trial was special to me as I love the NOMAD group of agility folks for their laid back and supportive attitudes. I really enjoyed having four Intro Only classes offered with an assurance of being finished by 1:00 PM. NOMAD allowed us to enter each class as FEO (For Exhibition Only) or as a competition class. Even up to the start line you could opt to bring in a toy and run as FEO. That flexibility was great for dogs that needed more encouragement, feedback, and/or proofing. It was a perfect time to bring my young Papillon, Tush, to his first trial. It was lower key but still professional. And so so much fun!

The author's puppy, Tush, shows off his Intro ribbons. 

My friend Casey enjoyed the trial as well. She says, "As a person just getting into agility and feeling overwhelmed with the variety of rules, regulations, and agility nuances faced when trying to enter an event, the Intro trial held by NOMAD was an amazing way to get the feel of a trial without the pressure of an actual competition. The event staff was extremely welcoming, friendly, and easy going, which allowed me to be successfully briefed on rules of games which I had previously never played! The low pressure atmosphere also allowed me to focus completely on my dog and explore his reactions to trial stressors. I chose to run FEO for the entire day and was happy to not be worrying about earning a Q. I noticed a huge variety of skill levels in other teams competing but everyone was united by the fact that we were all working on something. What made the day for me was, after completing the jumpers course with no hiccups (finally!), everyone present took notice and supported our efforts with a great applause. That is a moment that will stick with me for years to come." 

NOMAD, your encouragement to cheer on fellow competitors and your taking the time to announce FEO and qualifying placements after each class reminded me why I love this sport and what it's all about. Loved it!

Members of NOMAD, plus Monique and Tush. From left to right, standing: Carla Dunbar, Lynne von Trapp, Kit Erskine, Monique Plinck and Tush, Judy Kessler, Lisa Barrett, Jennifer Hammond. Kneeling: John Marcus, Kathy Trybus

Monique Plinck is a nationally and internationally successful agility competitor. She lives in Middlefield, Connecticut, where she owns and runs Criterion Agility (

Photos courtesy of Casey Coughlin.


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